A middle aged woman working in a public service and answers the phone.
Hello how may I help you?
The voice is soft, almost mumbly, distant.
Hello, can I help you?
Hi, I’m feeling quite stressed…
She does not know what to say, this is not a line for stressed people, but she is kind.
I’m feeling very stressed, I’ve been working very hard.
Yes it can be stressful, do you need to talk to someone?
I do need to talk to someone, you sound nice.
Maybe I can find you someone to talk to.
She wants to get off the phone but the kindness and concern keeps her in place.
Can you talk to me? Silence for a moment. Are you there? Bear with me.
I’m still here, are you ok?
I’m quite stressed. I’ve been working all night.
You must be tired.
I’ve just had some crack so I’m quite high. Bear with me. Silence. How old are you?
I don’t think we need to talk about that.
You sound nice, you sound a lot older than me. Can you talk to me?
I am talking to you. What’s your name?
People, my house mates don’t know me. My name is Michael.
They think I’m like them, but I’m not and I need, I need a release, I need a release from the stress.
She shudders at this term -thinking of the pauses and requests for patients. However the distance, the mumble, the silence somehow stop her from cutting it off.
I’m supposed to be like Mr Jack the Lad, that’s how they know me. Silence. I need a release. Silence. Bear with me. Silence. That’s how they know me but…
I like wearing women’s underwear, I’m so stressed, I need to smoke some more crack.
I need to smoke some more crack now, can I call back in a bit?
Yes of course.
She doesn’t know if she means this or what the right thing to do is.
The call ends and the woman is shaken. This is not a normal call for the establishment to take. Other employees rally round offering support, yet equally seeking information. What has shaken her up? Is it interesting? Their intrigue weighs greater than their sympathy. The woman herself is not above the ability to enlist a certain perception of absurdity to the whole affair. The comedy has the function of alchemically transforming the trauma. Whose is the trauma though? The crack smoking stress head or the woman? Their concern asks if she has a number. No, the phone registers unknown. Why did she keep talking? Policy is to put the phone down. Felt sorry for him, just needed to be sure he wasn’t, you know, in danger. If calls back, need to be more terse. Refer to appropriate body. Comedy reappears. Absurd image. Story proliferates through colleagues. Women’s underwear become pants, a name is born ‘Crack pants’.
The staff in the public institution were all of a buzz at the call. It was an incursion into a pedestrian world by an alien force: Crack Pants. There was excited anticipation as to if or when the next call would come. Of course if too much crack had been smoked then it would be unlikely there would a call any times soon. The lady who had received the call, whilst utilising the humorous levity of the office, did not feel entirely comfortable. Instead she felt worried. Partially for the caller and partially for the bogeyman like aura that the event began to acquire. The caller had liked her. You hear about unhealthy attachments like this. Follow people. Say they want to talk but it goes wrong. Frightening.
Then, later in the same day a call to a different staff member.
They heard my voice and hung up.
It was Crack Pants.
Are you sure?
I can’t be sure, but someone rang and then hung up. The call shows as unknown.
It was probably him.
Was there any noise?
Maybe a soft hiss before the click.
The original woman is more worried. She eats her lunch at her own desk away from the service dept. The phone rings. She picks it up. It goes dead. Now she is more worried. It is pointed out that if that was Crack Pants why would he hang up when he actually reached her? This line has a number. The number is checked, it has no phone to it. Even though there is no logic to it the worry persists.
At the main desk the phone rings again and hangs up.
It hung up.
That must be Crack Pants.
People are excited.
Calls begin to proliferate. Some longer some shorter. Sometimes there is a soft voice. Sometimes there is the hint of a voice. Sometimes a crackling. Sometimes a cough. The comparison is made with the Victorian cryptid, Spring Heeled Jack whose appearance mutated through sightings. The composite name ‘Spring Heeled Crack Pants’ appears naturally in this environment. Other connections are noticed. Spring Heeled Jack began to appear more demonic as time went on.
What did the caller say? He’s known as a ‘Jack’ the lad. What does he have a [crack] pipe? What does he wear? Women’s ‘pants’, pants pipe, Pan’s pipe and Pan of course is a kind of Christian devil archetype. These strange clues are surely just mass psychotic play.
A seated male staff member overheard someone shout ‘thanks Michael!’ and sees disappearing round a corner a figure on crutches. Their detective instincts lurched into life. Michael. The same day. The calls. Crutches -a deviant sign for a possibly ‘cracked’ bone. Making his excuses he went to check the building. Michael seemed to have vanished -probably gone in the lift, could be anywhere now. Drawn on by the mystery he went up a floor on foot. Glancing across the mezzanine he could see a young man in one of the computer labs. No one should be in those he was sure. Finish the building, come back and check on the rule, then evict them.
