When a Stranger Calls and Gives You the Weather Forecast, Don't Answer - 6/15/2011

Continuing with my theme of practical jokes/pranks I have pulled. The one I have decided to relate in this posting is my favorite one ever. I stated on a previous post that no one was actually hurt as a result of any of my monkeyshines. That may not be entirely true. The tomfoolery that I am about to describe could actually have resulted in some grievous bodily harm. But, for me, ignorance is bliss.

One of my additional duties when I worked in the missile field was as maintenance liaison at the Command Post. In short, the Command Post is a hardened facility where leaders of an installation direct the operations of their units. It is filled with communications, status boards, coffee, and lots of brass. I worked there during exercises, deployments, real world emergencies, etc. My job was to keep the commanders informed of fighter aircraft status, weapons loads, and maintenance progress on broken aircraft.

After all the senior staff (Colonels)had gone home for the day, there was not much to do. We had to keep the Command Post manned, but activity was minimal. There is a saying that “idle hands are the Devil’s tools.” This axiom was never truer for anyone than it is for me. When I am bored, mischief is a distinct possibility. Those that know me know this to be a certainty.

Each of our work stations in the Command Post was equipped with state of the art communications. As this was over 30 years ago, the telephones we had would be laughable now, but for then, they were cutting edge technology. My console had the capability to conference call with several individuals. I could cause phones to ring all over the base, connecting them together at my caprice. As you can imagine, I was want to explore this capability. In addition, the Command Post maintained a listing of the home phone numbers of ALL base personnel. This was before anyone lived under the illusion of privacy and the availability of caller ID was still well into the future. You can already see where this is going. The combination of my ennui, a super-duper phone, and my access to everyone was not going to end well for some people. The problem was that I could not share this prank with anyone as even in those days, I was violating a number of military and FCC regulations.

I started fairly innocently. I would dial two random people and connect them. Of course they both assumed that the other person called them. You can imagine how the conversations went, particularly when I redialed multiple times. While I was listening in, I also had the capability of joining their conversation, taking the role of instigator, both parties thinking that the other guy was speaking. Swearing and threats of ass-kickings were common. It is possible some of these people met to have physical altercations, but I prefer not to think about that. Well, actually, it is kind of fun to think about.

You would have thought that the pleasure I received would have been enough for me, but alas, no. You see, military installations are awash with “secret” affairs and dalliances. I was privy to some, shall we say, sensitive information. So I used that knowledge to select my victims. You would be surprised (or maybe not) at the reaction of a guy receiving multiple phone calls from the person he suspects is diddling his wife, or girlfriend. Sometimes, I had to insert a name in response to, “who is this,” just to up the ante a bit. The most fun of these was when the woman involved did not cohabitate with either of the men, and had her own residence. Dialing the “triangle” was always entertaining. You would think that after a while one of them would stop answering the phone, but they never did.

Sometimes I would just connect two people that I knew simply disliked each other and if there was no immediate profanity or enmity, I would insert some, to get the conversation going. Another of my favorites was dialing a party and connecting them with the weather, time, or traffic report, over and over. I did that to a coworker once and he came in the next day and said there was something wrong with his phone. Evidently, someone kept calling him and giving him the weather forecast. I asked him why he kept answering and he said that he kept thinking it might be something else. I had a hard time listening to him with a straight face. I can still not think of that gag without laughing out loud (LOL).

As with all my pranks, I was much younger then and would not implement such a cruel and thoughtless deed now. I am now much too mature for that kind of shenanigans. Plus I don’t have a phone with that capability and there is that pesky caller ID.