Clarence Darlington had to dial the number to a stranger's house to tell his wife he was on his way home Wednesday. His home phone number was somehow switched with James Abear's.
How and why it happened is a mystery, BellSouth officials say.
Mr. Abear said he had no clue what had happened until Mr. Darlington -- thinking he was dialing home -- called. Happily married for 30 years, Mr. Darlington was startled when a strange man answered the phone.
He wondered whether he had dialed correctly, but pressed ahead with conversation.
"Could I speak to Lynn?" he asked, with some hesitation.
The stranger -- who turned out to be Mr. Abear -- suggested that their numbers might have been switched, and he gave Mr. Darlington his home phone number. Mr. Darlington dialed it and connected with his wife.
By 5 p.m., Mr. Darlington said, he had gotten 19 calls for the Abear family.
Mr. Abear said he got calls for the Darlingtons as well. Both of them live in south Augusta.
"I think there's a screw-up somewhere," Mr. Darlington said. "What is this, an early Y2K problem?"
Joe Chandler, a BellSouth spokesman in Atlanta, said he does not know whether other phone lines were affected in the apparent mix-up. But he has no reason to believe they were, he said.
He does not know what caused the switch, either.
"Things happen," he said.
Reach Frank Witsil at (706) 823-3352.