Many eons ago in the time before, when brick phones still roamed the earth, and home phones were still the norm of the vast majority for staying in contact with people…
I work in a call center for a project whose main purpose is to become your long distance carrier. Yes, remember when long distance was a thing? I am lucky enough to be on inbound – that is I receive calls from people who see the 800 number in a commercial and call to see if we could get them a better deal. The number of calls we get fluctuates a lot depending on how many ads are running that day, and the popularity of the shows that run them. And there would always be a number of calls where the caller would simply hang up as soon as you greeted. All the better! I don’t *really* want to talk to them anyway, and this really helps one’s average call handling time.
For purposes of this story, it should be understood that I am a man in possession of a nice baritone voice. This is actually important to the story. As this story is from the ancient past, the dialog is more representative than actual. But as best as I remember it.
At a certain point in time, I notice a considerable up-swing in these hang-ups. At about the same time, the women on the team start muttering with each other and the word “toe-sucker” is first heard in the call center.
Honestly, I don’t really pay it much attention at first. But it continues to be a persistent word I hear with no real context to get why.
A month or two later, I’m sitting next to a friend of the female persuasion and it is a slow period between campaigns, so we are chatting more than usual between calls. I get a hang-up. About twenty seconds later, she gets a call, and as she gives her greeting, I see her face shrivel up in disgust, and she says “Not again” as she disconnects the call. She looks at me, and says, “The Toe-Sucker is on the loose tonight. It’s going to be a long one.”
Finally, a chance to ask: “What is a toe-sucker?”
Co-worker: “Oh yeah. He likely just hangs up on you. This dude starts calling, and when we answer, he immediately asks in a creepy, creepy voice if he can suck our toes. Some of the girls talk to him. But we’ve been told not to encourage him. We should just hang up as soon as we know it’s him on the line.”
Me: “So, this guy just calls you up randomly and asks if he can … suck on your toes?”
Co-worker: “Oh yeah. But it ain’t random. Once he starts up, he just calls back and back and back again. Watch.”
And as I watch, the call does in fact seem to be making the rounds of the team. One by one our phones rings. We answer. If it’s a guy, the caller hangs up. If it’s a lady, you can see their visible annoyance, and a few expressions like “GO AWAY!” and “Pervert.” as the female call takers rush to drop the call.
Then I get another hang-up, and my co-worker gets another confirmed call from the Toe-Sucker.
Me: “Wow. How often does this happen?”
Co-worker: “Nearly all the time. But some days, he doesn’t call at all. We even had a whole week where we didn’t hear from him. But then he strikes again!”
I watch the call make the cycle of our team again. I’m next, and I make a risky decision to pitch my voice a bit higher in a much more ambiguous range and use a diminutive form of my name that could be used for either gender. It’s a risk, because if it is a legitimate call, Quality Assurance might not appreciate me not using my normal voice.
Me: “Thank you for calling \[Big Long-Distance Company\]. This is \[OP\]. How may I help you?”
It is the Toe-Sucker! His voice is greasy and odd. It reminds me of Beavis from Beavis and Butthead.
Toe-Sucker: “Can I suck your toes? Tell me about your toes… I want to…”
Yeah. I drop the call. I can’t believe this guy.
Me: “I’m so sorry you have to deal with this kind of treatment from some dude.”
Co-worker: “Yeah. It’s why Ashley \[not a real name\] quit last month. I’m tempted to join her.”
Me: “Can’t they track it down and make him stop?”
Co-worker: “They tried. I’m told the phone it keeps coming from is in the hallway of a psychiatric hospital next to their recreation room. They’ve identified the guy who sits there making call after call for hours on end. He’s not considered to be responsible for his actions. They can’t (or won’t) stop him, and they can’t block the number, because it is a public phone. So…. yeah. Not much chance of it stopping.”
Our supervisor comes around to see if anyone wants to take voluntary time off for the shift, and sends all the women on a double break. After another half-hour of hang-ups, the calls stop. I guess he gets bored if he cannot reach any women. I’m glad. I can now focus on reading my book without the drip, drip, drip of hang-up calls.
But don’t worry. He’ll be back again another day!