Community Service – October 23, 2020

Pickup on line 5…

Consulting gigs off for the COVID restrictions and the difficulty of submitting bids, not being able to tour prospects’ current facilities, I’d fairly-well caught-up on household chores and projects.  The yard couldn’t take another mowing.  It shudders when it hears the mower start.  The garden had been cleared, sheep manure spread and tilled under, and a cover of buckwheat sown.  Lest the devil see my idle hands and recruit me to something pleasurable, I volunteered to man a community hot line.  For some unknown reason they assigned me to the COVID-19 information line.

There was a requirement to be met before the IT people set software to route incoming calls to my cell, so I could work from home.  I had to go into the community center, that hotbed of civic action, for one on-site training session.  Not much “training” to it, so I suspect it was more they wanted a wart and pimple check. I did meet Ms. Ethel Bentwhistle, Chief Wart and Pimple Checker.  She gave me the eyeball as if I were about ready to grow fangs and had just passed gas.  After Ethel showed me where I’d sit, she started our brief conversation.  

“You married?”


“I guess you’ll do.” That suggested I wasn’t lethal, given proper female supervision.  I’d do?  I hope to shout.  I noticed no line of folks waiting to volunteer.  In fact, I was the only other person in the building except Ms. Bentwhistle, a computer jockey, and a fireman stealing stale doughnuts.

I smiled.  “You?”

“Me what?”  Short attention span.





“No surprise.”

“What?” I sensed a tinge of indignation.  Mr. Sensitive.

I said, “No? That’s a surprise, you’d be a fine catch for some fella.”

“I’ll be back in six hours,” Ethel said, “when your shift ends. Remember all the calls are recorded.”


My first call got me off to a rocky start.

“Bowdecker Community COVID-19 Hotline.  Please be advised this call is being recorded.  How can I help you this afternoon?”

“We still gotta wear them goddam mask things?”

“According to the governor, yes, ma’am.”

“You can tell the governor, I said he can go fu…”

“I don’t have a line to Governor Graft, ma’am.”

“You don’t?”

“No ma’am.”

“This the Coveen Hotline?”

“Covid-19, yes, it is.”

“What the hell good are ya, if you can’t do nothing?”

“I can answer your questions.”

“You ain’t doing real good so far.”

Then I heard silence.  Wow.  No wonder volunteers are as rare as ordained Episcopalian strippers. My next call was not much better but was entertaining and illuminating in a sorry way.

“Bowdecker Community COVID Hotline.  Be advised this call is being recorded.  How can I help you this afternoon?”

“My boyfriend and I are out of rubbers.  Is there something else we can use?”


“Oh, goody!  What’s that?”


“Great. How can I get some of that?”

“Abstinence means you don’t have sex.”

“Oh.  Pooh!  That won’t work.”

“Well, it does in fact, work. So why are you out of, um, prophylactics?”

“You mean rubbers?  Guess you do.  Getting out of the house in this Covid thingy is impossible what with our parents being home and all.”

“Oh.” I began to hear the youth in the voice. “So how did you get by before?”

“I used to get them at school.  There’s this super cool senior girl there. She knows all the shit. Used to get them from her.  But you know schools are like done with those computer thingys now.”

“Yeah.  Unh, sure. You could send your boyfriend to the drug store.”

“He’s a freshman too. Hard enough to sneak out to fu…  Wait. Being recorded?”


“Hard enough to sneak out to screw.  Be tougher to walk to the drug store.  We stole my daddy’s rubbers.”

“Well, I guess that’s a solution.”

“Used them all up.  Used his daddy’s too.”

“Rock and a hard place.”


“That’s just an expression. Kinda means, bummer!”


“Your boyfriend have acne?”


“You know.  Zits and pimples.  He can use going out for zit cream as an excuse to walk to the drugstore. While he’s there, not a pharmacist alive would refuse to sell him Trojans.”

“Sell him what?”


“Our folks order everything delivered.  They’d know something was up.”


“We turn used ones inside-out.  Use’m again.  Prolly okay, huh?”

“How long you been doing that?”

“About a month.”

“No harm in it now, I guess.  I am concerned though.”


“Not so much you might get preggers.  That’s a foregone conclusion, probably.”

“Thanks! We try.”  I could hear the stupidly proud smile on her face.

“But I’m concerned for your folks.”


“You and your pimple-faced squeeze used all their rubbers they might, you know, suddenly being cooped-up and all, get all frisky, and maybe…”


“Well it’s possible.”

“That’s disgusting!”

“Yeah, I guess I see your point, but my concern is they could get pregnant even being old folks.”

“Yeah that would be bad. Them being ancient and all.”

“Worst of it is there’d be another you or your boyfriend to contend with.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you should go talk with your parents.”

“I can’t do that!”

“I suspect you’re gonna have to have more serious talks with them before long anyway.  Good luck to you.”

“Okay. Thanks.  Bye.”

“C19 Hotline. Please be advised this call is being recorded. What is your question?”

“Buddy of mine says you can max bore a Chevy two sixty-five and still have more cylinder wall than the same bore on a two eighty-three. That don’t seem right?  What’s the deal?”

