Perhaps The Phone Call was particularly disturbing because it came after such a singularly innocent evening. Three of my women friends and I had been sitting around on a Friday night, eating hamburgers and gossiping.
Two of them had just left, about 11:30 p.m., when The Phone Call came. The man's voice was unknown. The name he offered was unknown. The filthy words were known. He was "just" another obscene caller.
I hung u, of course. Then, when he called back, almost immediately, my friend and I decided, cleverly, that we could catch him. Margaret was still there - she could keep him on one phone, while I called the police for a check on him on the other line.
While I could hear her in the other room, Saying deliberately soothing things like "Oh, sure, that's the way the world is," I got the police.
"There's nothing we can do, lady," the officer said. "That's the business of the phone company." But we still had him on the line.
The voice at the other end of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company couldn't have been less interested. "Call back Monday, after nine again," she said, almost with a yawn.
"We can't do anything until Monday."
I almost yelled in to Margaret, "Tell him to call back Monday after 9 o'clock," but by now, I was too enraged to be cute.
For some reason, perhaps because I had nowhere else to go, I called the FBI and explained the case. They were not only polite; they soon sent a splendid young police officer, who had once been badly stabbed in the line of duty.
By that time, the caller, another of those wonderful results of our American liberal education, with his superb command of the language, had hung up. But he and his type are attentive, as ardent as the old cavaliers. Every 15 minutes, he called again, breathed his forgettable breaths and hung up.
When officer SMith picked up the phone on the next call and told the voice he was the police, he didn't call again.
Monday (after 9 o'clock), I did indeed check out the rather key question of why they couldn't trace the call, even though we could have kept the breather on the line indefinitely.
Well, fellow citizens, it seems that, in the bad old undeveloped days, this was easy for the operator to do, and in those days we could have caught him. But today, with the "new technology," which eliminates operators but provides lower rates and faster calling, you can't. The phone company would have to put very complicated equipment on your telephone to intercept all incoming calls. (After 9 o'clock Monday.)
Two nights later, at midnight, another breathing call came. I hung up, then put all the heavy furniture I could up against the door. On top, I placed a brass plate that would make a rather extraordinary noise if at all disturbed.
Fifteen minutes later, I was lying open-eyed in bed when there was the most enormous clatter and clanging. I ran out, half terrified and half not having the slightest idea what I was doing.
The cat was cowering in the kitchen - he had knocked it down.
Just another obscene phone call. Just another rape. Just another attempted assault. That is what we women of America tend to talk about most these days when we get together.
It is no longer an unusual thing. I have been assaulted, and so have most of the women I know. The American world we see out there, I realized as I listen to us talk, is one of crazy men out to get us - men usually with wives or girlfriends at home and for whom we are simply objects to humiliate or, apparently, destroy.