back to article Hell Desk's 800 number was perfect for horrible heavy-breathing harassment calls

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday ramble through readers' recollections of unfortunate IT problems. This week, reader “Shane” shared a story of his 1990s job as a very rapidly expanding technology company's “sole SysAdmin/NetAdmin/whatever else was needed.” Shane worked alongside a phone specialist and a “nice …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    So phone system went


  2. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Just a short hop.

    I once took a call from a woman wanting some work done in Worcester; it took me about 5 minutes to realise she was talking about Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, and not Worcester, Worcestershire, UK

    Poor dear had got the area code SERIOUSLY wrong.

    Another poor dear phoned up and accused me of stealing her phone number (two digits swapped), at least that explained all the home help and social services calls I had been getting..

    1. Mayhem

      Re: Just a short hop.

      There's the very recent example of the reverse - a british woman called the US by mistake to report bad driving.

      1. Sheddyone

        Re: Just a short hop.

        And of course there's this mix-up from a lady in my home town:

    2. rh587 Bronze badge

      Re: Just a short hop.

      Another poor dear phoned up and accused me of stealing her phone number (two digits swapped), at least that explained all the home help and social services calls I had been getting..

      Reminds me of the call I had at work shortly after we moved in and had a change of number.

      Me: Good morning, tiny-corp

      Caller: Hello? Is Mabel there?

      Me: I'm afraid not, this is a business number you've come through to.

      Caller: Are you sure?

      Um. Yes. Quite.

      We then got a call from the Police telling us to stop cold-calling the elderly with aggressive sales tactics. as we were a small B2B that provided a specialist service to large (Fortune 500) type companies. We suggested they speak to BT about what bunch of pirates was assigned this number previously...

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Just a short hop.

        Reminds me of the call I had at work shortly after we moved in and had a change of number.

        When we moved into our current house we got a new number because BT couldn't transfer the old one for some reason. Unfortunately it had previously been assigned to a car hire place, and back in those days old yellow pages tended to hang around in phone boxes for years, so for about five years we'd get calls from tourists wanting to hire a car. That wasn't too bad though compared to the bloody faxes at two in the morning.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Just a short hop.

          Yeah same story here except it was a pub in our case. Had loads of calls with people asking if we were happy with our current booze suppliers, we're the most competitive etc. Then one day I had a bloke call suggesting his firm could deliver us spirits and beat any other quote. I said that was fantastic and could they really beat Tesco/Sainsbury/ASDA/Lidl/Aldi to which he replied this isn't a licensed premises is it. I said we had a tv licence if that's what he meant, he didn't and said he'd take our number off the list.

  3. Locky Silver badge

    Mentioned this before but

    Never let that stop me telling the same story....

    Back in the 90s I worked in the outskirts of that there London, and we all had 020 8.... numbers. All fine, apart from the corresponding 020 7 numbers evidently went to Scotland Yard, and specifically the CID

    No, you really don't need to tell me something

  4. John Lilburne

    Dunno about phone calls but ...

    ... our manager once put a link to a competitors website into an internal document. Some months later the competitor had abandoned the website, and clicking on the link resulted in hardcore porn.

    1. Andy Taylor

      Re: Dunno about phone calls but ...

      On a similar vein, I had a supplier send us a box of CD-ROMs containing their full catalogue in handy HTML form. The dev who had built the catalogue had forgotten to change the URLS properly and they all contained the name of his PC, which was Jessica.

      Not a problem, you'd think, but at the time Netscape was the browser of choice and it would helpfully add www. and .com automatically to URLS which were not FQDN.

      No prizes for guessing what kind of website could be found at www dot jessica dot com...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: what kind of website could be found at www dot jessica dot com...

        It appears to be selling jewellery?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: what kind of website could be found at www dot jessica dot com...

          Of the jelly variety??

  5. Yesnomaybe

    Has your workplace been mistaken for another?

