Only on rare occasions do I scan through this site’s available assignments to consider, and rarer yet are the ones I have pursued. But recently I saw a few in the list I found intriguing, so I had pause to consider them and did accept the one on the rudest thing I have ever done. I did want to step aside for the moment, though, and state I considered the one entitled, How to Teach Your Dog to Retrieve a Drink from the Refrigerator. I have no clue how to do that, but my sense of humor tingled for a moment. I’ll have to look it up. Anyhoo, because I did accept this one, I should proceed.
I did not accept this assignment because I wanted to provide an account of my rudest act, but a confession. The rudest thing I have ever done goes beyond rude and, although I did this when I was about thirteen or so, I’ll always look back on it as among my most serious regrets. It’s something I did at an age, and during an era, when young teenage boys shouldn’t be off a leash, and I didn’t see the harm at the time. However, as I aged and developed an actual conscience, I looked back with an ever-growing sense of trepidation and shame, and here I shall get this off my chest.
It was the late seventies, during a moment of technology well before the Caller ID and even *69, with Ma Bell being the primary provider. Many people I knew, most of which were struggling relatives, had party lines they utilized to hone their eavesdropping skills. Then, one only needed to dial the 7-digit number and most everyone within miles around shared the same 3-digit prefix. Because of this, it was too simple for a pair of heathens (a buddy and me, and I would like to point out that this fellow and me are still close friends even today, and he turned into a fine, upstanding and honorable man) to pick up the phone, dial that 3-digit prefix and then dial in (yes, on the rotary dial) four digits at random.
What we did was despicable but we found it deliciously funny at the time. I would dial the random number, and if it was answered by whom I was sure was some lady, I acted as if I was a lost, little boy. I’d act as if I was crying and frightened, and was apparently rather convincing. With sniffling and sobs, my devious act went something like this:
“Umm, is my Mom there?”
“I don’t think so, dear. Who are you?”
From here, I’d go into some pathetic spiel about how I was at the airport because some mean man who hurt me brought me there and I got away. I would act frightened, almost panicked, to be honest, and beg this person to help me, because that bad guy is around here somewhere. Then once I had this poor soul on the verge of tears and begging me to find some help, my partner-in-crime (did I mention he is now a decent man, and hardworking husband and father?) would come in from across the room, carrying on about ‘there you are’ and ‘I’ll teach you a lesson for this’.
He’d be loud and menacing, deepening his voice and dishing out his evilest laugh. I would scream out, beg for him to let me go and so forth, creating a dramatic scenario drummed up by two deviants who likely inspired the invention of the Tazer. Then one of us would loudly clap (for a slap), which was my cue to go silent. That was his cue to pick up the phone, and yes, this only gets worse.
He’d say something to the effect of, “He’s all mine, now.” He might say, “You’ll get him back soon, but you won’t want to,” or a small number of other things that only got more malevolent.
How did they get worse? Once the first phone call of this sort was done and the phone was slammed down, we’d laugh ourselves silly but work to regain enough composure to do it again. And again. And again. And again. Oh, and just so you know, our fevered imaginations only made it more insidious and daring with each call.
I can say with honesty that we only did this over the course of one rainy afternoon. We both hinted at doing it again at other times, but when we looked back on it, we knew it was just plain wrong and declined. I cannot recall the last time we talked about it, but my old friend is sure to read this. This is likely going to stir up a conversation and perhaps a subtle warning:
“If my wife gets wind of this, yours won’t want you back.”
So there it is; the rudest and surely the meanest thing I have ever done. I can honestly say that the incident taught me a lesson without me ever being caught and scolded by an adult. Eventually I was the adult, and I looked back with a realization that I may very well have caused several nice ladies horrible nightmares. I looked back with the sobering realization that there is always a potentially grave consequence to even the slightest act, no matter how innocent it may seem at the time. I can honestly say that I policed myself and developed a unique yardstick upon which I could measure my actions, and as an adult I developed the reputation of being among the politest people many of my acquaintances have met. But it doesn’t ease my mind when I think about the concerns those women had after the line was disconnected, and who knows for how long after that.
Here and now, I testify that this is a true story to the best of my recollection. I’ve written some rather dark stories and passages over the years, but I could not stomach myself for writing this after concocting it as fiction. Somehow, I actually feel better knowing I really did this as opposed to making it up and passing it on as a moment of my personal history.
Now and again, something comes along that reminds us that we’re not the good and decent human being we would like to think we are, even with the lessons learned. Thankfully, my worst (Dear Lord, let this be the worst) is just a string of sinister prank phone calls.