Wednesday, 20 August 2008


I took a new identity recently. People call me with the weirdest proposals to invest money, they send me messages in secret code language, hinting at past events that I can not remember at all, they address me by a different name when they talk to me. And the confusion doesn't seem to stop. Did anybody put some pills in my coffee? Do I suffer from memory loss after a very bad car accident? Can Alzheimer’s disease occur at thirty-plus? Help! Who am I?

After my company moved their office to another location a while ago, I changed my mobile phone subscription to another phone company. I am the first to admit that I am not an early adopter of new technology, but I do understand that a mobile phone is still supposed to work even if you move to another place. That’s why they call it “mobile”, right? So the move itself was not really the trigger, rather it was the lack of network coverage in the new building. It’s amazing, how there still seem to be areas in this country where the invisible radiation of telecom operators does not seem to reach. And it’s not that my office building is located on top of a 5,000 meter peak, or in a mineshaft 100 meters below the ground level, not even at the outskirts of the country. Nonetheless I soon discovered that my phone frequently lost lasting connection with the mobile network. So rather than bearing with it and let frustration grow bigger by the day, I simply subscribed with another operator.

At first, I was intoxicated by the glory of victory. I, the disgruntled little consumer David, had shown his discontent to the mighty operator Goliath and had taken revenge for the poor service offered by this greedy giant, by simply turning my back to him. From a military point of view, turning your back to the enemy might well be considered a euphemism for “fleeing”, but it surely did not feel that way to me. I felt I had conquered!

Very soon regulation will change, but up until today you will get a new phone number when you change your telecom operator in Singapore. At most, you can opt for any calls to your previous number being re-directed to your new number. And this is exactly what I did.

But then the stalking started…

Apparently, the new number that was assigned to me had been used by somebody else before. And gosh…that guy must have been a heavy user, a hardcore phone addict. I get calls for him every day, I get messages around the clock. People from all kinds ask for him when I pick up their call, and yet I still don’t know what kind of person this must be. Or…must have been. Who knows what the exact reason is that he is no longer carrying this number. Has he passed away? Or was he dissatisfied with this new phone operator of mine and switched to the one I ran away from, perhaps? Now that would be funny. Did he advertise this number for a business that went bankrupt? I don’t bother to ask the callers even. I just reply that I am not the person who they think I am. I suspect that with every call, my rudeness level goes up, especially when yet another operator from a far-away call centre tries to sell something to that increasingly frustrated person, who happens to pick up the phone to find out that, once again, he is merely an anonymous number on yet another prospect list.

In life, it is hard to find out for ourselves who we truly are. And changing phone number is adding even more complexity to that never-ending search.

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