    Someone (actually, a rather well known German company) once sent us an inertial navigation system for a submarine. We were not expecting it, seeing as we did normally only work with broadcast systems. (I figured out what it was, it was beautifully built, very high quality connectors and fittings etc, the Navy does NOT skimp on quality) So I called them up, explained we had one of their units delivered to us by mistake. The nice German girl that I spoke too was horrified, said that it was a highly classified bit of kit, to lock it up and keep it safe, they would send someone to pick it up. Two weeks later, I called them up again, explained the thing was still sitting on it's pallet in our warehouse. More shock and horror from the Germans, they would come and pick it up "straight away". When I left the company 3 years later, the thing was still sitting in a corner of the workshop. Several times we considered selling it it on e-bay or just dumping it in the skip, but we always chickened out. But why did they send it to us in the first place? Still a mystery.

    1. IanRS

      Re: Has your workplace been mistaken for another?

      They probably tried to collect it from wherever it should have gone in the first place.

      1. Nolveys Silver badge

        Re: Has your workplace been mistaken for another?

        They probably tried to collect it from wherever it should have gone in the first place.

        Unfortunately the submarine, lacking inertial navigation, became hopelessly lost and wanders the oceans of the world to this day. Its crew survives by converting sea life into a crude form of diesel, that is the sea life which isn't used for food or companionship.

        None of the people that the German company sent out to retrieve the unit were ever heard from again.

    2. 's water music Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: German sub parts

      duh, I dunno why you didn't call Bletchley Park.

      Perhaps there was another company somewhere who wondered why the Navy kept turning up mob-handed looking a nav system.

      Icon because you could have helped her liberation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: German sub parts

        Possibly because BP is a museum.

        GCHQ or MI5 - that would have got a response!

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Has your workplace been mistaken for another?

      By the time they DO get around to picking it up, the thing will be obsolete and worth nothing to anyone.

      That said, you'd think there would be a chain-of-custody document for something that classified...along with all kinds of other paperwork, and how many of these do they build a year, anyway? Maybe the person responsible for procurement of inertial navigation systems for submarines retired, and his replacement has not yet been hired, due to a 3-year hiring freeze?

      Somewhere, there should be a submarine missing its inertial navigation system. Soon to be arriving on a beach near you.

    4. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

      Re: a rather well known German company


      1. Dabooka Silver badge

        Re: a rather well known German company

        I see what you did there


      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: a rather well known German company / Siemens?

        Hard to tell... did the thing actually work?

        (There's a very old joke about an electrical engineer asking a customer "Does it have to actually work, or is Siemens' gear okay?")

        1. Yesnomaybe

          Re: a rather well known German company / Siemens?

          Ha, no. It was not Siemens.

        2. cd

          Re: a rather well known German company / Siemens?

          The inertial part works...

    5. rh587 Bronze badge

      Re: Has your workplace been mistaken for another?

      Someone (actually, a rather well known German company) once sent us an inertial navigation system for a submarine.

      Similarly, our vicar once received a fax from the MoD containing a number of classified details about the new torpedo detect/defeat system he was tendering on.

      They actually *did* come around to collect the offending fax and apologised profusely.

      He did enquire as to whether some sort of Moses-style parting of the sea might provide fleet protection from incoming torpedoes but I don't think they pursued that line of research.

  6. Dwarf Silver badge

    Needs help justifying work

    Back in my helpdesk days, working for one of the big IT outsource companies, we were on day-1 of service having just displaced one of our competitors. There was the inevitable queue of calls and a large backlog of existing tickets to be resolved. The PFB's had agreed to two teams - one to focus on each.

    I remember the colleague who picked up the ticket from late the previous week stating "Urgent : User needs help justifying work", since we provided help on Office products and many of the users were on-the-road marketing types, the mobile number didn't raise any eyebrows.

    Unfortunately it turned out that the phone number had been sourced from a local phone box and the poor chap got a bit more than he bargained for when he called to help the lady.

