Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Telephone tiger!" (unedited)

Perhaps someday I'll explain why the phrase "telephone tiger" brings back such fond memories. The short version of the story: it's the result of stupid collegiate prank phone calling.

Thanks to caller ID, the old prank phone calls of the past are all but gone. I'm not particularly proud of it, but I use to enjoy the occasional prank phone call. I never got into serious trouble because of it, fortunately, but I was one of those annoying punks who use to make prank phone calls now and again. Yes, I've long outgrown the joy of the prank phone call -- even before caller ID -- but there's still a part of me that enjoys a harmless prank, especially if it involves the telephone.

Chip has a wacky habit of screening his phone calls. Unfortunately his telephone technology is stuck largely in the 1980s. He has a mobile phone, but it's not his primary phone, as he still maintains an old-fashioned home phone. Not only does he have a cordless phone wired to the wall of his condo, he has an answering machine attached to it. So when his phone rings, he sits there and waits for the answering machine to answer, his greeting to play and the caller to leave a message before determining if it's a call he wants to answer. I'm not sure who he's hiding from, but he has been doing this for years. I know he gets telemarketing type calls periodically, but most of those are when he is at work. And for the life of me I can't get him to tell me who it is he doesn't want to speak to unexpectedly, or admit to me there's no reason he should be screening his calls.

So years ago when I was visiting Stinktown for a weekend Chip screened one of his phone calls while I was there. I don't recall the details, but as I recall, he was having a minor problem with his phone. Or perhaps he was simply perplexed that his phone rang, the answering machine kicked in and the caller opted not to leave a message. Whatever the circumstances, the light bulb over my head illuminated. As we sat there watching football one afternoon, I had my mobile phone discreetly at my side, out of his view. Yep, I dialed his home phone number and we sat there as it rang. And sure enough, once the answering machine kicked in, I disconnected the call. I did this several times, all while keeping a straight face, even as Chip got increasingly frustrated. I think he was convinced there was a problem with his phone line rather than somebody calling and hanging up.

He became so perplexed that he decided he had to answer the phone before his answering machine kicked in. And of course I managed to hang up before he did. I'm sure the stress of it raised his blood pressure even higher than usual.

Of course the punchline should have been speaking to him through my phone when he answered his, but he was in one of those pissy moods. Sometimes he can appreciate a good laugh or practical joke, other times he acts like you've spit on his grandfather's grave. I wasn't in the mood to deal with the latter Chip, so it's one of those jokes I had to appreciate silently...until now.

There was a similar game I started playing recently. My bingo hall has a pay phone, which has a quieter-than-standard ring. A while ago it started ringing on a nightly basis, usually at the same time of the night. I think it was doing it at two set times, as if the phone number was on an automated dialing list. Whenever anybody answered the call, there was no sign of anyone on the other end.

It didn't take long before I realized that I could have fun with this. Yep, I added the pay phone number into my contact list, and would occasionally dial it discreetly while at work, usually when I was nowhere near it. Sometimes I'd do it once, sometimes I'd do it a few times in a row. It was amazing how frustrating it was to a few of my co-workers.

When I'd dial the number, I immediately put the call on mute, so that there would be silence on the line if somebody answered it and listened for a response. (More often the person answering the phone would quickly hang it up.)

I didn't expect anybody to notice the phone was only ringing when I was working, but I quickly deduced I needed to call it on nights when I wasn't working, too, just to change it up. Yep, that's right, I'm too easily amused by the stupidest things.

Unfortunately for me the fun and games are over. At work tonight I noticed the phone was missing from the wall. I asked the manager where it went. She explained that she called the service provider to report the periodic ringing. The service provider looked at our account and determined the phone wasn't generating enough income to justify it being there at no cost to the bingo hall. That's not a shock, but it did get used occasionally.

It's amazing how the pay phone has nearly become obsolete. There are still plenty of them around, but you don't see them everywhere any more. You're just as likely to see an empty wall or stand where there use to be a pay phone as you are to find one that is working.

The bingo hall had two choices, pay to keep it on the wall or have it removed. The bingo hall wasn't interested in paying to keep it, naturally.

So thanks to my tomfoolery there's one less pay phone in this country. And this makes me sad. How am I supposed to amuse myself at the bingo hall now?

1 comment:

Dinesh Ramde said...

Hey, Big Cheese, I'm glad you've kept up w/ the blogging. When I stopped blogging I got lazy about following other people's blogs too. But you've still got the magic touch -- great post.

Any chance you'll be in Stinktown this summer? I was thinking of planning a trip out your way to see the new ballpark. Maybe we can catch a Bosox or Chisox game this year.