Many of us will never make 28,000 calls in our entire lives. This, however, was not the case for Teruo Nozaki, the convenience store worker in Tokyo who managed to make that many to 110, the police emergency number in Japan. Even more impressive is that he was able to make this astounding number of calls in only 18 months. On his busiest days, he would place over 1000 phone calls and hang up every time someone picked up on the other end.
This almost apocryphal number of calls underscores the fact that there was something profoundly pathological motivating each call. After all, the 911 prank call is almost an American rite of passage for any 9 year-old kid. It all begins with the need to know “What actually happens when people dial 911?” and sometimes ends with an officer showing up at your house and explaining the sanctity of the emergency line—an ultimately meaningless experience were it not for the gun strapped to his waist. 28,000 calls is not a prank, but an act of aggression toward the police. It’s like laying siege to a police department with one’s insanity, or like water torture via electronics.
And so, although he was finally arrested, Teruo Nozaki used his compulsion to conduct a sort of backwards social experiment: now we know that it takes tens of thousands of prank calls before the Tokyo police is finally compelled to make an arrest. Other pranksters have been reined in much sooner, albeit for notably more serious abuses. Take Darius McCollum, the New York resident who has wanted to be a train conductor so badly that he actually commandeered a few, was arrested 29 times before being sent to Rikers island. Every police force has its limits, and a few citizens willing to test them. The only question is: how outlandishly can the law be pushed until the perpetrator makes international news.