  7. IHateWearingATie

    Whats NSFW about 800- MIST-HUP?

    Do people get excited about products to quickly clear windscreens?

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Oh I dunno, depends what's causing the steamy windows (to quote Tina Turner)...

    2. David Roberts Silver badge


      I think there must be a joke in there but I think I must have...err..missed it?

  8. Mephistro Silver badge

    Anecdote: (tl;dr)

    Back in 89 our secretaries started receiving perv calls on a daily basis, all seemingly coming from the same guy, according to said secretaries. They were quite upset about it, of course, and we had discussed the issue in several occasions. One day, when I was in front of their desk, one of them received one of these calls and made frantic signals to me, including the 'perv' signal we had previously agreed on*.

    So I took the following steps:

    1- I 'loaded' in my head a script we had previously discussed half jokingly regarding the issue..

    2- Lowered my already basso voice an octave or so, making it sound a little bit like a foghorn.

    3- Prepared my best voice impersonation of Count Vladimir Harkonnen as depicted in the film Dune. You know, mellifluous tones mixed with lots of menace, that kind of crap.

    4- Took the phone and started the conversation with an Spanish equivalent of "Hello sweetie!" and continued with a list of things "I"** would like to do with/to him, that I won´t reproduce here 'cos there could be children or elderly ladies reading this discussion.

    5- Kept talking for two minutes or so till the fuckwit hanged on me! How rude!

    6- Told the secretaries to stop guffawing and went about my business. The girls suffered random bouts of giggling for several days, but were otherwise OK with my handling of the matter.

    The guy never called again. He probably committed suicide. Not missing him though. ^_^`

    And for a decade and a half, every time we had an employees + ex-employees party -something we did every few years, someone would ask "Remember when Mephistro...?", the whole story would be re-told (with some exaggeration added) by the incumbents an I'd be invariably asked to repeat my performance, something that I did only when I was very, very drunk.

    Ahhh, those were the days!

    note*: The signal was the gesture of opening a raincoat with both hands, for obvious reasons. :-)

    note**: Here, "I" means the role I played for the pervert. I'm not gay, I'm not a sadist, I'm not into scat or golden showers and I'm not into bestiality***.

    note***: I think the part about the electric eel was pure genius, if I may say so myself.

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      "Perv Signal"

      My last place didn't have a "Perv Signal", but we did have a "Nutter Signal" - if someone phoned me up and asked me to refill a particular (non-existent) printer, that was my cue to head to Reception and assist colleagues if necessary.

      It only ever got used once, but the cause was immediately obvious... A spaced-out student carrying a rag doll, which he put down on the desk and started to talk to it. "Now you keep quiet while I talk to the nice lady !"

      That one lasted a couple of years, until he was told to go away and not come back until he had seen a shrink. Talking to rag dolls is one thing, head-butting police cars (and leaving a head-shaped dent in the bonnet) is quite another.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Perv Signal"

        > head-butting police cars (and leaving a head-shaped dent in the bonnet) is quite another.

        I've seen that happen a few times in my student days. The bonnet head butting was usually assisted by a strong hand on the head-butter's neck though. Obviously, the minimum necessary force thing was quite open to interpretation in those days (well, the "minimum" and "necessary" parts were).

    2. Chris King Silver badge

      Flasher Season

      Current gig has a path leading up to halls of residence, and occasionally some clown decides to expose himself to the freshers.

      One time, I had to use that path, and some Friend of Humanity decides to display his wares - this one didn't care if his victims were male or female, I think he just got a kick out of the shock value.

      He didn't bank on me pointing at his groin and saying "Oh ! It looks just like a penis, only smaller !"

      For those of you wanting something to play back at dirty callers, check out "Short Dick Man" by 20 Fingers - I'm sure the (totally NSFW) chorus and lines like "Isn't that cute, an extra belly button ?" will get the point across. (Don't bother with the versions on Youtube, most of them are censored)

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Flasher Season

        Thanks for the heads up! This song was hilarious, and I haven't heard it in a long, long time.

