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1/2/09 Phone-y Friend

Not long ago, during my holiday travels, I had a conversation with a young Moroccan man. He was friendly and helpful, and eager to practice his English. We had a mutual friend, we discovered. The conversation didn't last long - maybe fifteen or twenty minutes - but he did me a favor (he helped me find my route), and I left him with good feelings. As we were parting, he offered me his phone number, in case I was ever in his neighborhood and in need of more directions. I was grateful, and accepted his number. He then asked for mine. I could have used the standard disclaimer, "This phone is only for work, and I can't give out the number," but that seemed chintzy in light of his generous nature. So I gave him my number, and we shook hands, and I didn't give any of it another thought.

A few days ago, I got a text message in French from a name I didn't recognize. I ignored it, figuring it was a wrong number. Then I got a longer message, in garbled English, from the same name. Since I didn't recognize the name, I figured they must be typing the name into the message. (I'm using "they" because I couldn't tell if it was a male or female name.) I still didn't give it much thought, until they started calling. That was when I realized that I *had* the name in my phone. I couldn't figure out who it could be, let alone when or why I'd entered their contact information. The name resembles that of one of my cousins, which led me down the wrong trail for a while.

Last night, I finally put the pieces together, and remembered the chance encounter with the young man. And now I'm in a pickle. I've ignored his calls and messages for several days, on the assumption that it was a wrong number and/or a crank caller; now that I know it's someone who lives over 100km away and who knew me for a total of 20 minutes or less, I'm even less sure how to respond. The messages have all been polite and friendly - not like a PCV friend who was getting explicit sex offers texted to her. Ignoring the calls and messages seems safest, though unkind. But I can't see how fostering a long-distance connection with him will lead anywhere good. Or am I underestimating a potential friend?

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