Crank Calls… the curse of the ’80s haunts a generation

By Dusty Shelf

I got like the 12th call of the day , last Tuesday, offering me an extended car warranty. Other callers offered health insurance upgrades; threatened me with jail over unpaid taxes; offered a loan to pay off my college loans (I went to community college for a couple of years about 30 years ago, before I decided I was made for comedy. Or as an old boss once told me… you have a voice made for silent movies, and a face made for radio. In other words, no college loans to pay off); asked for a few minutes of my time to answer a few questions to have a chance to win a gift cars, etc.

Suddenly, a couple of old neighbors popped into my head. Mr. Purcell and Mr. Spain. In those glorious rotary telephone days when there was no caller ID or *69 or any traces by the telephone company as all of those police shows scared us into believing.

Mr. Spain wasn’t a bad guy. Cheap as hell, though. That might have been why he was a victim of so many prank calls. He was the guy who asked us to wash his car, and gave us newspapers to dry the windows, and then for our two hours of work… he’d reward us with a whopping $3 because we wasted too much water.

Mr. Purcell was the kind of guy who would take his kid’s newspaper money and give it back to him as an allowance, but never give the full amount back, or save the difference for the kid in a bank account.

There were other truly innocent victims that would be called time and time again for no reason at all. Understandably, some became quite enraged using language seldom heard in polite circles or even unpolite circles. Some were noted good stewards of the community when they weren’t cursing at a group tweens with too much time on their hands. Of course, I’m not sure how many “Urgent collect call from Seymour Butz or Meccher Maker” a person could take before snapping.

The names were endless really. Ura Belcher, Ima Smoocher, Phil McCrevis, Anita Bath, Ben A. Lurker, I.P. Freely, Ivana Tinkle, Ben Dover, Mr. Mark Z. Spot, Dr. Yuri Nator, Officer Dick Short, Rev. Cann I. Tutchem, Marion Monee, Emerson Bigguns, and so many more we just made up and forgot about.

And so, I answer all calls not labeled spam risk, out of some sort of guilt ridden obligation because of all the calls I made asking if Pat MaGroin was there or if they had Prince Albert in a can, amongst others.

Though, I must admit, if it’s a telemarketing number I recognize, I’m not above answering the call “Detective Showme Donuts, fraud division.” Sometimes I just answer the phone that way even if I know who’s calling.

I can still see those giggling 12 year-old kids circled around a yellow rotary phone thumbing through the White Pages seeking out the next victim, and what the message would be when someone answered.

Clearly, we were idiots.


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