updated 12/26/2006 6:13:39 PM ET 2006-12-26T23:13:39

Wrong-number calls typically elicit a perfunctory, if mildly annoyed, correction to the caller followed quickly by a click.

But for Udonna "Jeannie" Pelham, the interruptions are a welcome reprieve from the loneliness she and her elderly father have felt since Hurricane Katrina forced them from their home in Slidell, La., to this town of about 8,700 near the Louisiana border.

The phone book mistakenly lists Pelham's home phone number as Kwik Kar Lube and Tune, an oil changing garage. But rather than hanging up on the usually five Kwik Kar calls she's gotten each day since March, Pelham sometimes turns the mistake into 15-minute conversations about the challenges of making friends in a new town or of losing a loved one.

"They are just the most wonderful conversations," said Pelham, 57, who lives with her 85-year-old father.

And the phone calls made Pelham feel needed.

"I just felt so good," Pelham said about giving callers Kwik Kar's actual number. "There was a purpose for me to be here."

Shop owners grateful
The situation has worked out serendipitously for the shop's owners as well. For Curtis Colicher and his son, Brandon, who just returned from serving in Iraq, their new business was slow until a woman came by and asked for their phone number.

"We were all outside because we had no customers," Colicher said. "Back then, we were happy if we had five customers a day."

But when things started picking up, Colicher credited Pelham with the boost in business. Customers "ranted and raved" about the woman who answered their call and directed them the right way, he said.

"Anyone else would have just hung up on them," Brandon Colicher said.

Last week, Pelham submitted a rental application for an apartment in Slidell. When she got back to Texas, a new phone book was waiting for her.

She felt sad thinking that the listing would be corrected. But she shouldn't have worried — the number next to Kwik Kar is still hers.

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