When I was a young lad of about eight years old, I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, didn't get the jokes on "Who's the Boss," and knew my sister's prized possession was her Tiffany and Debbie Gibson cassettes. I watched tons of cartoons and was impressionable and easily brainwashed on any toy that I had to have even if I didn't know I needed to have it. I loved the cartoons, I needed the cartoons, and I wanted to talk to the cartoons. And that's when my trouble started.
It wasn't enough for me to play with my mutated turtles or G.I. Joe figures. It wasn't enough for me to listen to them on the TV. And it wasn't enough to hear them talk when I pulled the string or pushed a button on one of my toys to hear their battle cry again and again. Nope, I had to speak with them, one-on-one and without adult supervision.
During my endless supply of cartoon viewing, I enjoyed a few shows that didn't lend themselves to a line of toys. Like any "normal" kid, I enjoyed Looney Tunes with Bugs Bunny, DuckTales during WPIX's Disney Afternoon, and the Woody Woodpecker Show. I felt no connection to Looney Tunes characters or Disney players, but I could relate to Woody; we look alike.
I wanted to talk to him and surely he wanted to hear what I had to say. At that age I knew this wasn't really the case, but it'd be sooooooo cool to hear his voice when I chose and not when the show aired. Ever the curious child, my prayers were finally answered during one of the show's many commercial bombardments.
Turns out that Woody Woodpecker had his own telephone number that I could call to hear one of his stories!
Whenever I wanted!
I only had to pickup the phone!
Oh the memories...
I knew right from wrong so I was well aware that I needed parental permission and that the call would cost upward of $1/minute. Yet I called the 900 number anyway, in a most unimpressive and unnecessary rebellious act, avoiding the proper channels of approval. That's right, without parents' permission! I remember hearing Woody's laugh and grinning ear to ear because he was breaking the fourth wall of acting, all for me.
"Son, can you come in our bedroom?" asked my parents.
Gulp. It was about to hit the fan. A term of phrase I didn't know about for many years.
I remember standing at the foot of their bed when they grilled me under the interrogation spotlight of their soul searching eyes. They brought up the 900 number charges and asked if I knew anything about it. I said "no." Taking me at my ever angelic word, they chalked it up to a mistake by the phone company or just a friend of mine making the call when I wasn't looking. Sure.
Chilly Willy was never funny, entertaining, nor in Mr. Woodpecker's league of comedy.
Then I watched, with a burning coal of guilt in my stomach, as my father called AT&T to have the charges removed saying it was a mistake on their part. With the charges removed we went about our lives except me. With every utterance of Woody Woodpecker's laugh, I've been reminded of the time I called his phone number and the only time I've told my parents a lie.
So with my woodpecker tail squarely between my legs, mom and dad, allow me to publicly apologize for not telling you the truth, then subjecting you to ask AT&T to remove the charges under a false premise, and waiting 20 years to let you know about it. It wasn't bad enough that I made the call without telling you first, but I also provided false testimony on the stand. I don't know why I did it, but I did.
As a full-fledged, self-sufficient, and married adult, I will rest a little easier knowing you know this lie and that you can't penalize me by taking away my cartoon time in front of the TV.