Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Yesterday I was picking up clothes from the dry cleaners because October 2021 is the month that every 2020 wedding is happening. As I left, I heard the person behind me give her number to pick up her clothes. I paused because the phone number sounded so familiar but I couldn't place it. Then I realized: It was my number, but with one digit difference! As if that weren't wild enough, the last digit in my phone number is 3 and the last digit in her phone number is 2. HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING?
This was me standing in the doorway as she slowly rattled off each number:
I thought about saying something but what could I say? "Ahoy madam! We are near telephonic twins! Have you been getting messages for me?" I mean, we must get each other's calls all the time, right? Not that I get many calls... unless I do and they go to her! ARE YOU CALLING ME?
Ultimately, I decided against making the connection, even though the sheer coincidence of our being in the same place at the same time and in a circumstance where we had to say our phone numbers out loud did seem portentous. I suppose you could say it was an Alexander Graham Bellwether.
I can't stop thinking about this, though, which is weird because I have never in my life thought about my own phone number or any adjacent phone numbers to my phone number. There are times that I'm not totally sure I know my phone number. In fact, when she started saying the number my first thought was "Oh, is that my parent's number?" My parents number is nothing like my number but, see, the issue is my brain is made of crab dip so there's really no controlling what thoughts come wandering out.
I've had the same phone number for exactly 20 years. I got my first cell phone in September of 2001 and I still remember when I was talking to the agent at Cingular from my dorm room phone about getting a cell plan and she told me the number they had for me, my response was "Do you have something with fewer sixes?" She paused long enough that I got embarrassed and told her never mind and I've had this overly-sixed number ever since. I don't really know what constitutes too many sixes outside of the Book of Revelations, but I still think that my number is pushing it.
At that point, I wasn't thinking that I'd be attached to this number forever just like, a few months later, when I left Columbia and realized that I wouldn't have access to my school account, I wasn't thinking that the new gmail address I made would follow me for decades. (Actually, it was a hotmail account at the time, which I then merged into a gmail account, but for the ease of storytelling I elided that detail and then spent way too long un-eliding it.) If I had know we were still in the early adopter years of emails I would have tried to get something short and pithy. I think once I emailed someone who's address was like, Joe@gmail.com. What a serve!! I just chose my full and complete government name--robertericthomas--which has resulted in me getting called Robert in 45% of the emails I get for two decades now.
In the past, when I've given people my email address, sometimes they'll remark that it's so long. What, are you paying by the letter? Calm down. Like, yes, it is too long but lemme tell you, I've spent the last few years emailing people with addresses that are FirstInitialLastName@penguinrandomhouse.com. You've got to give your fingers a 10 minute break after all of that. So, it's just a question of scale. Still, I wonder why I didn't just choose rericthomas? Or oureric? Or firstname.lastname@example.org (I would have gotten to it before him)? Why does my phone number have so many sixes? How does the lady from the dry cleaners feel about her number? What am I going to wear to the next 12 weddings this month? NO ONE KNOWS THE ANSWERS TO LIFE'S QUESTIONS.
I hope that lady with my almost number is having a good day! Or maybe I'm the one with her almost number! It's like finding out that you're the clone when you've been thinking you're the scientist the whole time. (This is a common situation.) This is rocking my whole sense of self.
I had a Google Voice number for a couple of years but I felt like an imposter. It had a Philadelphia area code whereas my number has a Baltimore area code so whenever I'd give someone that number it felt like I was like "Here youse go, my number is 1-800-GET-WAWA. Go Birds!" Like who did I think I was fooling?
I don't even remember why I got the Google Voice number but in recent years I've been using it when I do interviews for magazine profiles because it's easy to record on Google Voice. But it also feels like I'm giving out my fake number because I don't want celebrities prank calling me. That is literally all I want. Like, Sanaa Lathan has texted me on that number. That number is SACRED. When I profiled Judith Light, she called me back on that number three times because she wasn't done talking! It was incredible! The last time she called she was literally sitting on a plane waiting to take off. I was like "Judith Light, don't you have to put your phone into airplane mode?" And she was like "Robertericthomas@gmail.com, I've asked the pilot to hold the flight. What I'm saying is too important." And she was correct!
Let's Hang Out! (in the future!)
Single tickets are now on sale for two of the three plays I have premiering next year. As I mentioned before, Everyman Theater's June production of Crying on Television is on sale here and as of last week Baltimore Center Stage's March & April production of The Folks at Home, a contemporary riff on the Norman Lear sitcoms of the 70s, is on sale too.
The first of my plays, a karaoke-infused romcom that I am SO EXCITED about showing you, is coming to Philly's Arden Theater in February & March; I'll let you know when tickets go on sale for that!
Random Thing on the Internet
Through Hunter Harris's newsletter I was alerted to this old photo of JLo and Ben Affleck leaving a Blockbuster circa the first time they dated. I need to know what's in the bag! WHAT'S IN THE BAG?! What were they renting??? I think it was Hope Floats.
Other things of note here:
JLo is DRESSED as usual. And BAffleck is coming from a day game at Fenway
The open pack of cigarettes in his CARGO POCKET. Newports? Possibly. Hmm.
From their expressions, she got the movie she wanted and he did not. A true 90s tragedy.
I also was just confused by the entire premise of this. I was like "JLo and BAffle get their own movies???" But, I guess, prior to streaming and everyone doing emails, this is how you did it. You just showed up, one Oscar winner, one should-be two-time Oscar nominee (for Out of Sight and Selena), browsing the aisles, listening to those loud commercials they used to play, and being told by a teenager that they need to rewind or else they're going to get charged. Bliss.