I have a man in my life called Mr Jakabula. We have never met, but we know a surprising amount about each others' lives, says Susan Erasmus.
For the past six months – from 1 December to be exact – I started receiving a stream of calls on my cellphone. All wrong numbers. It took me a while to figure out that some of the callers were asking for the same person. You guessed it. Mr Jakabula. And most of them were women.
Mr Jakabula is one popular guy. Some of the first calls for him came through at 06.10 in the morning, and many an evening I have been woken up from my beauty sleep after 10 at night. And they all seem to know him rather well, judging by the enthusiastic stream of conversation following an initial "Kunjani?"
It usually took a while for me to get a word in edgewise, especially if I had already reached the stage of REM sleep.
Something had to be done. But what? So instead of asking WWJD (What would Jesus do, for all you people who missed the painful phase about 10 years ago of plastic bracelets saying just this) I had to ask WWPBD (What would Piet Byleveld do – if you don't know who he is, Google it. What are you doing on a news site anyway?)
I had to find Mr Jakabula and speak to him. Clearly this was the next step. But how?
A week later I found the solution. A Mr Jakabula fan phoned while I was in the open office and I had answered the phone all sweetness and light. (Not the psychotic monster voice I use at eleven at night). Turns out that Mr Jakabula works in a call centre. And my number is the number he has left on his answering machine. And yes, of course she will give me his other number. Life can sometimes be so easy when you pretend to be decent and polite.
So, I phone him. It takes a while for me to explain my story. At first we thought we had been given the same cellphone number. Shock, horror – I have had this number for 15 years and am rather attached to it in a purely platonic sort of way. Then we figured out the truth. His number ends in the digits 35, and mine in the digits 25. People are writing down the number from his message (which might be a tad difficult to hear) and then getting through to me.
Mr Jakabula promised to re-record the message.
It was then that the penny dropped. He roared with laughter when he realised that I had just solved a mystery for him. He could not understand why, since 1 December, he was getting so many Afrikaans SMSes, thanking him for braais, Christmas lunch and other social occasions. And now I, too, knew why quite a few messages supposedly sent to me never reached me. (Yeah, yeah, yeah – I am sure you thanked me for the Christmas lunch, you ungrateful sod.) My friends were also punching in Jakabula's number in error every so often.
This could be the start of something beautiful. He knows all about my social life, and I redirect his clients and give them the right number.
The calls have not stopped entirely. I still get about two a week, but not five a day. The callers are surprised when I redirect them to the right number. Two were unable to understand why I could not put them through to Mr Jakabula.
On Wednesday afternoon my phone rang. A sexy male voice said, "Turn around, I want to give something to you." I turned around, but all I could see was the usual newsroom, and the night staff arriving. No surprises there.
And then the gravelly voice said "Could I speak to Mr Jakabula, please?"
Life can be so cruel sometimes.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated July, 2012. This column was first published in April 2012)