I was only calling in response to the job offer in the paper; GesteCo Pharmeceuticals was one of the largest employers in my town, the very buckle of the rust belt. Their toll-free number, 1-555-789-36λ9, was on the ad, after all.

Naturally, me being the complete and utter spaz that I am, I dialed the number wrong. 1-555-789-3λ69. Ordinarily that would have been the end of it; I’d have gotten that irritating “wrong number” tritone or Bert Stanton in Payroll. No.

Instead, I was read the following cryptic message by a synthesized voice with a vaguely British intonation. “This telephone is not authorized to transmit to this number. Yankee tango foxtrot zero two eight eight.”

Anyone who knows me can attest that anything like that is more likely to be taken as a challenge than a rebuff. With a record of the misdial on my cell, I tried 1-555-789-3λ69 from every phone I could think of: the landline at home, the one at work, friends’ cell phones. All of them got the same message: “This telephone is not authorized to transmit to this number. Yankee tango foxtrot zero two eight eight.”

It wasn’t until I was gassing up at the FossilCo station on the corner of 3rd and East, which always has the best prices in town, that I had a brainstorm. There’s an old public pay phone behind the station–possibly the only one left in town–that I’ve never seen anyone use, mostly because it was a mess. But its sign was still legible through the grime: MIDWEST BELL NO. YTF-0288.

YTF-0288.

I slipped in 75¢ (another reason no one used it–the thing was 25¢ more expensive than other payphones, assuming you could find one) and dialed 1-555-789-3λ69.

It rang. Someone picked up.

“Check-in confirmed, 2476. The experiment will now begin.”

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