I was on my way out to lunch when my phone rang, I raced back and answered it. “Hello”, I panted slightly out of breath. The phone crackled and buzzed, and there didn’t seem to be anyone on the other end of the landline. “hello”, I repeated.
A loud but faint (if there can be such a thing) crackly male voice said the words.
“Giffa deretalination frort”.
The phone line was dreadful and I could barely make anything out through the crackles and pops.
“Hello”, I said again.
“Heellooo….. argfff ttweny sargossaa.”
“Sorry, I didn’t get any of that.”
To make it even worse, the voice on the other end of the line had a thick Russian accent. “I am from Soviet Union… Russia. ” I barely made out. At that moment I came within inches of hanging up. I was being pranked. It was the height of the Cold War (maybe 1986) and as far as I knew The Soviet Union were virtually at war with the West. At least that’s what the last ten movies I’d seen suggested.
It sounded as though the call was coming from Siberia. So I didn’t hang up, not yet anyway.
“Russia ehhh. How’s the weather?”
“Is this Powerhouse museum?”
“Yes.” I said.
“I’m calling ’bout Soviet Space craft.”
At this point he started to break up again and I couldn’t understand a word he said.
“We are bbzzwwwaaa Sputnik and Soyuz space module.”
There was something about the way he said this that made me start to take the call seriously.
The Russian started to speak very slowly and very clearly; clearly he was speaking to an idiot.
“S o v i e t U n i o n i s d o n a t i n g S p a c e C r a f t t o p o w e r h o u s e m u s e u m.”
“Oh.” I said. “I’ll just try to find someone who can help you with that. H o l d o n f o r a s e c o n d.”
Like a headless chicken I ran around the empty offices of the old building on Harris Street looking for someone, anyone, but it was Friday lunch and the Public Service. The pressure I felt was suffocating, like the future of EAST WEST political stability rested solely on my shoulders.
After five minutes of looking everywhere I slowly walked back to the phone and to my surprise the Gentleman from Russia was still there, standing in a blizzard if the phone line was anything to go by.
“Can I take a message?” I said in my chirpiest phone voice.
“I think I call back.” The phone line was surprisingly clear.
I spent the next week waiting for the bomb to drop.