It all began about two months ago, when I started getting calls on my cell with the callers asking for Jennifer.
At first, I thought it was just a person or two who had misdialed, but after I began to ask what number they were trying to reach, they would always give my number.
I could not imagine how someone could have gotten my number to give out. I do not give out my number to many people, just family and very close friends. Someone asked years ago why I was reluctant to disclose my cell number. I replied, “Because I don’t want a bunch of phone calls.”
Too much of my career was spent on a telephone. One of the pleasures of retirement has been not having to be tied to one. When Honey and I are out and about, especially in restaurants, we take note of the number of people who are constantly checking their phones. Few people are so important that they need to be available to everybody, at every hour, in any place.
For a brief time, I thought I might be the target of one of those “restroom pranks.” Quite often in years past, it was not uncommon to see written on a restroom wall “for a good time, call (so-and-so) at (fill in the blank).”
I knew a few people who would call the number and get the police station or the local Baptist church. I have not seen this of late. Perhaps I’m just going to higher-class restrooms or maybe it’s because most restrooms today have tile walls.
Some years ago, phone pranks were fairly common. But with caller ID, it’s harder to hide your name or number unless you are a robo-caller from Nigeria. When I was growing up, pre-teen kids loved to do corny phone pranks. I could not because we did not have a phone, but I heard about them at school.
One of the favorites was calling a store and asking if they had Prince Albert in a can. For you younger folks, Prince Albert was a very popular pipe or roll-your-own tobacco packaged in red tins or cans. When the store person said they did, the caller would say, “Well, you’d better let him out before he smothers.”
Another kids prank was to call a random residence, state that they were with the electric company and ask if their refrigerator was running. If the answer was yes, the caller would say, “Then you’d better go catch it before it gets plumb away.”
As these kids got older, the phone pranks would get more sophisticated. At a drinking party, they’d pick a residence at random and call, asking for Sam. All through the evening different partiers would call asking to speak to Sam, wanting to know when he’d be back, etc. Then just before the party broke up in the wee hours of the morning, when they figured the victim was fast asleep, there’d be one last call: “This is Sam. Have there been any messages for me?”
But I pretty soon ruled out the prank angle on my recent calls. The calls are all coming from different and strange numbers and I have not recognized any of the voices. And it’s not a phone scam, because I have not been threatened with legal action or arrest unless I send several prepaid cards to some address in New Jersey.
At first, I just told these callers that Jennifer did not live here, that as far as I knew, Jennifer had never lived here, that I did not currently know anyone by that name, that all the Jennifers I knew had died. However, those answers only made the callers more determined. One demanded to know who I was; another wanted to know why I kept answering Jennifer’s phone.
There have been a few female callers, but most have been male, some with very heavy foreign accents. This has caused my imagination to work overtime and consider just what kind of “business” Jennifer might be engaged in.
Maybe I could pose as Jennifer’s assistant and ask what “service” they are calling about and offer to set up an appointment. Who knows where this could lead? Maybe a sting operation involving our local police or even federal agents.
I’ll have to admit that I’m getting intrigued by Jennifer and her callers. If the mystery ever gets solved, I’ll let you know.
Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and
may be contacted at