Harold Marold was confident his new discovery was going to be big. Really big. Sure, his previous inventions hadn’t all turned out as he hoped. The periscoping contact lenses caused vertigo and motion sickness. His electro-socks to eliminate foot sweat were “shocking” — as he’d found out the hard way. And his chainsaw-equipped drone for trimming high tree limbs had its drawbacks. But his current project couldn’t miss. It was going to bring about world peace.
Harold had been browsing his favorite science website and happened upon a study where brain waves of university students were monitored as they held puppies on their laps. The students then were each given a cookie. The brain wave patterns of those who shared the treat with the puppy were different from those who didn’t. And the patterns of the students who gave away the last bite of the sweet to the little dog were identical. The study concluded that acting or thinking altruistically generated a specific and unique brain wave signature.
After many hours of working in his lab, Harold produced a digitized sequence of tones with a sound wave shape identical to the altruistic brain pattern. He hypothesized that by subjecting someone to the sequence of tones, he could elicit what he dubbed the “Golden Rule Response.” He envisioned the sound wave being embedded in music around the world, eventually eliminating all strife and conflict. Everyone would live in harmony.
It was time to begin testing his theory.
Harold tapped his laptop, and it emitted the sequence of tones — Bee diddle doodle bop dee bop… it began and continued in a similar vein for another 23 seconds.
He listened carefully, but didn’t feel anything. Again. Still nothing. Maybe it’s like trying tickle yourself, he thought. Who could he test it on? Just then his phone rang. He could see from the caller ID it was most likely a spam call. His blood boiled. A tele-scammer had conned his grandmother out of most of her life savings to bail her grandson from a jail in Peru. Of course, at the time her grandson, Harold himself, was sitting in a movie theater with his wife.
Harold took the call.
“This is Rachel from Cardmember Services,” a recorded voice said. “Press one now and an agent will cut your interest rate in half!”
Harold pressed one.
“This is agent Fred Finder. I’ll cut your interest rate in half! To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”
Harold launched the sound wave on his computer — Bee diddle doodle bop dee bop…
“Sorry,” the agent said. “Some kind of interference on the line. Just give me the number of your current credit card, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
No reaction? Harold had been so sure. “Oh, why don’t you give me your credit card information?” he said sarcastically to the agent.
“Yes, Sir,” the agent said and recited what sounded like a legitimate number, expiration date and three-digit security code.
What’s this? Harold wondered. Maybe the sound wave had an effect after all. He asked the agent to hold, went to an online shopping site and keyed in the credit card information. It was accepted.
Harold wasn’t sure quite how to proceed. “Tell me what you really want,” he said finally said to the agent.
“We want your credit card information so we can get a big cash advance with it. And I’ll be trying to obtain your ID number, too. We can do all sorts of things with that.”
“That’s not surprising. Do you have any social media accounts, Fred?”
Harold was on a roll now. “Well, Fred, I want you to post your credit card information on all of them.”
“Right away, Sir. Do you want me to share my ID number as well?”
“That won’t be necessary, Fred,” Harold said and disconnected the call. His phone buzzed again almost immediately, and he answered.
“Sir,” a woman said, “I regret to inform you that the software license on your computer has expired, but I’m going to renew it for you.”
Bee diddle doodle bop dee bop… “What do you really want?”
“I want you to send me $500 to renew your license, which of course hasn’t actually expired. And I’m also hoping to learn your passwords and gain remote control of your computer.”
“Are you sitting at a computer yourself?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, be careful because there’s a king cobra on your keyboard.” Harold heard a scream, then disconnected the call.
Harold spent the next half hour or so documenting what had happened and thinking about how he needed to modify his hypothesis about the effect of the sound wave. Then his phone rang again.
This time a “government agent” told Harold he owed $4,000 in back taxes. By the time Harold was done, the agent had promised to send a check for $2,000 to the World Animal Protection League.
Harold formulated a new hypothesis. The sound wave didn’t trigger the Golden Rule Response but did appear to induce people to be wholly susceptible to suggestion. That could still bring about peace and harmony if used constructively. Harold realized he’d have to keep the sound wave from falling into the wrong hands. Just as he finished updating his notes, the phone rang again. This time it was his wife.
“Hi, Honey, it’s me,” Carol said. “I thought I’d stop and get us a pizza on my way home.”
“Sounds good.” Another test couldn’t hurt, he thought. Something harmless. Bee diddle doodle bop dee bop… “Carol, Sweetie, I’d suggest we try some different toppings this time — anchovies and pineapple.”
There was a pause. Harold squeezed his phone.
“Ugh, that sounds awful,” Carol said. “Let’s stick with mushrooms and black olives.”
Harold hid his disappointment till he and his wife finished their call, then reread his notes. Could it be the sound wave interacted only with the brain waves of people who were jerks? He called his brother-in-law.
“Hi, Jake, it’s Harold.”
“Yeah, Harold. What are you up to? It’s Saturday, so I suppose you’re tinkering.”
“I’m … yes, I’m in my laboratory.”
“You mean that little corner of your garage? What’re you working on now? A waterless swimming pool? Hairless wig?” Jake laughed.
Bee diddle doodle bop dee bop… “Jake, I’d suggest you go outside and run around the neighborhood flapping your arms and squawking like a chicken.”
“What the hell are talking about, my man? You’re even nuttier than I thought. My sister needs to get away from you, freak.” Jake disconnected the call.
Now Harold was totally confused. The sound wave had a profound effect on individuals three times in a row, then nothing. Was it possible the sequence of tones interacted only with the brain waves of tele-scammers? he wondered. People who spent their days on the phone trying to take advantage of innocent folks were a particular kind of scumbag. They must have a particular kind of brain pattern, too. But that meant the sound wave was far too limited in scope to bring about world peace. Another failure. Dejected, Harold slid the mouse pointer to the wave file and was about to click “delete” when his phone rang.
“Sir, my name is Dick Dickerson. I represent the estate of your Great Uncle Waldo Emerson, twice removed. Sir, you probably didn’t even know your late uncle, but he’s willed you a large sum of money.”
“I — ”
“Now, Sir, I’m prepared to transfer these funds to your account, but first I’m going to need your banking information. And to cover processing fees, I also need a cashier’s check for $2,593 sent to the following PO Box—“
Harold smiled and pulled the mouse pointer back from the delete button. Maybe not world peace, but definitely not a failure, he thought. “Let me stop you right there, Dick Dickerson. I want you to go to the police station nearest you in a moment. I’ll tell you what to say.”
“What are you talking about? Aren’t you interested in your Great Uncle Waldo’s inheritance?”
Bee diddle doodle bop dee bop…
Banner Image: By Diana Varisova (wikimedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons