Sunday Chuckle: Check In Call

On Saturday the phone rang.  I was expecting it to be my dad, since I had just attempted to call him.

“Hello!” I answered in a goofy Seinfeld-like voice.

“Well hello!” said the voice on the other end.  It kind of sounded like my favourite aunt.

“Hello!” I answered back in the same goofy voice.

“I’m just calling to check in and see how you’re doing in this pandemic!” said the voice on the other end.  It was not my aunt and my guard was now up.

“I’m doing great!” I said, not exactly lying, all things considered.

“This is Kathy calling from the Jehova’s Witnesses!”

I froze and reverted back to my basic phone instincts.  I hung up.

Long story shot, Kathy called back two more times thinking we just got disconnected.  The second time I still thought it was my dad!  It is comforting to know that the Jehova’s Witnesses have evolved to deal with the pandemic!  They are not able to go door to door, so now I have to avoid them in different ways!

#587: Blocked!

GETTING MORE TALE #587: Blocked!

Someone bugging you on Facebook?  Block!  How about Twitter?  Block!  Go ahead and try it.  The President does it all the time!

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.

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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.


#498: Hang-Up Wars

Welcome back to the week of Getting More Getting More Tale!


GETTING MORE TALE #498: Hang-Up Wars

When the employee Joe “Big Nose” began working at one our stores in the late 90’s, he quickly became known for his surly phone demeanor.  Not towards customers mind you; just towards co-workers!  Joe was not much for pleasantries:  “How ya doin’,” or “Have a great day.”  We have said it many times in these pages before:  Joe Big Nose was a very unique personAnd hilarious.

The first time I ever spoke to Joe on the phone, I was calling his store from mine, looking for a stock check.  Somebody wanted to see if a particular CD was in stock at his location.  Joe pleasantly got it for us, took down the customer’s info, and put it aside.  “Hey thanks a lot eh!” I said to the new guy.  He didn’t answer.

I stared at the phone.  “Did that guy just hang up on me?”  He had!  Joe doesn’t wait on the phone long enough for thanks and goodbyes.  In fact there were uncountable times I thought I was speaking to him, and he had already hung up!

“Don’t worry, that’s Joe,” said his boss.  “He doesn’t mean anything by it.  That’s just his way.”  OK, then, fine and dandy!

As I befriended Joe over the years, we would get into some friendly competitions over who could hang up the phone fastest on the other person.   This started as part of the normal course of a day.  We’d call each other looking for stock, but when business was done, it was only a question of who could hang up on the other fastest.  My strategy was delaying him by asking something like, “I just have one more thing for you to check,” and THEN hanging up.

This grew into a competition with a life its own.  We began calling each other with no purpose other than just to hang up.

For example, “Hey, do you have a used copy of the new Metallica?”  CLICK!

Or, “Mike, I have a customer who wants to know if the new Bon Jovi is any good?”  CLICK!

Or my favourite, just at the start of the call:  “Hey Mike.”  CLICK!

We took this to its natural extreme, which was me phoning Joe and hanging up just as he answers.  A hang up can’t get much faster than that!  I won the hang-up wars!  (The bosses didn’t approve, but since the owner started the store pranks in the first place by stealing my Mars bar, I think they had it coming!)



Part 228: The Phone

RECORD STORE TALES Part 228: The Phone


Boring conversation anyway.

I has been a long time since I’ve had to answer the phone at the record store. As long as it’s been, sometimes I still find myself answering my phone at work, and it just happens: “Good afternoon, [name of record store].”  I’ve stumbled over that a couple times before realizing what I’ve said!

Every time it happens (like today), it takes me right back in time!  The memories flood in all at once.

There were several ways we were supposed to answer the phones at the record store. “Good afternoon, [name of store]” was the main one. Our boss used to answer the phone with “good afternoon” no matter what time it was. 10 am: “good afternoon”. 8 pm: “good afternoon”. I used to tease him about that.

Later on when we got more locations, we changed the phone greeting to, “Good afternoon, [name of store], [address of store].” This was done for customers who were too confused to figure out which location they had just dialed. Although that didn’t stop one guy, who went on an extended cuss-infested tirade because I didn’t have his special order…even though he called the wrong store! You can’t fix stupid.  (This story was recounted back in Part 104: A Nightmare on Cocknuckles Street.)

At Christmas we’d do other variations of the greeting. I personally enjoyed “Merry Christmas, [name of store]” because I for one don’t like “Happy Holidays”. The name of the date on the calendar is Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not, you still get a stat holiday like everyone else.  Happy Holidays my arse.

Tom came up with a few interesting greetings. “Happy Ho Ho, [name of store]” was a good one. Another time he answered “[Name of store], Santa’s little rock shop.” He tried to have fun with it.

Still, the worst answering of the phone that ever happened was on my watch.  It was a busy night, and some kid asked to use the phone for a moment.  We usually obliged such requests, instructing the person to be quick.  Well I turned my back for a moment on this kid, and next thing I knew he had walked halfway across the store with the phone and was having a whole conversation.  I made my way out to retrieve the phone, but it was too late.  The kid had a “call waiting” and answered the store phone for us.

“Hello?  Uhhh, hold on.”  Then he finally acknowledged me.  “It’s for you.”


VIDEO REVIEW: Blackberry Z10 smartphone

BlackBerry Z10

5/5 stars

Music by Kathryn Ladano, Dave Dubowski