Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Tain't funny, Magee.

As much as anything, I just want this documented while it's reasonably fresh in my memory.

My phone rang about about ten minutes to midnight tonight, just a couple of minutes after I got home from eating dinner after band rehearsal.  We both looked at the clock (in a "what time exactly is it that someone is calling?" reflex -- 11:51 according to the clock on our microwave), and Chip said, "Well, at this time of night, it's probably okay to answer it."

So I answered it.

"Is this Billy?"  (a slight Southern accent in the voice)

"Who's calling?"

"This is Johnny.  Remember me?"

You need to know that I have an uncle named Johnny, and, though this voice sounded a bit deeper than his, I thought maybe he had a cold or something.  And the "remember me?" question is not entirely out of keeping with his personality.

I said, "How are you doing?"

"Why weren't you at the meeting last Tuesday night?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"You said you were going to come to the meeting last Tuesday night.  Why didn't you come?"  (Pretty sure now that this is not my Uncle Johnny...)

"Honestly, I don't know what you're talking about.  I don't remember telling anyone I would be at a any meetings last Tuesday."  (I don't have to think about this -- I have band rehearsals every Tuesday night, so if I promise to go somewhere else on a Tuesday, not only do I not forget to go, I call two or three people in the band to tell them that I won't be at rehearsal.)  "Are you sure you have the right number?"

"This is Billy, isn't it?"

"Yes, but I cannot think of any meetings I was supposed to be at last Tuesday."

"You promised you'd be there, and a lot of people are upset that you didn't come after you promised." 

(Okay, this is starting to feel surreal.)

"What meeting are you talking about?"

"The Ku Klux Klan.  I know where you live.  You live at..."

And then he told me my address.  And he was correct.

"Do I need to come over there and get you right now?  You're name's Billy, isn't it?"

"Yes." (Not a lot of sense in denying it at this point.)  "But there are a lot of Billys out there, and a lot of Billys with my last name.  Are you sure you've got the right one?"

"Are you not Billy Rose?"


"Oh.  Then I have the wrong number."  And he hung up.

I thought about it for a few seconds and called the closest police station's non-emergency number and explained the call to them.  A few minutes later, the doorbell rang, and I went outside to talk to two policemen.  I told them the content of the phone call.  I said, "I suppose there was no explicit, direct threat in there, but it disturbs me.  He had my address right, so I don't understand how he could have a wrong number."

One of the policemen said, "Are you listed?"

"Yes, but I'm listed under my real name.  If they were looking for 'Billy Rose,' they wouldn't have found me."

"Well, you can look up any kind of information on anybody on the Internet."

"But if they used the Internet to find my correct phone number and my correct address, then they would have gotten my real name, too."

Bottom line: There's not a lot the police can do about it (not that I thought they could) other than listen to me and make a record of my report.  They gave me a slip with a CAD number on it, telling me that if they call again, and especially if they make any more obvious threats, to call the station and give them the CAD number so it would be reported as part of the same incident.

This reminded me very much of how I felt many years ago in a somewhat similar situation.  I used to record the band's information recording -- when and where the band would meet for specific events, or if someone wanted to join the band, when and where we rehearse.  One week when I was checking the answering machine messages, there was one short one: "Thanks for telling me where to find you.  I'll be down there next week with a shotgun."  I was hearing this about half an hour before the start of the rehearsal where the guy had threatened to show up with a shotgun.

It's a weird, surreal, helpless feeling.  It brings waves of absolute insecurity in which you are certain that someone out there, just out of your sight, is poised and waiting to harm you or kill you if they can.  By definition, it is terrorism.  I don't use the word lightly (like some "news" networks I could name).  I mean it literally -- the point of terrorism is to make someone else afraid all the time, not knowing whether they will be attacked, not knowing whether someone who wants to hurt or kill you is waiting outside the next door or around the next corner.  For about half an hour after the call, I felt unsafe enough that I considered calling around to see if I could find a hotel room for the night, just so I wouldn't have to sleep in this apartment tonight.

So if this was someone's idea of a funny prank call, I hope he is smart enough never to admit to it when I am within reaching distance of him.

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