For months, Shira Barlow’s cell phone was flooded with wrong-number calls and text messages, mostly between 2 and 4 a.m. on weekends. Told they had reached a college student, callers refused to believe it. “Baby girl, how are you?” one man purred in a foreign accent. “Why are you doing this?” a woman asked. “This is so rude.” And there were several seemingly random references to “Paris.”
As in Paris Hilton.
Barlow’s story began on Valentine’s Day during a night out with friends. She was carrying her phone in a back pocket when it fell into a toilet. When she replaced it, her wireless company insisted on assigning the San Francisco native a new number with a 310 area code rather than 415.
Barlow had been given a recycled phone number that used to be Hilton’s. The practice stems from efforts to conserve phone numbers to minimize area-code splitting.
Just after Barlow got her new phone close to Hilton’s Feb. 17 birthday, a flurry of calls and texts arrived. “Oh my God,” one caller said. “Where’s the party?”
Then came the day Hilton was sentenced to jail after violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case. Messages about parties were replaced by dozens expressing condolences.
“People were scared for her,” Barlow said.
The phone traffic trailed off when Hilton entered jail last month. But when Hilton was released, a new crop of messages flooded in.
“It’s disgusting how they treated you in there, but once again you have showed the world that you can do anything,” one wrote.
Barlow said she has resisted the temptation to pose as Hilton to get into exclusive parties. But she did message supporters “thanks so much,” believing Hilton would appreciate it.
Barlow plans to keep the number because she says it has been a greater source of amusement than a hassle.
“It was really out of convenience,” she added. “I didn’t want to switch again.”