I Once Had a Penchant for Making Prank Calls

Back in the day, before there was caller I.D., I developed a penchant for making prank calls. At eighteen, access to new adulthood was exotic and heady, there were so many choices of irresistable rules for breaking, calling strangers in the middle of the night to rouse them from slumber and then hang up seemed like a harmless place to start.

I was clueless about the ramifications of having an abusive childhood, how desperate I was to be seen and heard, the lengths I was willing to go for the attention I had been sorely lacking. Becoming the occasional disruption in the lives of others filled some kind of void in my psyche. I told myself I was just having a little fun, but my behavior was mean-spirited and selfish.

My prank calling hobby didn’t last long, although I don’t remember how many calls I made. It may have been five or maybe it was twenty-five. These calls usually happened when I had been drinking and was still sober enough to be bored. I remember well the last two prank calls I ever made because of the unannounced arrival of caller I.D.

The very last call was to a boyfriend at the time, Doug. Doug and I weren’t steady, but an amiable friendship had been forming. A girlfriend and I had been drinking in my apartment one night, so we decided to call Doug and pull a prank. I altered my voice and pretended to be someone with a stalker-like crush, not very imaginative in light of the circumstance, but the irony was lost on my drunken persona. The next day Doug showed up on my doorstep to say he knew it was me who called because he had caller I.D. Caller I.D. was still new and since I had never heard of it, Doug’s claim about having it sounded so foreign to my ears, he may as well have said he owned a time travel machine. I laughed at him, insisting it wasn’t me and he laughed at me and said okay.

For some of us, especially alcoholics, there are times when we remember behavior so cringe-worthy and mortifying on our part that we actually shake our head violently and mutter loud noises to chase the memory away. After the prank call/caller I.D. fiasco, I was plagued for a few years with the memory of the prank call I had made just one year before the final one I made to Doug.

Her name was Alexis and I was so jealous of her, I coveted her life every day that we worked together. The company we worked for was a small business made up of all women and Alexis was the shining star of our office. It was my first job out of college and I was hired after just one interview, so I made the mistake of thinking I was pretty special. Alexis was a few years older than me and had already been working there about three years. Alexis and I were the youngest in an office full of middle-aged women. We were both hired writers; I did the technical writing, while Alexis was called upon for the more substantive and flourishing writing work.

Alexis was one of those people who you couldn’t help but like. She smiled easily and exuded respect to her more senior counterparts, which of course, further enamored the women in the office to her. She wasn’t pretty by status quo standards, but she was beautiful in her confidence, something I definitely lacked. Alexis was Amazon-woman tall and broad, with the body of an athlete, which she was. She had belonged to a crew rowing team since college and dressed like a tom-boy, another trait in her that I admired because I didn’t have the courage to forego the corporate girly look which I secretly loathed. Alexis had shoulder length blonde hair that was always super-curley and untamed.

After a few months of working there, I saw that Alexis and I were playing in different leagues. I glumly decided that I was never going to be seen as germane to the agency’s operation as Alexis was. I stayed at that job two years and then moved on. A few months after I left, following an evening of drinking and feeling bored, I decided to prank call Alexis. It was a Saturday night and I knew from our days of working together that she and her fiance, whom she lived with, would be out with friends. The voice message I left was directed at Alexis’ fiance. Through fake crying and emotional voice tremors, I made a long-winded, pleading speech to him about getting me pregnant and dumping me. I hung up feeling maliciously smug and hoping I had caused some kind of disruption in their lives.

When I was confronted a year later by my caller I.D. having boyfriend, it hit me like a gut-kick: Alexis knows it was me! With all the visible accoutrements of her life back then, there was no way she didn’t have caller I.D. As much as I tried to hide it, I revealed myself for the nut job I was at the time.

I have no excuse. I was a child in an adult body, throwing a years-long tantrum over having, what I thought at the time was, a terrible life.

Along this becoming journey, I’m learning that if I’m going to go back, it behooves me to look at all of my pieces, not just the sparkly ones, the dark ones too. I used to believe that dark secrets were meant to travel to the grave with their hosts. Based on how poisoned and contaminated my psyche eventually became, I now reject that notion.


Only in the presence of an unwavering commitment to facing our demons does the doorway to self-discovery open.

— Debbie Ford, The Shadow Effect

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