        Regarding the censored videos in Google, I found this one, that doesn't seem to be too censored. :-)

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Flasher Season

        Current gig has a path leading up to halls of residence, and occasionally some clown decides to expose himself to the freshers.

        Back in the days when I worked at a university we had the same problem, lasting most of one academic year. It ended when he made the mistake of flashing the vice captain of the women's hockey team on the way back from practice. She was a well built young women, known for her aggressive way with a hockey stick. The last anybody saw of the flasher was when he was spotted hobbling very slowly and doubled over as he left the campus some time later.

  9. Chris King Silver badge

    From the Archives...

    (I originally posted this back in 2013, but it's worth a re-telling. The line in question was normally used for some DEC kit that used DECevent to phone home (quite literally !), but I put a handset on the line after we started getting odd engaged tones. Turns out a local garage had an almost identical number, with just two digits transposed, and the locals refused to accept that I couldn't change the oil in their old banger...!)

    I had a spate of calls from one bunch of clowns, and decided to have a little fun with them the next time they caled...


    Me: Name, Rank, Serial Number.

    Them: What?

    Me: Name, Rank, Serial Number.

    Them: Excuse me?

    Me: You heard. Name, Rank, Serial Number. NOW!

    Them: I don't understand.

    Me: Call is now being traced... Please stand by... <Holds down star key on phone>

    Them: <click>

    I haven't heard from them since. Maybe they've put me on their "NUTTERS - DO NOT CALL" list ?

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: From the Archives...

      I've tried that - no one rings the landline except scammers do they?

      Try "Code In . . . . " a few times then ask them to hold.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: From the Archives...

        Used to have a phone number that was the same as the local Chinese takeaway, apart from the transposed final two digits.

        If I had to give out my number to people I didn't want to speak to, I would "accidentally" swap the last numbers round. Fair's fair - I was getting their calls!

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: From the Archives...

          In the late seventies, the direct line to one of the BBC News studios was two digits swapped from the Hammersmith Odeon... we had fun with that one :)

          Er, allegedly. It wasn't me; I wasn't there. You can ask my mate, he wasn't there either.

        2. enormous c word

          Re: From the Archives...

          If I ever had to give my number or address details out, I always give my fathers details (unless it was something I actually wanted to receive). Still doing it :-) How we laugh...

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: From the Archives...

        (Re: the "Code in..." stunt)

        I see what you did there.

        I used to get random calls on my cellphone from such amusing places as south africa and surrounding countries. I pulled that stunt a few times after the 3rd or 4th caller to do that.

        Sadly, I tired even of that and changed my number a month or two later.

  10. I Like Heckling

    I once took a call from a guy with the thickest stereotypical Jamaican accent you can imagine... and as I went to put him on hold for a moment to look something up... I heard him shout across the room to his 'partner'

    "So... you gonna give me a blowjob tonight"

    Thankfully I managed to hit the mute button before collapsing into hysterical laughter that had all eyes turning in my direction. It was a good minute before I could compose myself to speak to him again without chuckling.

    I wonder if he did indeed get his BJ that night.

    1. toughluck

      Good Luck Mr. Gorsky

      You should have ended the conversation with "Good Luck Mr. Gorsky".

      (Yes, I know it's apocryphal, but I still love it.)

  11. toughluck

    There are two possibilities

    1. I would understand it if the number was 1-800-2448487, but what would a misbreasted lady look like? Oh, and shouldn't the number be some premium rate?

    2. The guy on the other end of the line really loved Tivoli.

  12. Rusty 1

    Tom Mabe

    Google/search YouTube for "Tom Mabe", and perhaps "how to deal with a telemarketer". Such great material that can be used in so many situations!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tom Mabe

      I have a copy of that on my PC. Absolutely hysterical, had me in tears that first time I heard it.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    One of mine.

    one of our branches had the last two digits reversed with a adult movie company.

