This week’s “Reminiscing” comes courtesy of my youngest child, Josephine. I was kind of toying around with a couple other subjects to write this week, but nothing really grabbed my attention. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to write until my cellphone rang while I was at work. And then it rang again. Both times I answered it, I heard a little giggle and then the call was cut. The incoming number showed “HOME,” so it was one of the kids trying to prank me. Josephine and her friend, Craig (It's weird when someone else has your name).
Prank phone calls. They’re a lot harder to make these day with the advent of Caller ID. Back when I was a kid, that was a luxury not many of us had. Pranking someone on the phone was easy and fun. Sure, there were the simple calls asking if the “refrigerator was running,” or if Prince Albert was in the can, so let him out.
Sometimes, we would blindly call someone in the phone book who happened to have the same name as a famous person and try to engage them in conversation. Sure, it was lame, but we weren’t old enough to drive and there was only so far you could get on the bicycles. Pranking was cool….unless it happened to you.
I can remember one time my friend, Scott, and I decided to call the homes of people who shared their names with Presidents. We were at his house and had called several people without being able to engage them in conversation. I think we may have been asking for a Presidential Pardon for one (or more) of our friends who had gotten detention. When we got to the Andrew Jackson residence, we found ourselves off the rails. And we didn’t even start it.
It was Scott’s turn to make the call. There were no cordless phones at his house, so we were stuck in one of the back rooms to make the calls where his parents couldn’t hear. He dialed up Andrew Jackson expecting to make a quick comment and then an even quicker getaway. Instead, he found a lonely, elderly woman who pranked us. I think he ended up talking with her for twenty minutes. He learned a lot in that time. He got her whole life story, and he was afraid to hang up on her. It was easily the greatest cold call I’ve ever been a part of.
One thing to keep in mind is that we had to keep our calls local. It cost money to call Lyndonville or Medina, and no one wanted to explain to our parents why there were strange calls on the bill. That did limit our options, especially if we accidentally called a house where the kids or grandkids went to school with us. Of course, if you were willing to dish out the pranks, you’d better be able to take it when it came. It was no fair to get upset at being pranked.
Prank calls don’t just end when childhood ends. Pranking in general has been a part of my life even into my forties. Working at a phone company for 8 years led to some of the best pranks ever. One time, a coworker was infatuated with a waitress at a local eatery. I had Wendy leave a message on his voicemail saying she was the waitress and she couldn’t wait to see him again. Monday morning when we got to work, he was all excited about the call he got. I had to tell him before he showed up at the restaurant.
Another time, one of our coworkers got into an accident with his work van. Even though it wasn’t his fault, our company policy stated that we had to drive our personal vehicles until our drug tests came back. It usually took about a week for the test to come back. The day before he was due to get the clearance to drive the work van again, I had one of the girls in the office call him.
“Nurse Betty” (that should have tipped him off) told him that his sample came back contaminated and that he had to retake the test. It would be another week without driving the van. He was very polite on the phone with her, but when he hung up, he was visibly angry. He had a short fuse, and we just trimmed that fuse a little shorter. He slammed his desk chair against the desk and packed his laptop to storm out the door.
Trying to keep a straight face, I asked him where he was going. He responded gruffly that the drug testing place screwed up and he had to take another test. It’s another week to get up early and take the wife to work and pick her up. There were plenty of colorful metaphors as he walked out the door.
We knew it took 15-20 minutes to get to the testing place. We waited about 10 minutes before calling him to let him know that it was all a joke. He wasn’t very happy. We cleared out of the office before he got back. That was one of the funniest jokes we played while working there. There were plenty. No one was safe.
And that brings me back to the phone calls that I received from Josephine. Obviously, it was no secret that it was a call from the house. Considering she’s 6-years old and doesn’t really get how all that works, it was hilarious that she kept calling and thinking that I would have no idea what was going on. The little giggle and the second voice urging her to hang up was cute...and a dead giveaway.
At first I was aggravated that I had to keep answering the phone. Then, I thought it was funny and daring for a child of her age. I’m glad that the girls have a sense of humor. It’s something we could all use more. Maybe we should take some lessons from our kids in that it’s quite alright to have fun.
You should hear how Craig Bacon pranks telemarketers when they call the house. That could a column all of its own.