Handling drunk callers
What do you tell that lonely and troubled drunk dialler, who annoyingly calls you at 3am on a frequent basis to discuss nothing? PATRICK KARIUKI asks.
“I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years”.
Dear reader, I present to you Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most respected writers of the last century, and a self-confessed drunk dialler.
To be fair to Kurt, the urge to reach out and touch someone is as old as time itself. One may even be so bold as to suggest that God created us because the universe had become a lonely place. From the days of Adam, who needed Eve, to the days of Facebook, which has half a billion members and counting, the instinct to connect has beaten in the heart of every sentient being on this planet.
However, when Michael Joseph brought mobile connectivity to the masses, this instinct became a mild psychological disorder in some Kenyans, mostly men. You will not be out of order if you choose to call it a peculiar calling habit.
I am talking about drunk diallers; those lonely, troubled souls who call various people at various hours of the night (and in some serious cases, the day) to discuss their feelings while under the influence of alcohol. They are not at all a threat to society, these troubled people who are mostly men, but they are prevalent enough to warrant some discussion.
To be fair, sometimes the drunk dialler is actually not lonely at all for drinking is a social activity which, in the words of an old ad, ‘brings people together’. Thus, the drunk dialler may be in plenty of company, plenty of kindred spirits he could chat to. But he is still unable to resist the urge to sneak into the bathroom, or slink away to a dark corner, and punch a number.
The victims of these abusers of affordable airtime are mostly women. To the unfortunate ones, it can be terribly maddening to be on the receiving end of a call at 3am on a Saturday night from someone they last saw months ago or years ago and whom, sometimes, they barely know. Often, though, the late night call comes from an ex-lover.
Take Leyla. At 2am, on Christmas eve, her little pink phone suddenly burst to life, jolting her from her beauty sleep. For a moment, she was bewildered at the sound of Beyonce’s shrill voice screaming ‘if you liked it you should have put a ring on it!’ before realising where it was coming from.
Fearing the worst, for that hour of the night is when sometimes bad news comes in, she rummaged under her pillow and grabbed the thing. Her bleary eyes couldn’t make out the numbers on the screen, but upon answering, she knew it was Jaymo, an ex she had dumped six months before. She had petulantly deleted his number from her phonebook long ago, but the sound of his voice was still unmistakable.
“Hello baby! Merry Christmas!” he shouted. She could hear the roar of people in the background.
What amazes Leyla is the bi-polar behaviour Jaymo then went on to exhibit. One minute he was shouting Merry Christmas, singing Noel to her, the next he was apologising for disturbing her and crying into her ear.
“Life has become so hard since you left, sweetie”, Jaymo bawled. “I need you!”
She can’t resist smiling at the memory, and particularly the irony of the ringtone that dragged her from deep slumber to partake of this new development.
“I told him he should have proposed long ago if he really needed me so bad”, she says. Drunk Jaymo slurred on for a few more minutes before finally hanging up, with the parting shot that he will never love anyone the way he loved her.
Leyla, though, remains distinctly unimpressed with Jaymo. “The emotions at that time was simply the power of Jack Daniel”, she says. Has he called again since? No. But Leyla is waiting to see what happens three months from now when Christmas eve rolls by again. She might switch off her phone.
Friday night calls
Jacinta has had her fair share of drunk diallers too. One of her colleagues at work was fond of calling her on Friday nights at 9pm on the dot to tell her how he feels about her, despite knowing that she is married. Jacinta was patient with him, however, and did not report him to Human Resources or her husband.
“He’s the type of guy who get their courage from pombe and tell you everything he’d have wanted to tell you while sober. Then when he comes to the office in the morning he can’t even look you in the eye,” she says, acid dripping from her tongue. The chap has since stopped the practice.
Sometimes, the drunken phone call has nothing to do with loneliness, or emotions, but sheer clumsiness. Jacinta says her most interesting drunk dialling experience recently came from a complete stranger who called her at 3am on a Sunday morning to tell her to open up.
“There’s this dude who dialled my number five times at 3am on a Sunday!” She explains: “It was so funny because each time he asked me to open for him, I told him it was a wrong number. But he still called again! Well, instead of getting worked up, the next day I called him up and told him to re-check the number he calls on Sunday mornings because I am not his bloody wife or girl!”
He has not called again.
Michael, a dude who knows a thing or two about the subject, says that sometimes it is necessary to drunk dial.
“Sometimes, when you prowl round the club and ‘can’t get some’, you have to activate emergency measures,” he says. “So you call the usual supplier. It’s not because of emotional issues or whatever. It’s because the market was down that day”.
Though men dial drunk more often, women are not so innocent. There’s a girl who has a simple code she uses at odd hours of the night when she needs to get laid. She has one or two guys who are aware of the code. If she wants to get some, she simply texts a question mark (?) If the guy agrees — which is always the case — he sends back an exclamation mark (!)
Ten minute rambling
That is very clever, which is typical of most women. No one can use the text against her to embarass her. It is also cheaper than a ten minute rambling, which is also typical of the cost conscious female. When a woman calls you in the middle of the night however, and she sounds tipsy, you might want to brace yourself because if she’s feeling emotional you are about to be subjected to a fit of abuse. Also, be prepared to be dumped.
“There’s a guy I dated”, Celestine says. “Who had the habit of failing to show up for dates, or coming late. Sometimes he would show up without cash. Well, one day I took some woodpecker and decided to give him a call. I needed to bitch out and that felt like a perfect time to do it.”
The story of drunk diallers are many and interesting. Juniors have called their bosses and got themselves fired. Bosses have called their juniors and wound up slapped with sexual harassment accusations. Songs have been written about it. Movies have been made about it. In Frost/Nixon, the character of former President Richard Nixon calls a journalist in the middle of the night while having a drink and proceeds to admit things, which lead to the biggest journalistic coup of the 70s.
It is an interesting psychological disorder, which afflicts men and women alike all over the world. Come to think of it, you would not be in order at all to call it a peculiar calling habit. It is all too common.
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