    The boss and receptionist (both female) were in a fit of giggles when I dialed it in front of them, to explain why they got so many weird calls, mainly from women.

    Of course I'm sure the porn company equally got some very confused callers on the end.

  14. SgtFalstaff


    In the mid 90s I worked the customer support line for Gateway computers. People would need to download drivers for their computer all the time, but being early days of the Internet we usually had to talk them through dialing in to an FTP server. Occasionally though customers would have web accounts and we would have to emphatically warn them NOT to go to, which was a gay porn site. (The correct site was

    1. Chris King Silver badge

      Re: Gateway

      Then of course there was - which had absolutely nothing to do with the band of the same name, but which scarred many freshers who searched for them and picked the wrong result.

  15. DNTP

    My equipment room phone extension used to be 61, and my company is in the 617 area code (American, Eastern MA). Every time anyone in the company tried calling an outside line without properly dialing out first it would ring my phone.

    They fixed this mostly by me unplugging my phone in the equipment room and then promoting me to a job with an actual office with a different phone extension.

  16. Danny Roberts 1

    Not had a problem with phones specifically, but a chap living in Ohio is convinced my email address is his and keeps giving it out to people. I've had loan agreements, hotel & travel bookings and even a scanned copy of his driving license sent to me in the past.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      I'm not proud to say this, but I once locked some poor chap out of his gmail address more than once for repeatedly trying logging into his account instead of mine (we shared the same name but he registered first so I had to put an extra letter in between name and surname, something that often escaped my ming when I started using it...)

    2. Notas Badoff

      They probably all know each other...

      I've have to be the switchboard operator before, when an Indian publishing house wanted to contact "Notas Badof" and had lost their contact info, so just sent the email to the first address popping up on Google. Fortunately for them, I _had_ met that particular namesake a couple years before, from the subject matter knew it was for them, knew where they worked, and was able to triangulate down to their email address to forward the email.

      I guess the Indian boyo figured that with such a strange name we'd all be from the same family?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I too have other people using my email addresses

      I have the same issue with people using some of my extra emails addresses as their own. It's a PITA to get some companies to quit emailing me once I get on their list. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

      One guy gave the email address when he bought a Mini. I kept getting service appointment notices and mailing of new offerings. Every time I got a service appointment notice I'd reply back to cancel. To get the corporate office to quit I had to escalate to their legal department. The guy also used my email address to book a nice weekend getaway special for him and his girlfriend. I got an email asking me to confirm as they had other people on the waiting list. I replied back that I had no interest (which I didn't) and shortly after received a cancellation notice. The following week I got copied on an email about the cancellation saying the resort had the email saying I wasn't interested. That just about stopped that guy.

      A girl used one of my email addresses for her bank. I started getting all kinds of emails with account details. I contacted the bank several times and they kept saying they couldn't do anything about it as I wasn't the account holder. I then went on Facebook and made a comment about it on their page and said if I got any more of the emails I'd post them on their page. I quickly received an email saying they'd sorted out the issue.

      Recently a woman signed up for using one of my email addresses. I got all her personal details including credit score, account balances, etc. Still trying to get that stopped.

      One guy gave one of the email addresses when he signed up for insurance. I got an email that coverage was denied for him and his son and he only had until the next day to fix it or not have coverage. I called the guy to give him a heads up and ask that he stop using my email address. He muttered something about not falling for a scam. I called him back and said I wasn't scamming him, just trying to give him notice so he could fix the problem and also asked him to not use my email address. He cussed me out and hung up. So I emailed the insurance company and said I didn't want their insurance (which was true). When I called the guy I blocked my phone number each time so no worries about him calling me.

      I have plenty more.

      1. JoeF

        Re: I too have other people using my email addresses

        I had a bunch of people in Brazil using email addresses with my domain name to sign up with Facebook.

