Nature

A Tiny Gecko Prank-Called a ‘Bazillion’ People in Hawaii From a Hospital Phone


Nobody likes getting dialled by some weirdo who won’t say anything when you pick up. But sometimes, such stories have a blissfully cute ending.

That’s what happened to marine mammal vet Claire Simeone, who managed to track down her own prank-calling perpetrator – only to find he was a heck of a lot smaller than anybody expected.

 

Simeone, who serves as hospital director at the Ke Kai Ola Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, had stepped out of the office last week when she started receiving the mystery calls. Lots of them.

“I was getting lunch, so I thought maybe someone had a seal-related question,” Simeone explained on Twitter.

“I picked up. Silence.”

But whoever was calling wasn’t about to quit.

After receiving nine such calls in only 15 minutes, Simeone legitimately began to panic, wondering if some kind of seal emergency might have taken place.

She headed back to the hospital – which cares for injured, ill, and orphaned Hawaiian monk seals – to find out just what was going on.

“I arrive. All is calm. Did anyone call me? No one did,” she explains, but that’s when her phone started buzzing again.

“I get another call. It’s coming from INSIDE the hospital.”

Simeone called up the facility’s communications provider – Hawaiian Telcom – to find out if they had some kind of technical fault with the lines, but while she was explaining the situation to customer service, even more phone weirdness ensued.

 

“Meanwhile, several other people call the hospital,” she tweeted, “asking WHY WE ARE CALLING THEM INCESSANTLY?”

The Hawaiian Telcom rep suggested there might be an issue with their handsets or the software that runs the phones, but was also able to confirm that, yes, “a bazillion calls” were indeed coming from their phone line.

At that point, Simeone realised it wasn’t the phone in the office being used to make the calls, so she went to check the other handsets installed around the centre.

“I walk around the hospital. Not the fish kitchen. Not the office. Not the viewing room,” she writes.

“I enter the laboratory. That’s the line! I approach the phone…”

Finally, the serial prank caller’s identity was revealed.

As it turned out, all the calls had been made by one tiny gecko, who wasn’t an in-patient at the facility, but just a mischievous interloper sitting on the phone touchscreen.

Somehow, the little guy had found his way into the hospital’s lab, and simply by crawling around on the phone’s touchscreen had been able to dial up seemingly anybody and everybody listed in the recent calls.

 

We’re not surprised the gecko could foot-dial – after all, their little toes are famously capable of sticking to most surfaces, as long as they’re dry and clean. In fact, they’re the largest animals capable of using sticky footpads for climbing, and their awesome biology has even inspired adhesives and clingy robots.  

Once the pernicious prankster was unmasked, Simeone sent out a note to all the hospital staff and volunteers to explain just who the culprit was, and moved the accidental telemarketer outside.

He was last seen living on a plant, with all phone privileges revoked indefinitely.

 





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