Now reading Prank Calls to the Real World

Prank Calls to the Real World

Some days you just have to pretend you're the Safeway on Lincoln.

MTV’s Real World is in Seattle for its thirty-second season, much to the dismay of most of my friends. The new cast has been picked to live in the lively neighborhood of Capitol Hill, a few blocks from my apartment. Capitol Hill shares a similar story with many other great American neighborhoods: it was once a cool destination full of art galleries, queer folks, record stores, and cheap rents, and it has now been turned into a trendy-shiny-fancy social hub for young Amazon employees with expensive juice restaurants and “gastropubs.” It’s not uncommon for people to live in “aPodments”: fourteen-by-fourteen-foot rooms with shared kitchens for $1,200 a month. I honestly don’t care about all of that; I like expensive juice.

But the Real World actors being in Capitol Hill has everybody up in arms. The cast seems to represent everything that has turned the “once great mecca” into a place for woo girls to barf Lime-A-Ritas in the streets all night long. It’s been pretty great to watch people interact with the actors, who are apparently here until September. There have been many run-ins, some documented here:

Real World Seattle Stalkers
The Real World Seattle: Sabotage & Info:
Real World Seattle Cast Spottings

None of this seemed at all like the real world to me until last week.

My friend Claire (whose name I’ve changed) was approached at the bar where she works a few days ago by one of the Real World cast members. After talking for a couple of minutes, he gave Claire his number, with the insinuation that he was looking to “hook up.” Let’s call him Campbell. Claire found this all to be very funny and posted his number to one of the above groups a few hours later. I called to see if it was real. It rang and then went to voicemail, which said, “Leave a message for [silence] after the tone. BEEP.”

I figured that it could be his number—but who cares?—so I hung up without leaving a message. One minute later, he called me back. In my excitement I’d forgotten to *67. I didn’t know what to do, so I answered, “Safeway on Lincoln.” (Note: I have a Chicago area code, though there are no Safeways there.)

Campbell: Yeah, who is this?
Me: This is the Safeway on Lincoln.
Campbell: This is a Safeway?
Me: Yes sir, how can I help you?
Campbell: Somebody just called me from this number.
Me: It could have been any of our departments, sir.
Campbell: This is a Safeway in Chicago?
Me: Yes sir, on Lincoln.
Campbell: What is your name?
Me: Todd.
Campbell: Todd what?
Me: Todd [pause] Milton.
Campbell: That sounds like you just made that name up.
Me: It’s the name I was given at birth, sir.
Campbell: Well, your name sounds retarded as shit.
Me: Sir, I’m sorry if somebody called your number on accident.
Campbell: See, that’s the thing: I don’t think this was an accident. I think my number has been leaked on the Internet.
Me: Sir, I could transfer you to some other departments to see if they called you.
Campbell: Okay, transfer me.
Me: Okay, one second. [Three-second pause, then, in the same voice:] Pharmacy.
Campbell: Yo, you didn’t transfer me. This is the same dude … Todd Milton.
Me: Sorry, sir, this is the pharmacy.
Campbell: Yo, you sound like a lame.
Me: Sorry, sir, this is the pharmacy.
Campbell: No, you’re the same guy as before, and you gave me a fake name. Can I talk to your manager?
Me: There isn’t a manager on duty, sir.
Campbell: Well, then, let me talk to your superior.
Me: Sorry, sir, the only other people in the store are at the same level as me.
Campbell: Well, then, let me talk to anyone else.
Me: Okay, I can transfer you to produce.
Campbell: Fine, I’ll take the produce department.
Me: Okay, one second. [Three-second pause, then, in the same voice:] Produce.
Campbell: See, you didn’t transfer me! You’re the same person! Listen, this is some fake-ass shit, and I want you to know that I’m from Chicago and I’m going to be coming back there and I’ll look for you at Safeway. I got your number.
Me: I’ll be happy to serve you when you’re here, sir.
Campbell: [Hangs up.]

Back at the Real World loft (it’s always a loft), Campbell and his roommates and the producers probably Googled my number, which lead to my website and street address, which is easily available. It’s 1605 East Madison.

Campbell called back two minutes later.

Me: Safeway on Lincoln.
Campbell: Yo, this is Derek Edelman. Your name sounds gay as shit. I know your address too.
Me: Sir, this is Safeway on Lincoln.
Campbell: Yo, I’m going to come find you. I know where you are.
Me: Sir, we have locations all over the city. Some are twenty-four hours.
Campbell: Look out for me. I’ll find you. [Click.]

Somewhere in the middle of all that, Campbell called Claire and threatened to report her to the authorities and to have her arrested for leaking his number.

It’s been four days, and I still haven’t seen Campbell outside my apartment, but I keep looking. To be honest, I’m hoping that I’ll be written into this season’s story line, the forty-two-year-old man constantly calling to demand that he’s Safeway on Lincoln, willing to transfer anybody to any department. Eventually Campbell will catch me running for the bus on my way to work and call me a “fag” and pound his fists into my face, three or four teeth snapping off my skull before I hit the sidewalk. I’ll stand up to the forces of change for all the Capitol Hill memories: the independent barbershops, the occult bookstores, the mom-and-pop mini-marts. Lying there on Madison Street in a pool of my own blood, my teeth looking like spilled Chiclets, I’ll barely be able to get the words out. But eventually they’ll come. “Take that, Real World.