I have a real issue with bullies. If people want to treat each other unkindly, fine– but at least have the decency to meet on equal footing and trade blows like respectable human beings. But bullying? Bullying will not be tolerated, much less when it is so cowardly as to be anonymous.
About this time last year I was horribly sick. My friend Shleisel (the one I failed at rescuing from hillbillies) drove into the city from her outlying town and offered to feed me so I wouldn’t wither away in a puddle of Nyquil and Netflix.
As Shleisel braved my germ-infested apartment and waded through a sea of crumpled Kleenex, I noticed she looked worried and distracted.
After a few minutes she confided that someone had been making threats against her family for the last few weeks. It had started with some creepy phone calls, turned into mysterious headlights beaming through their windows and was just getting worse every few days. She was staying at her parents’ house while in the process of buying her own and her 16 year old brother had been receiving texts from an out of state number. Long story short, this mystery person was now threatening to “shoot up the house.”
Now… She lives in a small town, sure– but it’s not redneck central or a place where they cancel school during the hunting season. They were legitimately worried, so they called the police. The cops looked into it but couldn’t find anything out about the number. They promised to watch the neighborhood and warned them to remain aware of their surroundings. That’s not exactly the most comforting response when someone is threatening to lay siege to your house Skyfall-style.
For all I knew, her brother had provoked someone– but still, that doesn’t justify threatening an entire family. Add to that the fact that Shleisel and her son Leaf were living there, and I went full on Liam Neeson.
“Give me the number,” I said through my sniffles.
Shleisel was doubtful. They’d already texted it and hadn’t gotten a response. The police had tried to trace and call it but the number wasn’t registered anywhere and went straight to voicemail.
“Just give it to me,” I whispered in a gruff Neeson-like voice.
Shleisel called in a to-go order at a steakhouse while I began unraveling this mystery– sadly this was not my first time to face an unknown number.
I had a secret weapon:
I don’t know what it is about sending that to someone, but they ALWAYS reply. It’s like that one elongated word says “Reply to this message to receive hours of amazing sex and a bag of money.”
It works every time.
Within about 20 seconds, they took the bait.
Shleisel couldn’t believe it.
“How’s it goin?” I followed up, channeling my inner valley girl.
“Grrrrreat. Watching Dodgeball. What are you doing?”
“Downloading apps to my new phone and about to grab some foods, I’m starving!”
“Wait… who is this? Lmao.”
I started teasing them like “Surely you can’t have forgotten who I am, hehe!” and added in some general commentary on the merits of the movie Dodgeball.
Apparently they found this unnerving.
“WTF… are you on to me?”
Aha! Suspicions confirmed. Whoever this was, they used this number for nefarious purposes only.
“That depends…do you WANT me to be onto you?”
“Seriously, who is this?” they asked.
I savored their sense of panic.
“I want you to guess.”
My phone started ringing– it was a local number.
“Hellooo?” I said in my most darling voice.
I heard snatches of muffled conversation, a guy and a girl whispering.
I hung up and immediately hit redial– banking on it sending me to voicemail.
“Hey, this is Sarah Bartlett! Sorry I missed you– leave a message!”
I texted the anonymous number again.
“Wait a second, are you with another girl?”
“LOL that’s my sister, seriously who is this?”
Meanwhile Shleisel had paid for the food and texted the name “Sarah Bartlett” to her brother.
“Do you know this person or her brother?” she asked.
“Uh yeah…” he said, “I used to date their cousin.”
Weirdy small towns and their family ties.
Meanwhile Sarah Bartlett’s brother was having a miniature meltdown at not knowing who I was.
“You can’t prank the prankster,” he threatened, and then “You don’t even know who I am.”
I couldn’t resist texting him back with his own name.
“Actually, I do.”
Have you ever been the victim (or perpetrator) of some anonymous pranking? Do you stand up against bullies? What does it take to activate your inner Liam Neeson?
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