Every day, across the UK, across the world, phone numbers are being tapped onto touch screens and saved. Some of these numbers will hold great importance, become the pillars upon which love affairs, life-saving friendships, international diplomatic relations and drug addictions are built, while others will merely be conduits for fleeting calls and texts, vocal or written blue moonery that will soon evanesce into the matrix like all the other pointless digits that surround us in our lives.
Have you ever sat there and looked through your phonebook, wondering who the fuck some of the people in there are? 99 percent of the time the only ones we actually need are collected in our "recent calls" section. The rest of the names are so foreign to you that they may as well be etched into a plaque on an ancient war memorial.
The fact I had so many complete unknowns was freaking me out. I decided enough was enough. Who the fuck were these people? Where were they from? How did we meet? Can we both collectively jog each other’s memories to find out how our paths crossed?
I picked up the phone and rang someone called Robert.
VICE: Hi Robert, my name’s Joe Bish. I found your number in my phone. I'm not quite sure how.
Robert: Right (laughs).
I'm just trying to find out how we may have crossed paths. Does my name ring any bells at all?
It does, yeah… But I can’t think where I know it from. Where do you work?
I work as a freelance writer. Where do you work?
I’m a PR. Do you write about film or music?
I used to write about music primarily, for a couple of websites.
You haven’t interviewed Simon Pegg recently have you?
Then I’m not sure, to be honest.
Which bands do you look after?
All sorts. The Raveonettes? Coheed and Cambria? System of a Down?
Ah OK, so maybe we met at Reading Festival or something?
Potentially, yeah. I do Cold War Kids as well.
Do you do Cerebral Ballzy?
(Laughs) No, no, they’re not one of mine. Your name definitely rings a bell… But there’s so many that you obviously deal with [in my line of work]… Have you interviewed the Eagles of Death Metal before?
You know what, I actually have interviewed Jesse [Hughes, Eagles of Death Metal singer] on top of a building once.
Ah right. Well I’ve done them for years so it could’ve been that. Was it at that hotel?
Yeah, it was on the top floor and people were drinking champagne.
Oh yes. Did you do the interview on an iPhone?
It was our eureka moment. We’d found each other in a hopeless place (a press junket) and were reunited once more. We’d be thinking about this day for years to come. But who else had I neglected? What other adventures had I forgotten?
"I was starting to think I had the most tedious life on earth"
I tried three more numbers. Each one of them was a music PR. Christ, is that it? Is my phonebook just full of music PRs from lost encounters with bands I probably never even listened to in the first place? Trying to turn a few tricks as a shit young music journo would charge you with interviewing 2-3 bands a day, more at a festival. But that’s boring, it’s not a direct line to a band, it’s a number for their babysitters. I was starting to think I had the most tedious life on earth. But then along came Ralph.
VICE: Hi Ralph, I’m trying to find out how I got your number mate, found it in my phone, dunno where it came from.
Ralph: Ah, I dunno. Wait, who are you?
My name’s Joe Bish.
Joe Bish… Where have you been recently that you’d have my number?
Uh, I’ve got no idea.
Did you go to a festival recently?
I work in security, so maybe it’s from that.
Yeah. Have you been out clubbing in East London recently?
Well, yeah, but I don’t remember getting any security guard’s numbers.
And you don’t know who I am, do you?
Pfft, your number’s not even saved in my phone, I dunno.
Where do you do security in Old Street?
Horns Strip Club.
What the fuck? I’ve never been there… Have I?
Haha, I dunno where I know you from! Have you not been to a festival recently then, nah?
No, why, do you do security at festivals as well?
Yeah, I do it all about but I dunno where I know you from.
Ah, don’t worry about it mate.
No dramas, man.
Holy shit, did I go on a massive bender to a dingy strip club and somehow end up getting the bouncer’s personal line? If so, what for? Easy access in the future? He must’ve thought I was some kind of massive baller at the time, the sort of guy whose phonebook you want your name in, just on the off-chance that I might call him up and invite him to one of the amazing parties with loads of music PRs that I often go to. Ralph had given me a new lease of life – maybe I wasn’t such a sad act after all?
I rang a few other names; Jobe, Anna, Ra’ed, Leon, Jay – none of them picked up. Others did answer but for whatever reason weren't exactly forthcoming about who they were or what it is they do with their time. Their lives had moved on, and so had their numbers. They'd probably created a Facebook event page inviting their real friends to give them their contact details, but not me, I was excluded. Furious and confused, I called the last number – Rene.
VICE: Hi, is that Rene?
I just found your number on my phone, and now I'm trying to find out how I got it?
What… What's your name? (Rene sounds nervous. Various circus noises and effects play in the background.)
…I don’t have any idea. ("Mary Had a Little Lamb" plays eerily on a xylophone in the background.) Are you from any agents… Housing?
Some street art I found that I imagine is what the inside of Rene's mind looks like, or was just done by Rene
Agent housing? You mean like an estate agent?
(Cartoon gun shots and "boing" spring sounds are heard. It’s like the woman is trapped inside a cartoon.) Yes.
No, I’m afraid not.
(Rene begins to get flustered, her trepidation turning into impatience.) Well, I don’t know! I don’t know! Where did you get my number?!
I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to find out.
Well… I don’t know. Maybe it’s a missed call.
Don’t worry about it Rene, it’s OK.
Alright then, bye.
The fuck was happening to Rene? Why was she surrounded by cartoon sounds? Was she going nuts? Or had I just called when she was half-asleep and looking after some kids? How did her number end up in my phonebook?
Sadly, I'll never know, and that just goes to show you that the moral here is to always stay in touch with the people you deem worthy of a place in your phonebook. You really never know what they could offer you, or vice versa. Ralph could have been my golden ticket to unlimited boobs and cocktails, but now I’ll never know. The sun rises and it sets, and Horns Strip Club lives on with one less badass weeping on its CCTV tapes. Regret is a terrible thing, and if you’re reading this your heart and mind is probably already full of it. Don’t let your phonebook be, too.
Names have been changed to protect identities.
More from VICE: