being a kid

Is Your Refrigerator Running?

if your refrigerator runningI am tempted to ask what’s wrong with kids today but then a) I’d sound like that old man waving my fist and hollering: Get offa my lawn, you kids and b) I know what’s wrong, so why ask? Because I was a kid once. I know a thing or two about pranks. That’s the thing many of us older people tend to forget. Of course, I never walked down the path of my mother’s curse: Wait until you have children of your own, and she instead got to see the results of my curse, which was: Wait until you’re old enough for an Old Folk’s home.

You read about these little scoundrels who call the police and report made-up crimes at homes of celebrities. They even have a word for these pranks. It’s called swatting. These are serious crimes, too, like bomb threats at Ashton Kutcher’s house. Although, just sayin’, if a celebrity had to go I don’t know if I would much miss him.

When I was a kid, before I grew up to become a responsible Sacramento real estate agent, my siblings and I took great delight in calling people at random from the phone book, that big fat ol’ thing that sat next to the Sears catalog, and asking: Is your refrigerator running? Followed by, after the affirmative, well, you better go catch it. We’d slam down the phone and giggle with glee. Like it was the funniest thing ever. Is your refrigerator running sent us into spirals of doubled-over laughter. Then we got more clever.

It probably occurred to me from watching those Doris Day or Sandra Dee movies. Someone once said there are no original thoughts. Every thought stems from something else or we’ve heard it somewhere before. We’d look through the phone book until we found a man’s name who could have a great nickname. Married women weren’t listed in the phone book in the 1950s. Just the head of household, which was usually a man. If a married woman was listed, her name would be sub-indexed under her husband’s. So, if you were looking for her specifically, you wouldn’t find her if you didn’t know her husband’s name. See what a wealth of information I am about the old days?

But back to my story. I’d look for a guy named William or Thomas. Then, I’d call and when I was pretty sure it was his wife who answered the phone, I’d say: Is Billy home? Or, is Tommy home? You know where this is going, right? The wife would respond with whatever she would say, which usually ended with May I take a message? People were so polite; weren’t they polite? Unlike today, which would probably fall along the lines of what the hell do you want? To which we would blurt out in our sluttiest tone of voice: Well, you can tell Billy that if he stands me up again tonight at (name of X-rated club downtown), Desiree says it’s over! Then we’d slam down the phone and explode with laughter.

In retrospect, that was kind of mean. But it wasn’t like a bomb threat. It was just a prank. Like ringing a neighbor’s doorbell and running away. Not that I would know anything about that. Not like I do about is your refrigerator running.

 

 

Subscribe to Elizabeth Weintraub's Blog via email