What My Drunk Dial Line Has Taught Me


Image: Bob Knorpp

Yes, I have a drunk dial line.

I know, right? Why a drunk dial line? What inspires a person to put out a public number and get messages throughout the night, all weekend long? But that’s exactly what I did. And it’s been the experience of a lifetime.

At first it was all about the laughs. I had this Google Voice number that I wasn’t using and I couldn’t decide what to do with it. Then one day a friend on Twitter who consistently got herself into bad situations by calling ex-boyfriends while drinking, inspired me to create a safety net of sorts.

It was a joke, for sure. Even the message is a humorous diatribe about giving you someplace safe to call when drinking. (Give it a try at 336-303-1016 — it really works.) And believe me when I say, I’ve gotten LOTS of hysterically funny messages. But what has surprised me most is how much I’ve learned about love and life through these calls I have received.

I think the turning point was when I began texting back. Google Voice allows me to respond to calls with free text messaging, so along the way I got the bright idea to extend the value of the joke by interacting with some of the funnier drunk calls. But the unintended consequence of this is that Google also accepts text messages. And thus, some dialogs began to happen.

Each person uses the line differently. Some people talk directly to me and call me by name. Some people just scream and shout. Some people do schtick. Some pretend that I am the person they really want to call. But at the heart, each message is a different expression of the importance of human connection.

Ultimately this line is about humor, so I’ve always tried to keep it light. But some of the conversations were incredibly touching. People yearning for intimacy. People wondering if they were broken because they couldn’t care about the person they were with. People wondering why they still had feelings for others who continually hurt them. And I sometimes found myself in these amazing role-playing experiences, where the person would get to say the things they wanted to say the most, and be actively heard in the process.

And it all hammered home a point for me that I’d been taught for years in various places: The value of saying anything is not in speaking your mind, but in being heard.

We yearn to be heard in this world — to really be heard. It makes us feel real. It makes us feel alive. And it’s not even necessarily agreement that makes the difference. Sometimes debate, if civilized, is awesome. But ultimately we desire to know that someone, somewhere has heard us and is letting us know that we are valuable enough to warrant a response.

This is the true value of my drunk dial line. This was the need being filled. This is why your friends get plastered and then pick up the phone dial an ex or that person who they’ve wanted to meet. This is why people randomly dial old friends over a bottle of whiskey. The desire to be heard is overpowering. And my open phone line gave lots of people this coveted opportunity.

So I continue to run the BeanCast Drunk Dial Line. It’s popularity has faded a bit over time, but it’s value has not. And I still get the occasional call that touches my heart — as well the ones of entire bars singing Wagon Wheel to me. But no matter what inspires the call, I’m just glad I’m there to lend an ear.

Robert Knorpp
Robert Knorpp is host of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast at thebeancast.com and is President of The Cool Beans Group, a marketing strategy consultancy based in New York City. He likes laughing even more than breathing. You can follow the madness on Twitter at twitter.com/BobKnorpp.
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