MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now, there are a lot of people trying to reach Elon Musk. One woman in California knows this firsthand because she has his old cellphone number. The woman tells NPR's Bobby Allyn what it is like to accidentally field the celebrity entrepreneur's calls.
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LYNDSAY TUCKER: Hello.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: This is Lyndsay Tucker. She's a 25-year-old skin care consultant. She works at a Sephora in San Jose. A couple of years ago, people started calling and texting her, but they were looking for a very different person - someone she had never heard of.
TUCKER: I asked my mom - hey, I keep getting these text messages. And I was also now starting to get phone calls for this guy Elon Musk. I don't know who this is. And my mom's jaw just dropped.
ALLYN: Her mom explained Elon Musk, the flamboyant visionary behind electric carmaker Tesla and rocket company SpaceX. And he has a reputation. He once smoked pot on camera during a podcast taping. He captured headlines recently for bashing shelter-in-place orders.
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ELON MUSK: To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do - this is fascist.
ALLYN: He's a person people want to reach - the investors, the engineers, the journalists. But often, they get Tucker.
TUCKER: I had one where a girl just wanted to say like, hey, if you need volunteers to go to space, I'll do it. And I was like, sorry, sis - I'm not him.
ALLYN: She's been sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. A South African businessman inquired about buying a thousand trucks. The IRS called about a complicated tax issue. Sometimes it's just an old friend. Recently, it was Jeff Gold, an Atlanta-area inventor who did business with Musk in the 1990s.
JEFF GOLD: I think he just said wrong number to me. So - I didn't know. And I just - I went on and tracked down the correct number and re-sent my text.
ALLYN: Tucker says she gets about three calls or texts a day for Musk. If he makes a splash by saying something outlandish, like recently when he threatened to pull Tesla's headquarters out of California, her phone starts constantly buzzing.
TUCKER: Whenever I see his name pop up in the news, I'm like, OK, I have to go, like, actually learn what he said because chances are somebody's going to message me about it or call me about it.
ALLYN: But how did this happen? NPR tried to reach Elon Musk to find out. We called him at his manufacturing plant in Fremont, Calif.
AUTOMATED VOICE: Thank you for calling Tesla. If you are a Tesla owner or would like to be, please press 1.
ALLYN: I couldn't get through to him there, but I emailed him about the number mix-up. And he wrote me back. He said, quote, "Wow, that number is so old. I can't believe it's still out there somewhere."
Public records show this was actually Musk's phone number years ago. I asked him if he still gives it out to people he's trying to avoid. He wouldn't answer that. However people get the number, it's often up to Lyndsay Tucker to convince callers it's not Musk holding the phone.
TUCKER: They were like - oh, well, how do I know you're not Elon? It just gets very aggressive when they're like, how do I know? And they suddenly, like, want proof that I'm not him even though they're obviously talking to a woman on the phone.
ALLYN: Tucker says having this rare window into Elon Musk's life is amusing. But sometimes having a tech billionaire's old number can feel like a full-time job. Here's her message to those who think they've texted Musk and haven't heard back.
TUCKER: I'm sorry. Sometimes I don't respond if I'm having, like, a rough day or anything. So if you didn't get a response, it's probably me and not him. So don't worry about it.
ALLYN: And Tucker says she's keeping this number. She's an aspiring actress. And who knows? Maybe one of these random callers could give her her big break.
Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Francisco.
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