On Saturday I received a very nicely worded, but poorly punctuated, text that read: "Hi, I did a builders inspection at [a particular street] yesterday could you confirm if there is a sump pump at the entrance of the garage thanks. It's not an area of concern just something my client needs to be aware of for pump upkeep ... Regards."
An apostrophe and some full-stops may have been missing in action but the missive reeked of professionalism. The text was signed off with a full name, position, freephone number, email address and website address. I did the decent thing and replied: "Wrong number. Not us!"
Yet I must confess I'm not always so quick to alert the sender to a wrongly addressed text. When they're anonymous I opt to not reply. Similarly, I deliver the silent treatment when the language used bears only a vague resemblance to any official language yet recorded.
I didn't reply to: "Hay Danielle its lika. Wat times practz?" Firstly, I was not Danielle; secondly, I'm not acquainted with a "lika". And I didn't reply when another unknown person sent me the following text late at night on New Year's Eve: "hae, wea r use??"
Upon reflection I should have sent a friendly "Wrong number!" to this person. But I wasn't to know he or she would continue to use my number and send me five increasingly detailed texts over the next week. One said: "Hello, uncle ... aunty and thems car broke down in Papatoetoe ..." Another said: "Hey, guys, uh just wntd 2 let use knw dat if you wanna ring nd tlk 2 nana, ring my numbr. Coz my mums phns broken! xx."
By this stage I was feeling like I almost knew this person. He or she clearly valued close family relationships; an uncle, an aunt, a grandmother and a mother all starred in this array of text messages. And these people were having an unlucky run; in the space of four days they'd had a broken car and a broken phone.
And here I was studiously ignoring these texts and possibly adding to their catalogue of problems. The two kisses at the end only amplified the guilt I was now experiencing. But I was in too deep. How could I suddenly tell them after several texts that they'd been sending them to the wrong number? That would be difficult to explain. So I stood my ground and the texts finally stopped arriving.
In the absence of a rulebook on how to handle misdirected texts we must take each case on its merits and make up our own minds as to whether or not to reply. After my recent experience I think I'll be responding to all anonymous texts in future so as not to prolong the confusion at the other end.
Yet my failure to respond to the series of five texts ultimately gave me a precious peep into someone else's life. Perhaps it's the technological equivalent of looking into brightly lit rooms with undrawn curtains as you drive by at night; I've always found such uninvited and fleeting glimpses into other people's homes to be tantalisingly seductive - and, in a way, these texts were too. Plus now I wonder if the "aunty" reference provided me with a private preview of the distinctive lingo used on reality show The GC.
What's your experience with misdirected texts? Should they always be responded to? Do you think it was a bit mean to not put that repeat text sender out of his or her misery? Have you had a similar experience and how did you handle it? Have you ever misdirected a text with a memorable outcome?By Shelley Bridgeman