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Lost Journal: Smart Alecks Outsmarted on Crank Call

Aug 062013
 By , August 6, 2013

Journal entry: April 13, 1982 (age 12) — Crank Calls

James Bond shops at Radio Shack.  That’s where I found the coolest gadget ever created.  It’s a small recording device that you attach to a telephone handset, allowing you to record both sides of a phone conversation.  On one end, it has a suction cup.  On the other end, it has a plug that connects to any cassette recorder.  The wicked cool boombox I got for Christmas works perfectly for this purpose.

Simple but ingenious recording technology like this destroyed the Nixon administration.  Now, it is being put to even better use – recording crank calls to the homes of girls in my seventh-grade class with fictitious pizza orders.  For the past week, my friend, Mark Murphy, and I have been holed up in my bedroom, perfecting our crank-calling technique.  Murph makes most of the calls, citing his plan to be a telecommunications executive when he grows up.

No matter who answers the phone at the girl’s house, Murph launches into an exhaustive list of pizza and pizza-related paraphernalia that he wants to purchase.  As a special touch, he closes each rambling order with the inspired coda “The name’s…Smoke.”  Then we see how long we can keep the people talking, as their explanations that they are not a pizza-producing enterprise grow more testy and, to the ears of a 12-year-old, amusing.  Afterwards, we erase over any conversational duds, and listen to the keepers over and over.

After school today, we recruited a new accomplice, in the person of my older brother, Dan.  He’s in eighth grade and, more importantly, his voice has changed.  We figured the lower pitch would give our calls an added layer of authenticity.  Our first mission for Dan was an important one.  We were calling the home of our friend, Elizabeth Mahoney.  She’s probably the smartest girl in our class, and in a variety of arenas she has proven to be a particularly wily adversary.  We needed to be at the top of our game:  sharp…focused…merciless.

The call started off well, with Elizabeth herself answering the family phone.  Dan executed the meandering opening perfectly.  “Hello, Pizza Hut – I’ll have two large pizzas to go, and a Pepsi and a salad, and I’ll have some lettuce and cheese and pickles on the salad, and I’ll have a large Coke to go.”  The response was immediate, and oddly assured.  “Do you want anything else on that pizza?”  The three of us exchanged surprised glances.  This was not how it was supposed to go.  Dan sputtered for a moment, and then mumbled, “Um, no, thank you.”

Then Elizabeth went in for the kill.  In the same cool, measured tone, she asked, “Do you have a name?”  Murph and I, being seasoned crank call veterans, mouthed the word “Smoke” at Dan, our arms flailing in the air.  But this countermeasure was too sophisticated for the green rookie, and Dan blurted out the worst possible answer.  “Yeah, it’s Mollen.  M-O-L-L-E-N.”

Having caught on tape the least successful crank call of all time, we feel that our work is done.  Now it’s back to the drudgery of pool-hopping, ding-dong-ditch, and miming invisible ropes across roadways.

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Buy your copy of "Lost Journal - the Book" at Each Lost Journal column is a journal entry written in retrospect. In other words, Mollen chooses a different day from his past, and writes about it as though it were today. The date may be last week, Halloween 1980, or the day he was born (May 4, 1969). Some of you may be asking, “But how would he have been able to write a journal entry on the day he was born?” To you he says: “Lighten up. It’s a humor column.” Mollen is a nationally syndicated columnist and actor, and he is available as a speaker on writing and humor.

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