• Tue, Dec 13 2011

Why I’m Worried About The Future Of America, Prank Call Edition

So last night I was up late when I received a phone call from a blocked number. Normally I’d ignore such a thing but my mother-in-law is out of the country presently and sometimes her calls show up as “blocked” on the caller ID. So I answered it. And quickly realized I was getting prank called. But here’s the thing: it was the worst prank call in the history of prank calls.

Unless I’m missing out on some internet meme, the fake high-pitched voice on the other end of the line completely squandered her opportunity. (Actually, it might have been a prepubescent boy who made the call.) She asked me if I wanted some chocolate. I mean, really.

All I could do was reply that this was the worst prank call I’d ever even heard of. I told the caller that in my day, we never would have had such a silly prank call. We honed our craft, practicing exactly what we’d say and planning for any number of possible replies. Some of my friends could keep a prank call going for minutes. The kid, somewhat shocked by my reply, mumbled something in response, conceded it was a prank call and asked me for better ideas.

If young people can’t execute prank phone calls, what else can’t they do? I fear for our country.

I think President Barack Obama was right when he said we had gotten flabby and lazy in recent years. I understand that technology has changed the game. Caller ID and *67 and cell phones have made it much more difficult to practice your craft. But are these really sufficient excuses?

Remember when Americans were the masters of the prank calling genre? From Season 1 of The Simpsons:

Moe: Moe’s Tavern.

Bart: Is Mr. Freely there?

Moe: Who?

Bart: Freely, first initials I.P.

Moe: Hold on, I’ll check. Uh, is I.P. Freely here? Hey, everybody! I.P. Freely! [the customers laugh] Wait a minute… Listen to me you lousy bum. When I get a hold of you, you’re dead. I swear I’m gonna slice your heart in half!

Homer: You’ll get that punk someday, Moe.

Moe: I don’t know. He’s tough to catch. He keeps changing his name.

Ideally, a prank call should please both the caller and the call-ee. Take this example, also from The Simpsons:

Moe: [answers the phone] Flaming Moe’s.

Bart: Uh, yes, I’m looking for a friend of mine. Last name Jass. First name Hugh.

Moe: Uh, hold on, I’ll check. [calls out] Hugh Jass! Can somebody check the men’s room for a Hugh Jass?!

Man: Uh, I’m Hugh Jass.

Moe: Telephone. [hands Hugh the receiver]

Hugh: Hello, this is Hugh Jass.

Bart: [surprised] Uh, hi.

Hugh: Who’s this?

Bart: Bart Simpson.

Hugh: Well, what can I do for you, Bart?

Bart: Uh, look, I’ll level with you, Mister. This is a prank call that sort of backfired, and I’d like to bail out right now.

Hugh: All right. Better luck next time. [hangs up and breathes a sigh] What a nice young man.

I believe in the America that can create prank callers who strive to finely tune their work. Whether your game is fake pizza deliveries, fake drug deals, alarming news or wordplay, we must push ourselves to accomplish more than Miss “Blocked Number” from last night, am I right?

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  • Amber

    Aw, these kids these days. I think the caller ID thing has pretty much killed the art of prank calling. My grandmother got one once back in the 80s, “Is your refrigerator running, Ma’am?” (Yes) “Well then you better go catch it!” She laughed and laughed and laughed over this. Thought it was the best thing ever.