Columns, Opinion

SHANFIELD: Stolen identity, stolen heart

‘K, update: I got a wink from ClownsRreal and an email from someone named Possums4. This is clearly not going the way I’d hoped.’

My roommate is on Match.com and it’s not going well. She had a string of flirtatious emails with DarcPitt (whose picture was a Dementor) and Dre Ghost (also a Dementor), but otherwise she’s finding the same creeps that one would find in an AOL chat room. Perhaps she shouldn’t have listed science fiction as an interest.

I’m on a dating Web site too, and have been for several weeks. I just wasn’t aware of it until now.

On Saturday I got a call from a man named John. He was calling from under his bedcovers in his home state of Colorado, clearly very excited that this would be the first time we spoke on the phone in our six-week iChat relationship. Unfortunately, I was unaware of this relationship.

‘What are you doing today?’ John asked.

I was spending the day with a burrito at Qdoba, and found it no business of an unknown caller to know that. ‘Who is this?’ I demanded.

‘Are you seriously asking me that?’ John giggled and fluffed his pillow. Something about his tone told me that he was propped up on his elbows, laying on his bed with his feet pointed in the air, talking on some sort of novelty fuzzy telephone, all while slowly twirling the cord in his fingers.

I heard an earthquake on the other line and realized it was just John shifting his weight on his mattress. Something was not right about this conversation, and I was not amused. This didn’t sound like a John I knew, it sounded like a John that was bedridden and lonely. I mentally listed all the Johns I knew in my head. All I could think of was my ethics professor and I wondered if this was some sort of test.

‘Who is this?’ I demanded, still casually shoving tortilla chips into my mouth.

‘It’s John, of course. From Dateline, Dateline.com.’

At first I thought it was a prank. It wasn’t. Then I thought that John had misdialed. He didn’t. Then John said something that made me put down the burrito for good.

‘This is Sarah, from California, right?’

Yes. I am. My roommate, who was with me, demanded I get off the phone. Someone had not only given my number out to their iChat lover, but he or she had used my name, home state and entire life to build a cyber personality. I tried asking John what he thought I looked like, but my roommate insisted I end the conversation before I gave away our location and John showed up at Qdoba in the flesh.

‘I’m sorry John, you’ve got the wrong Sarah.’ I heard a sinking ship sound, and I realized he was just sitting up in bed.

‘Well, are you dating anyone?’ John asked. ‘You sound nice enough.’

Overwhelmed with flattery, fear and genuine confusion, I hung up on John and ran to the nearest computer. There, I discovered that Dateline is a platinum dating service for people with very high incomes. I tried to call John back but he had called from a blocked number. I was devastated; I had missed out on a potential sugar daddy, and someone else had already done the seducing for me.

I fully believe in finding love by any means possible. Last year I waited in the lobbies of Student Health Services to catch men at their most vulnerable state, and it worked for the most part. So I appreciated John’s gesture, albeit after the fact. Calling an unsuspecting person on the phone and soliciting them should be considered an act in the name of love as well.

John was just looking for someone to talk to, someone to share his hopes, dreams and fears. Maybe he wanted someone with nice eyes to stare into. Or perhaps what he really wanted was someone for whom he could offer to pay rent or cover tuition. I feel awful that I denied John of that, and I wish I had a six-figure salary to join Dateline, find him and straighten things out.

I don’t know who was using my identity on Dateline, but I think he or she was trying to do me a favor. I am angry with myself for passing up on what could have been my opportunity to buy myself a new iPhone.

If you’re out there John, I’m sorry, and I promise I won’t hang up on you this time. It wasn’t me on the website, but we can take the time to see if we’re 86 percent compatible and share an interest in swords and Spike Lee movies. I promise to be ‘flirty, energetic and fun’ to match your ‘thirst for adventure.’ I also promise to act in any commercials Dateline.com may invite us to be in. So if you’re out there John, my number’s the same. Call me.

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