Las Vegas Sun

November 12, 2018

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When the phone cops arrive

Beyond the Sun

Quotes from the show (after Johnny Fever destroys a phone):

Johnny: (after hearing the sirens) It's the phone cops. They know what I did here today.

Venus: What are you talking about?

Johnny: They're coming to get me, man!

Venus: That's paranoia, man!

Johnny: Wake up, sucker, this is the phone company we're talking about! They see everything, they know everything, they got their own covert police force! I'm probably wired for sound right now! I gotta get out of here!

Venus: Johnny!

Johnny: Don't use my name!!

Johnny: Don't you people get it? It's the phone cops!!

Andy: There is no such thing as phone cops!

Johnny: Oh, sure. Cover for them.

-- From TV.com

Blank

Remember the phone cops episode from the "WKRP" TV comedy? And Dr. Johnny Fever's unfounded 1980s paranoid rant, "Don't you people get it? It was the phone cops!"

I had a flashback to that episode Wednesday night at my apartment in Henderson.

Let me explain.

I got home about 8 p.m. Wednesday night after stopping off at Trader Joe's to get a cheap bottle of wine and some ready-made chicken marseille.

After popping the ready-to-heat meal into the microwave, I was checking through some bills when I heard a loud knock on my door.

I thought it might be the guitar guy, Tom, who lives in the next building. Or maybe some kids who lived nearby were skateboarding by and bumped the door.

I looked out through the peephole and saw nothing.

Then there was another knock.

The fisheye view showed me a man dressed in a green shirt and khaki pants, holding a clipboard.

I opened the door and noticed a second man. Both were staring at me suspiciously.

I saw each one of them had police badges on their waistbands.

"Do you live here?" one of them asked.

"Yes," I said, sizing them up as I stood in the doorway, trying to think what the heck I might have done to bring the police to my door.

"We're investigating an Internet-related crime," the first man said. "May we come in?"

"Why do you want to come in," I asked, starting to get a little nervous. I was wondering if they were really cops or if this could be a home invasion.

"That's OK, we can talk here," the first man said.

He explained they were Henderson police detectives. He handed me his card. I thought it looked too professional to be done on someone's home computer.

"Come on in," I said. "Have a seat. Would you like something to drink?"

Both declined.

The first guy sat in the love seat.

The second one stood at the door. Both of them quickly scanned my place.

I hoped there wasn't too much to see to brand me as an Internet criminal. There were a few old New Yorkers on the coffee table, an Atlantic Monthly on the bar and some old Time magazines and some old copies of the Las Vegas Sun.

"The reason we're here is that our investigation led us to your Internet connection," the first cop told me. "Do you know what an iTouch is?"

I drew a blank.

Then I remembered. I told him I knew an iPod touch was similar to an iPhone, only without the phone, but with the ability to access the Web through a router.

"So your Internet connection is not password protected?" he then asked me.

I told him no, I hadn't put a password on my wireless router.

I didn't tell him I often tried to hook into other connections when I took my laptop out to the pool, just out of range of my own connection. So, in terms of Web karma and my own sense of fair play, I didn't feel like I should block my own signal if someone else needed it.

He started asking me about my son.

I was puzzled. Matt had left a couple of months ago. What did Matt have to do with this?

"How old is he?" the guy asked. I said he was 27.

"Do you have any other children?"

"Yeah. Three daughters, but they all live back in Kansas."

"You don't have any teenagers or children who have lived her recently?"

"No. Why? What's this about?"

I asked him why he wondered about my son. He said the apartment manager had told him I had a teenage son living with me.

I laughed. Matt looked pretty young and was always getting carded. But Matt had moved away to another state.

Both of the two men seemed upset. I guess this was not going their way.

"So you don't have any teenagers living here?" he asked.

No, I said again.

Then he explained that someone had reported their iPod touch had been stolen. And they were able to trace e-mails sent from it through my Internet connection. They thought by the nature of the e-mail that the culprit was a teenager.

"You should get your connection password protected," he told me, getting up to leave.

"I really don't think I see the need to do that," I said when they were outside.

"Well, this is the kind of thing that happens when you don't protect it," he said, leaving me a little uneasy.

His tone hinted they might be back.

After they left, I ate my dinner as I watched TV. And I chewed over the events of the night.

I thought about Dr. Johnny Fever of WKRP. The over-paranoid strung-out radio DJ was convinced there were sinister phone cops lurking out in the 1980s communications ether.

I guess Johnny's paranoia was just a few years too early — their modern-day version had just been to my door.

And now they have MY number.

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