Sometimes, the Story Is You…

Text message received on a mobile phone

I have this very handy app on my phone called MightyText. You put it on your phone, link it to your computer, and you can answer texts directly from your laptop without having to pick up your phone which of course also displays the messages. Texts people send you show up on your computer screen and you can read scan them while you are doing what are (usually) more important tasks or answer them right away. I can also use the keyboard instead of  swype typing. I am not good at Swyping, which on occasion has caused me to text “why don’t you stick it where the sun doesn’t shine” instead of “sure! I would be happy to help you with that.” Or something like that. We’ve all done it. Anyway…

…what follows is still unfolding, since it just started this morning. I got my first cup of coffee, went into my home office, and brought the screen up on my laptop. While I was waiting for my emails to load I looked at the text messages I had received overnight, including the following, which nestled among the others like a brown recluse spider hiding in a closet full of Christmas sweaters:


                                     Stop playing with my grandchild.


Now…I am what might generally be described as a hermit. I avoid talking to anyone if I am able and can stay comfortably in my house and yard for days at a time without leaving the premises. I don’t do things like coach the local grade school wrestling team, play a clown at parties, offer to take the neighborhood kids up to Dairy Queen, or hang around the city parks offering to push children on swings. So…my initial thought was…“Why me?” I waited a minute to see if a SWAT team would come busting in through the front door, confiscate my computer (all of the above notwithstanding, I really don’t want my computer confiscated) and frog march me into a van where I would be driven downtown and thrown into the bowels of what has been mislabeled as the “Franklin County Hall of Justice.” Which is my I am writing this from my ce…just kidding. Nothing happened. After a minute or two I calmed down. Usually when I hear hoofbeats I don’t think that it’s herd of zebras; the thinking part of my brain kicked in and I came to the conclusions that 1) the message was sent to me in error and 2) the person who sent it was in any event concerned about a potentially devastating situation involving a child. I decided to contact them. I did not recognize the originating text number; I have learned that people who initially contact you are more comfortable if you respond via the same medium, so I replied by texting the following:


                         Either 1) you texted your message to the wrong number (mine) or 2) there is a grievous misunderstanding here, but I have absolutely no idea who you are or what you are talking about. In any event, your text has been misdirected. If you have texted to the wrong number, you might want to send it to the intended party. If you think I have anything to do with your grandchild, you are wrong. Contact me directly and out in the open. I am more than willing to assuage any concerns you might have. I am a grandparent myself and can sympathize. Kind regards.


As I write this (Friday evening, EDT) I have not received a response. While waiting, however, I got to thinking…what would have happened if my door had gotten knocked in by the local gendarme, and I had been arrested, and the police found all sorts of reprehensible crap on my computer that I had not downloaded to it, but, by gum it was there, and the complaining person was someone who, as it turned out, I knew very well indeed? From the “who” and the ‘what” I got to the “why” and the “how” in fairly short order (the “when” is kind of irrelevant at this point). I started streaming a first page, then a second, and then a third, then realized that I had better start an outline, given that there are so many different ways to go with this (which is why I don’t mind sharing this little gem of an idea with you). I don’t know where this story will go, whether it will wind up with its feet propped up on a railed balcony in New Orleans’ French Quarter or end up with a broken axle by the side of road in Cut Off, Louisiana, but it’s going somewhere.

What I would like from you is five dollars to crowdsource this effort. Not really. I would like for you to share the oddest text you have ever received, either in error or by design. Please. And thank you.


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

25 thoughts on “Sometimes, the Story Is You…

    • To answer your question, Sheryl…um…maybe from “Perseus and the Minotaur”?

      Also…I’m working on a book about a guy who is kidnapped and held captive in a lard factory…working title is “The Count of Monte Crisco”…

      Thanks for stopping by on this rainy Saturday!

