Pranking Betty White

Would you like to meet my mom? First, try to imagine Betty White from her Golden Girls role. Now, change her bouffant hairstyle to black. And add a large crucifix from the 1974 Avon catalog hanging around her neck. Got it? That’s my mom. She’s epic. In the best possible way, or the worst, depending on which side you take when I tell you this next story. In fact, I tossed and turned last night in bed, questioning whether I should even admit to the final phone prank. It’s so diabolically juvenile…

Anyway, my mom is the kindest, gentlest, most trusting woman God ever created. She loves the Lord (since she’s from Oklahoma, His name is actually pronounced the Lard) and for this reason alone, I’ve questioned my own faith many times. After all, what sort of God pairs a mom like that with kids like me and (name redacted) my brother?

One fateful year, Mom decided to get a job. She’d stayed home to raise us but now that we were on the verge of maturity, she decided to leave us without daily supervision.

We were on the verge all right. But not of maturity.

Her first job was answering phones for a prim, proper and thoroughly uptight Southern Baptist church. As I recall, the gig involved picking up the phone and answering in the sweetest voice imaginable, “Main Street Baptist Church. How may we save you?”

Oh, boy. So much to work with here. For my brother and I this proved an irresistible target. We were delirious with anticipation.

Her second week on the job, we began our first wave of assault. My brother, a master at accents, tried a few voices before settling on the one we were sure sounded the most like Satan. Not that we had ever heard from Satan. Which was surprising considering how much of his work we carried out on a daily basis.

My brother cleared his throat, practicing one last low growl. I dialed the phone.

“Main Street Baptist Church. How may we save you?”

“I’d like to talk to the pastor.” (Make sure you imagine this in the voice of Satan.)

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“The Prince of Darkness.”

“A prince? My goodness. Hold, please.”

Our call went through and we hung up. We stared at each other in astonishment. There was blood in the water now.

And unfortunately, since Dad refused to pay for cable, prank calls were the only available entertainment that summer.

The next day, I dialed again. (On the job training had taught us that prank calls are less likely to be exposed if you space them well.)

“Main Street Baptist Church. How may we save you?”

“I’d like to talk to the pastor.” (again, in the voice of Satan)

“May I ask who’s calling?”

“Lucifer.”

“I’m very sorry, Lucifer, but he’s in a meeting. Would you like to leave a message?”

“No message. I’ll pay him a visit.”

“Wonderful! What time should we expect you?”

“6:66”

“We’re looking forward to it. See you then!”

And then, apparently, the pastor grew tired of having calls put through from Satan and meeting times set aside for the Prince of Darkness.

Mom moved on to more suitable employment.

She was hired by a school textbook company on the sale support team. Her job was to answer the phone and take the orders for textbooks from the field salespeople. Sounds easy. Until you factor in her children, two unsupervised criminal masterminds.

Every day, she would jot down her orders, then walk them down the hall to the warehouse manager, who would instruct the warehouse team to pull the orders and ship them to the schools.

After she established herself as the nicest, sweetest, most patient phone operator in the company, she began receiving the most unusual orders. Since the company’s inventory was not computerized yet, the inventory manager spent hours in the warehouse trying to find the obscure textbooks she placed orders for, including, but not limited to, “Animals and How They ‘Do It.‘”.

I am not proud to type that.

I am ashamed.

But that summer my brother and I honed our creative skills, straining the limits of credulity, and slowly, the future began to take shape for us.

I became a writer. My brother has gone on to become a wildly successful fraud detection expert. He buzzes around the city in his convertible foreign sports car, and he still makes prank calls.

To me.

Often while sitting in my driveway.

The last prank call ended in an argument about whether fish have feelings.

He’s that good, people.

Or that bad, depending on where you are in your faith walk. As for me and my house, we do serve the Lord (or the Lard, as the Okies say), and my children have gotten away with exactly NOTHING.

I feel pretty good about that….but there was a price. When the hymn writer wrote, “Jesus Paid It All,” I doubt he had any of this in mind, but I’ve read the fine print in the gospel and indeed, all my sins are covered. Which is why I never miss church, if I can help it.

I figure Jesus wants to keep an eye on me now.

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