One thing I lament for “today’s youth” is that the beauty of the simple prank phone call is no more. Now, I know there are ways around it, and that there’s plenty of mayhem occurring in today’s Caller ID world, but it’s not the same. While you can block your number from appearing on Caller ID…do you answer those calls? Yeah, me neither. So the opportunity for calling a neighbor to have a few innocent yet mischievous giggles just isn’t the same as it was when I was a kid.
My best friend Jen was my main partner in crime. Like most pranksters, we aimed low at the beginning but quickly graduated from the level of “Is your refrigerator running?” (yawn) and “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” (we weren’t even sure who this Prince Albert was, so we didn’t find it all that funny) to more clever—at least to us—calls.
Since we had our own “radio show” (i.e. we had a sketch comedy show that we recorded on cassette tape…man, we were cutting edge), we liked to think that we had a wide array of voices and characters at our disposal. I’m not sure how we, as 11-year-old girls, pulled off convincing men’s voices, but based on the success of our pranks, we must have been somewhat believable.
[Side note/disclaimer: if anything in these stories can be found to be illegal, then these stories are absolutely not true. Completely fictitious. If not, then never mind this disclaimer.]
One bit that we loved doing was acting as though we were from the fire department. During sleepovers, we would be up at 2am and just call someone we knew and say, “Mrs. So-and-So (that’s not really her name—because that would be an awesome last name to have, but it’s not—it’s just because Jen and I still need to maintain our cloak of anonymity even after all these years. I’d hate to have to relocate.) Anyway, we would say, “Mrs. So-and-So, this is the Mayberry (no, not really Mayberry…come on) Fire Department. Forgive me for waking you up, but fires can strike a house at 2am, and if one did, would you have an escape route planned?” Of course, Mrs. So-and-So wouldn’t know which end was up. On the one hand, she’d just been awoken by a call, but on the other hand…that call was trying to save her life. How could you get mad at that? Remarkably, she could. After a few minutes of back and forth conversation, where the “fire department” was expressing concern for her home safety plan, Mrs. So-and-So finally told me to go to hell. Jen’s convulsive giggling in the background probably wasn’t keeping a tight lid on our ruse, but…that was what it was all about.
Another fire department call that we had fun making was when our neighbors were having a big party. We called the partying neighbors and told them I was the fire chief and that we had heard they were having a big party. Did they have a permit for that party?? Jen and I almost wet ourselves laughing as we could hear the man switch phones to go to a quieter room where he could better answer “the chief’s” questions, as he worriedly told his wife. “Mr. So-and-So (no, he was not married to Mrs. So-and-So…please, quit being so literal), can you please tell me the number of people in attendance at your party?” Again, Jen and I had all we could do to keep it together while we overheard him count off bunches of people and then finally come in with a guess of “around 40.” “Well, based on the size of your house, you are just under the number where a permit would be required. Carry on.” And the very relieved man thanked me and went back to his party.
We also loved calling up people and freaking them out just a teensy bit. We had a neighborhood phone book that listed the names of the children and their ages as a way for neighbors to get to know one another (my, how times have changed in that regard, no?) We would call up strangers and act like we were related to them. “Uncle John? This is your niece Susie. How ARE you??” To which John would reply, “Uh, I don’t have a niece named Susie, you must have the wrong number…” And I would jump in with, “But Uncle John, I can’t believe you don’t remember me! Can you put Aunt Linda on the phone? Or how about one of my cousins? Alan must be around, what? 11?…” to which John would, well…freak out a bit. “Listen, I don’t know who the hell this is, but…” and then he would rage on and threaten us…you know, fun stuff.
Okay, maybe it’s better that there is Caller ID. Nah, I take that back—it was a lot of fun that was mostly harmless. Well, now that I’m all grown up (technically), I wouldn’t want my kid doing it, but, as a memory it’s harmless. And who knows, maybe Mrs. So-and-So decided to create an escape route in her house after all? Maybe these calls of ours were actually helpful. In fact, I’d like to think they made the world a slightly better place.
P.S. Bonus points if you get the reference in the title.