Work ennui and me don't mix well. As a result of this, I posted a message on the internet comedy forum - Chortle - yesterday. It was a spoof of the frequently seen "Has someone got the number for so and so, I have an old one that ends 206, is this still right?". My particular joke involved posting a random sequence of digits, meant to look like a mobile number and asking "Does anyone have the name that goes with this number? I used to have one ending in 'lly' but I'm not sure."
Now, the purpose of this was simply to pervert a familiar thing in a ludicrous manner. However, some people replied, suggesting I ring it. Were they in on the joke? or did they think I was being genuinely stupid? Then someone posted to say that they'd received a call from an unknown number recently and perhaps they should ring their unknown caller to find out who that was. Then they said that they'd rung the number and that it was some woman who apologised for their mistake. Then my ex-girlfriend told me that she'd just received a call from a comedian she mistakenly rang from my old-phone (which she now uses) which still has my phone book in it, though a new number.
So, I was able, on the forum thread, to resolve the genuine mystery phone call, and also to admit that I'd been taking the piss with the original request.
This was, in my opinion, an end to it, until another friend, Okse, pointed out that I'd just posted a mobile number on the internet, somehow making it the focus of prank calls. He suggested I had breached someone's confidentiality and might get into trouble through the Data Protection Act. I said I hadn't compromised anyone's personal details since that number was just a randomly chosen bunch of digits, not a real person. He then pointed out that there are some nutters out there who will ring a number for a laugh. I considered this a tangible problem and so removed some digits from the number online and told people not to ring it.
After work, I took a bus to the station, took a train to London, hot footed it to my gig and sat around waiting for it to happen. It was cancelled. No audience arrived. As I was about to leave, the phone rang. I answered it to an irate woman who was demanding to know why I'd posted her number on the internet.
Now I truly understood why someone should not do this sort of thing. The woman had been the recipient of a number of prank calls that day from people "making fun of her". She was complaining of it adding to the real stress in her life and she was telling me of it affecting her ability to work and how she was in need of her phone, but unable to use it because of the pranks.
In this situation there's only one thing to do. A full and frank apology, along with an explanation of the lack of intent to do damage, was the order of the day. Oddly, she wasn't listening to any apology, nor any suggestion that I could somehow make reparations for my mistake. In fact, she kept pushing. I started to wonder how this neurotic woman thought. I wondered if, perhaps, this was fate, thrusting a random woman into my life and whether I should try to apologise over dinner - maybe this would be the story we'd tell our grandchildren. "Well, grandpa put my mobile number on the internet, we met up so he could say sorry, and before you knew it, he was conkers deep in my lady pocket". If I'm starting to sound a bit unkind, don't worry. This story goes somewhere else.
The woman started talking about Data Protection Act and I thought of my earlier conversation with Okse and it also flashed across my head that this woman sound like an actor. She was too confident. I was on the backfoot in the conversation and I really needed to get her to burn out her anger so I could start to steer the conversation somewhere productive. She threatened me with police action for harrassment. I tried to wrongfoot her by suggesting I'd cooperate with any enquiry.
At this point Okse burst into the conversation. It had been a wind-up phone call. I knew, at the moment he spoke, that it was probably him. The Data Protection Act thing had been a massive clue. However, I also couldn't quite hear the other end of the line. He explained himself and then told me he'd be putting the clip online.
It's here on YouTube.
They got me. At least it wasn't real. I think I would have genuinely been sorry if someone had received a bunch of prank calls just because of a silly joke of mine getting out of hand.
It's a sad indication of my state of mind, though, that I seriously considered turning the call into a potential dating scenario.