        There seems to be no way to get FB to cancel these accounts, it is not even possible to report them, and FB doesn't even have an abuse@ email. I had set up a Procmail recipe to forward the stuff to all corporate FB addresses I could find, but nothing changed.

        I ended up changing the passwords of these accounts, logged in, and deactivated them. Some tried to change the passwords back, but never got the confirmation email...

        Eventually, the idiots stopped.

    4. tokyo-octopus

      Blessed with a mildly unusual surname (they call me Mr. Mildlyunusualsurname) back in the day I snaffled, I've got a fair amount of email for other people around the world who share the same Mildlyunusualsurname. At one point I was getting some sort of regular financial reports from the US Federal Reserve Bank intended for the Bank of Mildlyunusualsurname in Bumtweak County, Redneck State or somewhere, I did actually manage to contact someone to get that changed before I had the FBI battering down my door. I still get some lady's Barclaycard balance, unfortunately they don't provide any way of contacting them apart from a non-free hotline, so not incentivized to actionate on that.

    5. JimboSmith Silver badge

      My domain name is a .com and I've had it for years, using it for emails. Subsequently a small business in the US has set up with the same name and has the .net suffix. I've had loads of mail addressed to them in my inbox some of which has been their insurance renewals, business loans etc. I had to call someone in the US and tell them to use the correct address as what I'd been sent was according to the blurb commercially confidential.

  17. Tikimon Silver badge

    Not that kind of help, thank yuh

    Early helldesk job, we had a tech support number that we would call when some service or other we needed (I forgot what) was offline. So I call it one night and an absolutely luscious female voice comes on the line. Oops, that number now dials to a phone sex line.

  18. Dan McIntyre

    The service desk I work on in a hospital has a very similar number to the special care baby unit in the same hospital, so we sometimes get their calls and vice-versa.

    1. DNTP


      "Oookay, is this a person baby or a colloquial term for an equipment item?"


      "Same question as before."


      "Alright, then, that's a computer and you're talking to the right people."

  19. M7S

    My workplace is often mistaken for....

    A place where I'm just sitting wondering how I can save a guaranteed 15% on whatever I am currently paying for my toner, or where I just happen to need to buy a new copier right now (and have the budget just standing by) or want to outsource my IT, or move my data to someone else's server rack or buy hosted VoIP.

    There seem to lots of people like that with numbers similar to ours in that position, and I get all their calls.


  20. usbac

    Slightly off topic, but...

    Many years ago I worked the graveyard shift at one of our local network affiliate TV stations. I was there to record programming that came down from the satellites late at night for airing the next day.

    It was a very boring job, so me being the very curious sort, started exploring the station. I decided to check out the news set. I thought it would be cool to see what it would be like to be a news anchor on the set.

    Sitting at the desk, I noticed there was a phone just below the top of the desk. Now, this being the era of Centrex phone systems, all extensions actually had outside numbers attached. Someone had the forethought to turn the ringer off on this phone. Being the helpful sort that I am, I decided that someone might want to call them sometime, and that they wouldn't know about it, so I should be helpful and turn the ringer back on. I also jotted down the phone number for that extension.

    Several nights later (and, remember I was very young at the time) I'm at home eating dinner and watching the 6:00 news, and decided this was the time! I grabbed the phone and dialed the number. It was hysterical!!! Both news anchors were sitting there and all of a sudden, ring, ring, ring... They both looked at each other with this horrified look of what do we do? Finally one of them sheepishly answered the phone. I started "I would like to order a large pepperoni pizza with..."

    You should have seen the look! I so wished that I had the VCR running. Thank god no caller ID in those days. I think some people suspected it was me, but no one was sure.

    The stupid stuff we do in our youth.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


  22. Dave 32


    When I was growing up, we had the phone extension of 3825. We couldn't figure out why we kept getting so many obscene phone calls late at night, at least, that is, until a nice young lady called up one afternoon, and told my mom, when she answered the phone, "Did you know your phone number spells F**K?". We had a new extension the next morning.


