we were kids
my friends and I used to call random numbers, but we never had any plan
in mind, nor characters, scenarios, voices, etc. We were just
We used to drive the poor people at PBS nuts during pledge drives
after all, what else were we going to do while we were waiting for
Who" to come back on?
used to call the number
at the bottom the screen so often that I still have it memorized.
And we did more damage to the spirits of public broadcasting volunteers
manning the phones than Newt Gingrinch [sic, I know] did to the entire
PBS system. Granted, it was pretty obvious that we were just a
of stupid kids, but I don't think anyone ever appreciates a bunch of
kids calling and screaming and making silly voices and shooting sound
toys into the phone like stupid kids. Because that's what we
didn't get more sophisticated
until I was in high school. A friend of mine was one of the first
people I knew to get three-way calling. He used to call me up,
we would dial another number and prank call people. This, too,
still before caller ID was invented, so we could just dial numbers at
with impunity. We ended up doing a bunch of the routines from
Floyd albums and the "I don't like fish" bit from Roger Waters' Radio
album. I remember we also used to sing some of the more unusual
like "The Gnome" and "The Trial" that required us to adopt unusual
The surprising thing was that, more often than not, people would just
there and listen to us rather than hanging up. We typically ended
up having extended conversations with complete strangers.
night we called a random
number and got a guy named Danny. He thought we were hilarious
gave us his friend's number to call. We messed with the friend
a bit, then called back Danny. We told him we got the guy (I
even remember what we did, but it probably wasn't very imaginative),
he said, "Great! Hey, listen. I'm heading out here right
(it was a Saturday night; he could drive whereas we were 15), so talk
my wife, Rachel." So we did. In fact, we called up and talked to
her off and on for probably about a year.
and Danny were in their
late twenties or early thirties and didn't have any kids. We knew
a fair amount about them, even where they lived. She never knew
names or our phone numbers or pretty much anything substantial about
but she gave us music recommendations, etc. I bought Yaz's
At Eric's" because of her and later proposed to my partner to one of
tracks off it. Interestingly, I never met either Danny or Rachel,
though maybe I should invite them to the wedding. Assuming
and Rachel were typical
"victims" of our hijinx. In general the idea was simply to spread
some insanity around. We usually just acted nuts for a bit until
the person on the other end engaged us in a conversation. I
an old lady we called telling us we weren't bad kids, we just had an
sense of humor. That was probably a good description. We
pulled any pranks that would be considered threatening or cruel.
We didn't make obscene phone calls, but the weirder we were, the better.
there was one
mean thing we did, and that was only when we called pay phones outside
of grocery stores. We knew this one store where girls from our
were cashiers. They had to sit on the bench in front of the store
for their smoke breaks, so we thought to copy down the phone numbers
day when we were there. One night we dug out the numbers and rang
them up. One of the girls answered, so we pretended to be the
station. We didn't have a routine worked out, but I did the DJ's
voice and my friend just jumped in with random bits. Today we
make it sound so much better with sound effects and such, but we were
enough for most people who didn't expect to hear more than one person
the other end of the line.
there! This is
92.5 WXKW, classic rock 'n' roll! You've won a rock and roll
got the Rolling Stones 'Steel Wheels' concert tour package with fourth
row seats, backstage passes, and four of their classic albums: Exile on
Main Street, Some Girls, Sticky Fingers, and Get Your Ya Ya's Out!"
man! You're kidding
We sure are."
Fuck you, you
son of---" [click]
didn't do that too often.
In fact, we started calling the same set of pay phones and asking
what their favorite episode of M*A*S*H was. They were always
"My what?" One night the store manager picked up the phone and realized
we had been doing this off and on for a couple weeks. A few
later he had a cop answer the phone to try and get us to admit who we
but we just hung up on him. After that they changed the numbers
all of the phones in front of the store.
the humor was
a little more avant garde. For example, we started calling this
business after hours and leaving peculiar messages on their
They always followed the same formula: We would state a time (never the
real one, and it always ended with the number "7") and then would ask
insane question relating to popular culture. For example: "It's
Why did they take Speed Racer off the air?" We didn't do this
night, but a few weeks after we started, we called them late one night,
and someone picked up on the line. I don't know if they were
there working late or just trying to catch us in the act. Whoever
it was acted very threatening, telling us they had called the police
our calling them. Apparently they were a little unnerved by our
I guess we stopped calling them after that in case they decided to set
up a trace.
some point we got the
idea to call girls in our classes at school. It was a relatively
rural part of the world, so it didn't take a lot of work to narrow down
the options in the phone book if we wanted to look up someone
We would call a girl and act silly and never even tell them who we
As usual, we almost never got hung up on, and they would laugh and
soon say, "Hey, why don't you call my friend so-and-so and mess with
Before the year was through, we wound up with a notebook full of phone
it or not, sometime
later I ended up going out with one of the girls I met this way.
I dug out the notebook one day about a year or so after we had done all
this, and somehow I ended up calling a girl we had prank called
She and I ended up talking for quite a while, and since I had a
handy I was able to see what she looked like.
ended up going out the
next day, and then stayed together for a little over a year until we
apart after I went away to college (she was still a senior in high
Now that I think about this, it really was pretty weird. I think
in this case the prank was on me.