  1. No unusual text examples for me. Just ordinary stuff But wow, what a way to get an idea! 😎

    That does bring up something, though, that I would like to ask you and all the folks at TKZ. You said, in part:

    “..given that there are so many different ways to go with this…”

    You would think having too many ideas would not be a problem, after all they are the basis of writing fiction. But what DO you do when you have an idea for a novel but you simply can’t make decisions about how it should go because you have too many conflicting ideas or paths it could take?

    • BK, your question about what to do when you have an assortment of choices with respect to where to take it is a good one. That might make a great subject for a blogpost in the future. Thank you! My immediate and short response, however, is to take the road least (or less) traveled….try to find a path that hasn’t been used for a while, or that you don’t remember anyone else using. Thanks again!

  2. Good morning, Joe.

    I can understand how that text would cause all kinds of emotion. I’m betting it was sent to the wrong number, and hopefully will be settled quickly. (Of course, the sender will probably never apologize.) It does remind me how careful (and paranoid) I’ve become about entertaining, even grandchildren, only with my wife present. Same for interviewing prospective female employees, only with a female witness present. It’s sad that we’ve reached this point.

    On a lighter note, I can’t think of any texts that I have received that are truly “odd.” I have come to enjoy reading the recurring texts: “Kind Sir, I wish offer you opportunity to earn $2 million dollars (US). Please send social security number and bank number, and I send you $4 million dollars (US). You get keep half. Your humble servant, —–”

    Hope you solve the mystery of the gut wrenching text quickly. I look forward to reading the book. And if you send me your bank number and social security number, I’ll start that crowd sourcing fund you mentioned.

    Your humble servant, Esteban.

    • Good afternoon, Estab…er, I mean, Steve! Wise choice there on the interviews, etc. The Rev. Billy Graham, from the very beginning of his ministry, religiously (…) stuck to a policy of never, under any circumstance, being alone in a room with a woman who was not his wife. Smart man.

      With regard to my text situation, I was able with a bit of research (it is simply AMAZING) what is available online) discover one of the former users of the number, who apparently died in 2012. One of her descendents now uses the number and I am all but certain that I was not the intended recipient. We may revisit this topic down the road.

      Thanks for your comments and for stopping by. Hope all is well in Hooleyville!

  3. I had a hilarious series of texts from a friend picking me up at LAX, one of the world’s busiest airports.
    Friend: Where are you?
    EV: Door C, International terminal.
    F: Don’t see you. I’ll go around again.
    EV: Wearing a green T-shirt. @ Door C.
    F: Still don’t see you.
    This went on for two or three more texts before my friend asked the crucial question:
    Which level?
    Finally, we connected. We’re still friends, too.

    • Elaine, that’s some friend. LAX is a mess to traverse, flying into, out of, picking up, dropping off…I have reached the age and station where I would be unable to text and drive at the same time on a four lane country road, let alone at LAX. Your friend must be as talented as you are! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Is there such a critter as a hybrid Luddite? If so, I am she. I don’t text whenever possible, which is maybe when incorrigible friends text rather than call or email. I’ve got most of them trained. Otherwise, I remain firmly ensconced in the Nineteenth century, except for minor conveniences like my 64-bit computers with the terabyte hard drives. Yes, plural. And smart phone, which I’m afraid is smarter than I am.
    Of course, I thought about my horse, Gus, too. In that case, I was right. He gave me lots of stories, like how did he unfasten a horse-proof gate and lead the entire herd on walkabout through the neighborhood?
    Great post. Love the idea of responding as you did. Keep us posted on how the story develops.

    • Thank you, Carol. I’m with you. I got dragged kicking and screaming into texting and use it but don’t like it. My major problem is thinking that I’ve sent a text and discovering (three hours later) that it didn’t go through.

      That’s a great story about Gus. Do you have video of that?

      I will most definitely let you know how the story develops. Thanks for your story and comments.

  5. This reminds me a little of Harlan Coben’s breakout book, “Tell No One” wherein a guy gets a mysterious message on his computer that only he and his dead wife would know. Great concept. Good book!