Looking for Michael continued further up the building. On the inspection his attention was also caught by a heavily muscled male patron who was voraciously eating something out of a pot. A mental note was made to check on this muscled inhabitant on the way back as something did not seem right about him.
The whole building was checked. No crutch burdened Michael was found. Descending to the central office he made the requisite checks about the computer labs and received the information he was already sure of -that no one should be in there. Hastening back to the scene of the crime he was befuddled to discover there was no one in this lab. Furthermore the lab was tightly locked such that only his staff card (or another like it) could possibly have gained entrance. A chill ran down his spine and he hastened to check on the muscular man and his (now surely empty) pot. Circumnavigating the floor to sneak up on him, our current protagonist was horrified to discover that there was no muscular man in the seat where he had once been. Noting the obvious logical possibility that he had simply left, he still felt disturbed by this and the other disappearance (not to mention the disappearing disabled Michael), believing them somehow to be connected to the current spate of calls.
In the evening when this service was still open the phone rang. The same man who had dutifully but in vain searched for Spring Heeled Crack Pants or Michael or whoever, was on the desk and answered this call.
Hello, a public service, how may I help you?
Hello… Silent, mumbly and distant.
Hello. Less severe than he fantasized he might be.
Hello, can you talk?
Hello sir, this isn’t really a service for talking. More in control now.
Hello can you talk? I’m quite high, bear with me.
Can I try and find someone to talk to you?
Can’t you talk? I’m quite high.
He wants to ask if he’s high on crack again but it seems deeply inappropriate.
Let me see if we can find someone for you to talk to.
Ok. He seems deflated. The hissing in the background is audible.
The public servant puts CP on hold and begins to try to find an alternative institution that might house his needs. He flounders badly from switchboard location to switchboard location. By the time he returns CP has fled the line.
Next day there is a plan in place to put CP through to a helpline if he should call. Staff now are so familiar with the whole phenomena that they joke they might accidently greet the caller as ‘Crack Pants’ or CP. Hi Crack Pants is that you? How are you doing? No one is sure if this won’t actually happen. Senior staff try to tell others to treat the matter with the gravity it deserves. Mid-morning the call comes and CP is directed to a helpline. But no one is convinced it is over. They don’t want it to be over. There are sightings of muscled men with pots on the third floor. Some one else claims there was someone in the computer lab, but again it was found to be locked and empty.
Another theory emerged amongst staff. Someone speculated that the phrases ‘bear with me’ might have been incorrectly decoded. The alternative decoding is that there was ‘a bear with him’. Whilst seeming errant nonsense at first, suggestions that the bear might be a crack hallucination or a metaphorical bear rendered it more reasonable. The theory took a stranger turn when it was suggested that CP might be Goldilocks as he liked to wear women’s underthings. This supposedly comedic addition brought about a shudder in the original complainant (who had been listening with interest). She then began to state that she was sure that in the original conversation, CP had used the phrase ‘bear with me’ three times.
In the evening the original lady is working. She gazes out the window and sees with some disbelief as a van seems to be reversing fairly swiftly towards the entrance of the building. The van bumps into the door and stops sharply -the driver having realised his miscalculation. Part of the sign for the building is damaged. There is a crack in the letter C of Public. The same woman, who has gone out to inspect the damage, is trying to ignore the significance of the crack and actually listen to the man who is apologizing. She would have managed this had she not then read the sign on the van which read ‘CP builders’. The sudden build up of pressure in her head became unbearable and fearing the man would reveal his name to be ‘Michael’ she ran back inside white-faced, informing her colleague that they needed to deal with the incident as she passed by.
Whilst the van incident was duly logged, despite the fervent attempts of the woman to explain the significance of a ‘crack’ in the C of Public, the builders’ name and the symbolic act of trying to enter the building, management were not sympathetic. She was informed that she should either take some time off or put the whole business behind her.
There were no more calls that day and the weirdness seemed to subside. A symbolic cleansing took place. The kitchen and office were deep cleaned. Everyone promised to be more tidy. Everyone felt more settled.
Then someone returned from the kitchen saying there was a solitary dirty spoon on the draining board. This seemed especially appalling since everyone had only just now made such strong covenants that they would keep all utensils and crockery clean from now on.
Several persons began to google if a spoon was required for smoking crack.