Thursday, March 01, 2007

Long Distance Callers Make Long Distance Calls

The usual doubt about your first college roommate was doubled through me. I had talked to my roommate on the phone twice before the movie in date. His name was Richard and before moving to Philadelphia the year before he lived in Ghana.

"You like girls man," he asked me about 15 seconds into our first phone call. I confirmed that I did, and that was pretty much all I understood the rest of the conversation due to the thickness of his West African accent.

Even though I was a pretty smart and well-read kid, I had no idea what to expect living with an African would be like. I was sure there would be no sacrificed animals or anything like that in the room. But being that I was going to a Catholic college, I had a feat that this kid was going to have been recently converted by a missionary, which meant that I'd be innundated with both slogans and pamphlets until I gave my soul to Jesus.

What I got was a normal kid who wore jeans, listened to Shaggy and Naughty By Nature and played a lot of video games. I liked Richard a lot, even though he sometimes got (justifiably) mad at me since I was a big slob and he wanted to keep the room pretty neat.

His friend Bernard, however, was a dick.

Bernard was from Kenya and attended some fancy-pants boarding school in New England. His dad had some sort of diplomatic job of dubious background which changed depending upon whom was in the room and needed to be impressed. But Bernard, and this will shock absolutely no one, fancied himself as an extra in a Dr. Dre video and tried to act like this hardcore street thug.

Bernard was constantly in my room with Richard, where he would watch "Charles In Charge" reruns and different music shows on BET. I largely ignored him, just casually walking by his room and giving him a "hey, what's up" before going about my business.

One night, I was in my room and decided to call my parents up in Jersey. To use long distance, we had to use an access number which was on a card provided by AT&T. I called and the line was busy. This made no sense to me, since my family was incredibly wealthy and had call waiting. I tried a few more times and kept on getting a busy signal. I figured there was a problem with the account, so I called AT&T.

There, I was told my account was closed as there were $632 in charges that were unpaid.

This sounded pretty insane since I stopped calling 1-900 party lines way earlier. I asked them for a detail of the charges.

I had apparently made over 75 calls to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and a few other nations which I don't even think exist anymore.

"Who the fuck called Africa using my phone card," I asked the operator.

And that's when Bernard started laughing harder than he ever did at one of Buddy's zany adventures. I started screaming at Bernard about him doing that to me and taking my shit. He started to blame me because I left my card out on my desk which anyone could have used. I called him a thief and he threatened to beat me up (which he could have done.)

I ended up not having to pay for any of the phone calls. But I learned an important lesson that night. Don't keep personal items on your desk if you don't want privlidged, thuggish Kenyans to call home on your dime.


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