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A Phone Conversation, Nearly Live-Blogged:

Caller: Hello! I was hoping you folks could help me out.

Me: Yes? [Me, thinking: Sounds like someone is looking for legal advice, probably on employment law (those are the calls I mostly get from laypeople, because of my workplace harassment law online materials). Need to find someone to refer him to.]

Caller: I was just on a flight last night from Vancouver to Los Angeles . . . .

[Me, thinking: Some supposed illegal search, racial profiling, or whatever else? Why would he have called me?]

Caller: . . . and my bags were supposed to arrive . . .

[Me, thinking: Unconstitutional search and seizure.]

Caller: . . . but they didn't, and I was hoping you could help me find them.

It turns out he didn't dial 1 before the ten-digit phone number he was supposed to call, and thus called my number in the West L.A. 206 prefix instead of an Alaska Airlines number in Seattle. (I'd gotten calls like that before, I realized.)

Sometimes a looming constitutional question is really just a wrong number.

William Spieler (mail) (www):
Haha! Now I know your phone number!
8.1.2005 2:55pm
Timothy Sandefur (mail):
A profound moral, that. I can see that last line being cited in many Free Exercise cases.
8.1.2005 3:03pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
You have suffered as a result of a change in phone company policy from a few years back. It used to be that they only gave out phone numbers with prefixes that weren't used as area codes, and they only designated area codes with numbers that weren't used as prefixes.

When they started running out of phone numbers (due to wider availability of phones, cell phone use, and population increases), they dropped those rules. So now, you are the Alaska Airlines help desk.
8.1.2005 3:04pm
DNL (mail):
I think we all have his number, no?
8.1.2005 3:05pm
Sean O'Hara (mail):
Reminds me of the movie Miracle Mile, where a soldier in a Montana missile silo tries to call his dad to warn him WWIII just started, but he dials the wrong area code and ends up warning some guy at an all-night diner.
8.1.2005 3:57pm
Attila (Pillage Idiot) (mail) (www):
To paraphrase Alexander Bickel, No answer is what the wrong phone number begets.
8.1.2005 4:07pm
Adrian (mail):
This reminds me of a time when I was staying in room 180 in some hotel. Whenever someone in another room tried to call a 1-800 number and forgot to dial 9 for an external line before that, the phone in my room would ring. That happened about 4 or 5 times in one evening.
8.1.2005 4:18pm
David Thompson (www):
This seems like the start of a ConLaw hypo to be used in one of his classes. Future students of Volokh, be advised!
8.1.2005 7:02pm
James Ellis (mail):
Sometimes these stories have happy endings. One day in the fall of my senior year in college, my mother decided to call me at 6am to tell me about something she had just read in the morning paper. She dialed the wrong number (actually she dialed my junior year phone number) and instead reached the room of a charming and attractive history major in my same dorm. We will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in October.
8.1.2005 7:19pm
JohnG:
Look at the bright side. My home number, 5180, is only one digit away from the local septic pumping company, 5170.

In my small town, there's only two companies providing this much needed business, so we get some degree of frequency in calls -- some of them from frantic homeowners who, facing nightmarish situations, don't want to listen to my problem.

I'm sure there is a moral to this story, but I don't want to go near it.
8.1.2005 9:22pm
Harry:
My cell phone is exchange 518, which is the area code for Albany here in NY. The first 3 digits of the number must be part of the main state government exchange in Albany. I get a lot of tax questions and questions about civil service exams. I can get 3 or 4 calls a day. At times it's so bad I don't answer it during the day if I don't recognize the number. You'd be surprised at the person information people leave in the voice mail. Good thing I'm not looking to become someone else.

/ahw
8.1.2005 9:25pm
Dan Goodman (mail) (www):
I've twice answered calls from people who'd intended to call Australia. My area code is 612; Australia's country code is 61, one city has the code 2.

Offhand, I think dialing the wrong continent is as far wrong as current technology permits.
8.2.2005 2:11am
devin chalmers (mail):
It figures he was calling Alaska Airlines. I live in Juneau, and Alaska is just the worst as far as reliability and/or timeliness goes. I remember those halcyon days when Delta used to fly here. Now we're stuck with a monopoly--and not even a monopoly that charges decent prices, or flies on time, or keeps your luggage in one piece (or extant at all). Garrrrr.
8.2.2005 3:07am
Kev (mail) (www):
My phone number in college ended with 0892, and the number for a local mobile-home park was the same prefix but ending in 0982. Even though my answering machine had a typical wacky-college-student message with funny voices and background music, there were still people who didn't pay attention enough to realize that they weren't calling a business. I'd get messages such as "Hi, this is Cyril in lot 42B, and I've got a big leak underneath my trailer that you guys need to look at." Poor Cyril probably floated away before anyone came to his assistance.
8.3.2005 3:04am
ramathorne (mail):
http://www.mattbesser.com/latimes.php
8.5.2005 1:57pm