“Unh, sir, this is the COVID-19 Hotline.  My guess is you mixed that up with CJ-7 the old Jeep CJ’s. This here is to answer questions citizens have about the COVID-19 Virus.”

“That’s bullshit.”


“Somebody made that up.  Republicans is my guess.  Or comminists.  Maybe Martha Stewart. Kinda shit she’d pull.”


“Reckon that’s not your fault. But since I got you on the line, about the two sixty-five and two eighty-three?”

“I’m not a motorhead, but I suspect that’s not true – same max bore and all.  See, they played so much with the engines back in the late fifties and early sixties you really can’t tell what you got to start with.  Add to that, the number of unpapered engine replacements over the years, well you could be sitting on a three oh seven, three twenty-seven, or even a three fifty.  Best check the serial numbers if they’re still there or run a sonic test.  Given a virgin two sixty-five, you’d still want a pro to check to see the max bore before you ruin the block.”

“So you’d say no?”

“Can’t say either way.  Can’t see the block from here.”

“That’s funny.”

“Work with that. Won’t be funny if you ruin an otherwise good classic engine.”

“Thanks man.”

“My pleasure.”

Later in the shift, I got a real goofy call.

“Bowdecker Community COVID-19 Hotline.  Please be advised this call…”

“Hey, big boy!  What can I do for you tonight?  You wanna know what I’m wearing?  You wanna know what I got in store for you?”


“Now c’mon, don’t be shy, this is the call back number you gave “Hot Lips Fantasies.” Why don’t you just settle back and let me chat with you a while?  We’ll figure out what it is you need.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but someone has pranked you.  Or me.  This is the Bowdecker Community COVID-19 Hotline.”

After she hung up, I wondered if someone had surrendered their credit card number, I shouldn’t have played along.  It might have been more entertaining than fielding COVID-19 calls. I was wrong.

“Bowdecker C19 Hotline. Be advised this call is being recorded. What can I help you with today?”

“Can you come get my wife?”


“Old biddy’s drivin me batshit.  Cooped up like this accounta the virus.”

“She’s ill, sir?”

“No.  She’s ornery as hell. Taken to pulling pranks on me.”

“Well, sir, you see…”

“This morning, you know what she did?”

“Well, no, I don’t.”

“Imma tell ya.  She put peanut butter on the rims of my wheelchair tires.  Ain’t what I thought it was when I put my hands into it. Had no idea where such coulda come from, but the options are all pretty disgustin.”

“Well, it is kinda funny, sir.  No harm, no foul.”

“You ain’t livin with the bitch.  She thought it was so funny she peed in her pants.”

“Well, I can understand that.”

“Okay for you to laugh, I’m the one has to help her change clothes.”

“Maybe you need to lighten-up.  Little humor to make the day go faster, not seem so boring.”

“How you mean?”

“Prank her back.  I dunno, glue the pages of her crossword puzzle book together.”

“She don’t do crosswords.  Watches them damned soaps.”

“Hide the remote.”


“Why not?”

“I’ll forget where I put it.  Wrestling comes on at five. Don’t wanna miss that.”

“Well, you could always even-up the peanut butter score.  A nice dab of mentholated petroleum jelly strategically placed in the cup of her bra might…”

“Don’t wear one no more.”

“How about putting a little hot sauce in her ketchup?”

“I’m the only one uses ketchup.  Oh, but say, that gives me an idea.  Mentholated petroleum jelly, huh? If I can remember where the pliers are…”


“Thanks, sonny. That’ll keep me busy for a day or two.  I’ll call you back and let you know how it works out.”

Thought to find out what mischief he was planning and caution the gentleman, but he disconnected.

At the end of my shift, Ms. Bentwhistle told me I wasn’t good for the COVID 19 line, so they’d not be asking the IT people to route calls to my cell phone.  That was not entirely disappointing.  Back home, the Missus asked how it went. I offered that I just didn’t have the empathy for dealing with the public.  I believe she bought that.

Published by spwilcen

Retired career IT software engineer, or as we were called in the old days, programmer, it's time to empty my file cabinet of all the "creative" writing accumulated over the years - toss most of it, salvage and publish what is worthwhile.

11 thoughts on “Community Service – October 23, 2020

  1. A masterful phone call. Brilliant! I just tell the to STFU, keep hollering obscenities until they disconnect

    1. Works here too, the um, obscenities or simply brutal honesty, but in that bit of fiction the poor gent had to play nice. Though he did have some fun because some of his ‘clients’ were a bit slow on the uptake. Thanks for taking a gander and poking a few words. Appreciate it. Walk the walk, man, walk the walk.

    1. I am interested in what the old gaff had planned for his wife. Then again, judging from the antics of those two, maybe it’s better we don’t know. Thanks for wading through all that fluff and taking time to snicker with me.

    1. Kind of feedback that lets me know I might be on the right track. Thanks for taking time to give a gander and most definately for dropping words on me. Appreciate it. Stay regular and let me know whif I disappoint. Old dog :: New trix.

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