Thomas Renault can’t escape from Alcatraz.
At least once a day, the phone rings in his San Francisco office with someone hoping to book a hard-to-get tour of the infamous prison. It’s another wrong number.
Renault doesn't lose his cool despite years of misdials. He even got a call to his business early Monday morning, on the 80th anniversary of opening day at Alcatraz Island.
"The number is off by one," he said by phone. "A long time ago, the fonts for 7's and 1's looked the same, and I think my number got reprinted on all the Alcatraz literature."
That misprint was about five years ago. At its peak, every third call to his business would be about an Alcatraz tour. Renault called the National Park Service, which runs the Alcatraz tours of the former prison, to correct the mistake. He wanted to let them know that his was not the place to book tours for the now-shuttered prison that once housed Al Capone and other notorious inmates.
Renault runs his own organizational development company and doesn't know the first thing about steering a cruise ship to the island, he said.
"They were really good about it," Renault said of the park service correcting the error.
Alcatraz Cruises, LLC, the official Alcatraz ticket source for the National Park Service, has not returned calls for comment on Renault’s experience.
The misdials keep coming, mainly because dialers sometimes transpose 7 with 1.
Renault isn't bitter about the early morning, mid-day and late-night calls that sometimes come from across the globe. He has warm feelings for the folks who work at Alcatraz.
Last year, a group of business associates from Canada who visited him wanted to see Alcatraz. Renault told them, "Let's see what I can do."
He called up the cruise lines and told them he was the "wrong number guy." They comped him and his out-of-town guests free tickets and tours to the island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.
It was Renault's first and only trip there. He said he really enjoyed it. But more than the old prison cells, or the history of the occupation of American Indians on Alcatraz, Renault said he especially loved the gardens.
"They were really so old and beautiful," he said.
To call about reserving a tour on Alcatraz Island, the correct line is 415-981-7625. Tickets are sold out, however, until Aug. 27.