    As for me, I do so little texting that the only weird ones I get are the ones that I accidentally send to myself. Sigh…

    • Harlan has done a couple of interesting books that center around that theme, Kris, as as Linwood Barclay. I’ll have to go back and make sure I don’t inadvertently borrow a plot point.

      I have yet to send a text to myself. I have inadvertently sent texts to someone that I didn’t mean to send. Heh heh. Thanks for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Rick. And thank you for your kind words! Like the hat, btw.

  6. Hahahahahahaha. So funny, Joe! The weirdest text…hmm…probably one of the many auto-correct messages. They have a way of turning a ho-hum conversation into a lot of laughs. Love your story idea. I’m sure it’ll turn out fabulous.

    • Thank you, Sue! I’ll keep everyone advised of how things go, as they go. And yes, indeed, auto-correct is sooooo much fun! Thanks for stopping by once again.

  7. I’ve never gotten such a text, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time. But here’s a question for you: suppose you get a reply from this mystery person and it’s on the order of, “I’m telling you, stay away from my grandchild or there will be trouble.” Then what do you do?

    • Excellent question, David. I would contact my local police department and file a report since I have been at least prospectively threatened. I’ve kept the initial text exchanges and will/would of course keep any subsequent ones and would make those a part of the report.

      The thing that bothers me about the entire exchange is that it would seem to me that, if someone were behaving improperly toward another’s child/grandchild, the parent/grandparent would either contact the police or, ummm, deal with it themselves. Why text someone anonymously? People who engage in that type of behavior are rarely dissuaded with a mild warning.

      Thanks for a terrific question. There may be more follow-up.

  8. Your text sounds like the beginning of a pretty good story. Hitchockian as the “wrong man” and kind of Kafkaesque for a (probably innocent) person who gets trapped in a system of persecution and no answers.

    My strangest text: When I got my first flip phone someone texted me “Yo bitch, whattup” and I did not respond to them. I think it was a wrong number since only my child and then-husband knew my number. II don’t do texts much. Don’t know how.

    • Augustina, that’s a strange one, alright. Wonder who had the number before you? Re: texting…your life would not be enriched one iota by learning how to text. Just sayin’. Thanks for sharing!

  9. This is an Actual Twitter message that was sent to me by Roger Stone, a Donald Trump “confidante” and sometimes advisor, after he was banned from appearing on major news outlets for vile language and other obnoxious behavior:

    “I’ve elected three presidents. What’s YOUR track record, political Expert?”

    Bless his heart, poor ‘ol Roger must be getting senile, paranoid, or some anile combination of both, sounds like. No doubt he tweeted that little jewel of analysis to me after he’d consumed too WAY too much 🍷 Or other mind altering substance!

  10. Kathryn, that would be the equivalent of me getting an irate text from James Carville. Not a good idea to poke the cage bars of either of those guys, unless one is wearing a raincoat! Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Hey Joe! I liked your story – both interesting and gives food for thought. I wondered who sent this message and why? Did you find out?
    And about my weirdest message, it was a call actually. A guy called me from unknown number.
    Guy: Maria! Why you don’t pick up the phone!!! (arguing)
    Me: But… I’m not Maria! (confused)
    Guy: Maria, don’t pretend, I know it’s you! Always pick up the phone for me, Maria!

    After several dissmissed calls, my boyfriend picked up and after their conversation, the guy never called again. Still wonder who is that Maria and what happened between them…

    • Thank you for kind words, Solitexa, and for sharing your own story. I hope that Maria turned out okay. That reminds me of another story that I may share the next time I get the keys to the TKZ Lexus.

      To answer your question…the short response is “no.” I was able to trace the number — a cell phone — back to a party that died in 2012. My thought was that maybe a family member now had the phone and was using it, so I tried tracing the names of the survivors but came up empty (boys and girls, don’t try that at home!). I never did hear any more so I am assuming that it was a wrong number as opposed to mistaken identity. If I find out anything new I will let everyone know. Thanks again.

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