Even in the era of smartphones that keep track of our contacts, we still sometimes get calls from people who hadn’t meant to call us.

In most cases, we just say “sorry, you have the wrong number,” and the caller says sorry and that’s that.

But researchers found that for some Maasai herders in Tanzania, wrong number calls are an opportunity to get to know someone new.


They surveyed hundreds of Maasai men, 46 percent of whom said that at least once, they had made an accidental friendship through a wrong number call on their mobile phones.

In other words, instead of ending the call once they realized it had not gone as intended, the participants struck up a conversation, asked each other questions, got to know each other.

In some cases they essentially start business relationships.

One person may rent land from another, or they may start a trading arrangement.

They may also become personal friends; some exchange gifts or travel to meet each other.

That said, the Maasai men also reported getting scam calls.

And the participants told the researchers that in many cases, women’s access to smartphones is restricted or monitored.

So this is not phone utopia.

But it does show how as technology develops, people find innovative ways to connect with each other when they can.


Here’s the story of one connection in the 13th century that maybe didn’t go as planned.

On this day in 1294, the cardinals of the Catholic Church responded to a letter from a hermit monk who was chastising them for going more than two years without choosing a new pope.

They elected the monk, who became Pope Celestine V before resigning five months later.

At least he knew they’d read his letter.

‘Wrong number? Let’s chat’ Maasai herders in East Africa use misdials to make connections (The Conversation)

A History of Papal Resignations (History.com)

Saint Celestine V (Britannica)

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Photo by Timothy D. Baird/Virginia Tech, CC BY-ND