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back about 20 years ago I was working for a very big global financial information provider. The local phone company had a system of assigning phone numbers whereby companies in the same line of business got numbers with the same prefix. We were, apparently, classified as "news" or something like that, and as our little remote group got a bunch of numbers assigned I ended up with one that differed by a single digit from the call-in number of the local radio station's legal help show.

    Nice old ladies started calling me practically daily with their problems and life stories, hoping to get on the air and get help in real time from a legal expert on the radio show. I found out that it was much more time-efficient to give them (absolutely unqualified) legal advice than to explain that they called a wrong number...

  24. technos

    After the dot-com crashes I took a job at a transportation company on graveyard shift and was usually the only soul in the building for a good portion of the night. Some nights I could swear I heard an old-fashioned telephone ringing, but it was so muffled and indistinct I could never pinpoint it in time to answer it.

    So what's a guy to do? Wardial every number we'd been assigned until I found the right one, and then dial that over and over until I found the phone itself. I found a lot of phones in weird places; Two in closets, one under a ladies room sink, one behind an electrical panel in a storage building, etc, but finding the one I wanted was a bit harder. Even armed with the number I could only ever get close; It just seemed to echo throughout our offices.

    I had to break out the big guns, a linesman's handset and a wire tracer.

    Turns out that when they'd converted a portion of a disused repair shop into more offices in the 1970's the workmen managed to cover an operational telephone in drywall, leaving it to ring into a void created by the fake walls and drop ceiling.

    The best part? Just feet away, hanging on the wall of the break room was an enlarged black and white photograph of the old repair shop. The phone was clearly visible and blown up to nearly half real-world size.

    I only ever used my knowledge for evil, of course. If I was stuck late I'd take over a table next to the coffee maker with my reports and spend the last half hour or so annoying my coworkers by calling it and watching them scramble. If someone asked me if I knew what phone it was I'd point at the photograph.

    "Maybe it's that one."

  25. Captain Quack

    quite a few numbers ago while living in Surrey British Columbia Canada I would semi frequently get calls from different people in Surrey England UK. now living in Idaho on the Idaho/Washington border I frequently get calls for the maintenance service for a condo which has the Washington area code and my number whereas mine has the Idaho code but the same exchange and number (I have a small IT shop). even when I give them the right area code they will sometimes still call back. (The maintenance service seems unable to add the Washington area code to the phone number despite several calls)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An enthusiastic office manager decided to RTFM and program the phone with speed dials for various international suppliers etc.However while she remembered the 00, she forgot the "1" country code for the US, so this number was going to somewhere in Belgium (or maybe France was a long time ago!)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once worked at BT Syntegra...

    ....whose HELL desk was lots of 7's so we used to get calls from local infants who picked up the phone and repeatedly pressed the same key. They must have run up a fair sized bill gurgling down the line.

  28. Herby Silver badge

    First liar doesn't get a chance... (cont'd)

    My escapades in this area are a couple:

    As for phones, I would get people calling up my number and changing the digits. Mine was 8488, and they wanted to dial 8848. I would happily accept their take out order, and say it was on the way (the other number was a take-out restaurant.

    The other phone story is that I would get calls that were intended for a real-estate agent with the same name (they must have looked up in the book). I would happily accept the golf dates with tee times for the next Saturday. I might have also said I would take care of everything.

    Email, I have my own domain name, and for some reason people want to use it for signing up for stuff like outlook, or facebook. A couple of times I did the "forgot password" and posted lots of poor things on the page, and sent out lots of nasty notes to friends that had already linked up. Probably didn't do much good, but it made me feel better. I get 10's of megabytes of mis-addressed email every day!

    Then I realize I must be a real geek when I look at the digits given and without looking at a phone understand exactly what it spells.

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