GETTING MORE TALE #587: Blocked!
In the pre-Record Store 1980s, it was not this easy.
In late 1987 and early 1988, a kid from school named Bobby was getting a bit too clingy. He was even a bigger nerd than I was. Way bigger nerd. His prized possession was a massive multi-volume copy of the Oxford English Dictionary. His stalking didn’t begin until grade 10 French class. I was never very good at French. I can’t really explain why I took it again in grade 10 when I didn’t have to. It was my worst class. Bobby and I would study together over the phone. It helped so we continued our phone studies. That’s how it started.
Soon after, Bobby began calling for non-school related reasons, which was still OK, but it picked up speed. The calls became very regular. First, they were every other day. Then they were daily. Then twice a night, and more. He started inviting me to go to church with him.
I was a young kid with no idea how to handle the discomfort I was experiencing. Talking on the phone was fine, but every night? I was getting smothered, except I didn’t know that was the word for it. I wasn’t sure if this was weird or not, or how to deal with it, and I didn’t want to confront him. I decided the best strategy was to start avoiding his phone calls. There were two problems with this:
- In 1987 there wasn’t an easy way to “block” Bobby’s number.
- My mom outright refused to lie and tell Bobby I wasn’t home.
I made sure my mom knew that Bobby was calling too much and annoying me, but she wouldn’t play ball! “I won’t lie for you!” she said. I can remember her answering the phone, while I’m telling her “I’m not home!” only for her to hand the phone over to me. I was furious but she wouldn’t budge on her lying policy. New techniques had to be invented.
The easiest was taking the phone off the receiver. Leaving it “off the hook” would give any caller a busy signal. No such thing as voicemail. I began taking the phone off the hook during Bobby’s usual calling hours without telling my parents. The only problem was that the handset then started making a very loud beeping sound when you left it off the hook. So I buried the receiver under blankets and pillows so it could not be heard. Of course we wouldn’t be getting any calls at all from anyone, but I figured that was the price my mom had to pay for refusing to lie! Later on, I learned how to remove the ear piece so that it wouldn’t make any noise.
The other method of Bobby-blocking required the help of my best friend Bob, not to be confused with Bobby. One night my parents were out and Bob was over, when the phone rang.
“That’s Bobby calling,” I said. “Answer the phone and tell him he has the wrong number?” Bob obliged me. He was willing to lie for me! He answered and told Bobby he had the wrong number, but it was a little more complicated than that. Bobby said, “But I have this number programmed in my phone!” It was 1987. Nobody had numbers programmed into phones…except Bobby. Bob insisted that he still had the wrong number and hung up. Sure enough the phone rang again as Bobby called back. This time we didn’t answer.
Things with Bobby came to a head twice. The first time was over the phone, one of those nights he called multiple times. He asked me to go to church with him again and I said “No” very firmly. I said we had our own church to go to and I just didn’t want to go to his. To my shock he started bawling on the phone and hung up on me. He then called back, apologized and asked if I’d go to church with him again. I accepted his apology but declined church again. He started crying again and hung up again. He was Lutheran, in case you’re wondering if he was evangelical or something more obscure. Nope, just Lutheran. Pretty mainstream.
Bobby and I patched up the friendship and boundaries were re-established. There was another incident towards the end of 1988 and it was the final one.
I had 11th grade math class with Bobby and the year started fine. He sat next to me. One morning in class he took my pencil case and wouldn’t give it back. I had been drawing band logos on it, so Bobby took it upon himself to take it (and all the pens, pencils and erasers it contained) away, as if he was a parent and I was a child. I was getting more and more angry and when he finally returned it after class, I was furious. He acted like it was funny, but I wasn’t laughing. I was really pissed off. I went to the cafeteria at lunch, and I told Bob what happened. He said, “Well we just won’t let him sit with us at lunch.”
I met Bob and our group in the cafeteria for lunch, and we made sure to take up all the bench space. When Bobby arrived, Bob informed him he’d have to sit somewhere else because I was still mad at him for taking the pencil case and not giving it back until after class. That was pretty much it. Bobby and I stopped speaking completely after that, even though we sat next to each other in class. It was awkward but a certain amount of peace and quiet returned to my life.
I remember shortly after that, I caught a ride home from school with Bob. He drove a shit-brown Chevette. We were driving home when I spotted Bobby up ahead. Bob slowed down his car and followed Bobby without saying anything. He just slowly, slowly followed, at walking speed, in his car. This time it was me who found it funny, but Bobby was not amused and yelled at his neighbors to call the police! (They didn’t.)
Bobby changed schools the next year, and a mutual acquaintance told me that he “hated” me now. I accept the part that I had to play in it, but I would also suggest that where I was concerned, Bobby was obsessed. He was not gay, he was just fixated. It wasn’t going to end well no matter how it ended. One thing for certain though, the obsession had to end, because if it didn’t, my wits would.
I can’t help but wonder if much of this could have been avoided if only my mom would have played along and told Bobby I wasn’t home! We’ll never know now. Thanks, mom.