Dennis The Menace's Gullibility Exposed



Dennis the Menace was a good hearted and fun loving guy, someone who truly enjoyed his time on CB radio.  His enthusiasm for radio could be likened to that of a young child on Christmas eve, excitedly waiting in anticipation for Santa's arrival.  Dennis exuded a certain amount of naive innocence, and while he truly enjoyed the ability to talk to so many new and different people, he was more than a little out of his league when it came to understanding the mysteries of R.F. and radio theory.  To him, it was like magic -- something that he knew worked, but couldn't explain just how.  When this fact became all too obvious, Dennis would then become the target for the likes of the lighthearted practical jokers, like Blue Bandit, who rarely passed up an opportunity to make someone else the butt of some normally harmless, but potentially embarrassing public humiliation.


The inaugural incident, which forever placed Dennis's name among the elite members in the gullibility hall of fame, occurred one day during a typical daily radio conversation on Channel 11.  The subject was related to signals and radio "S" meters.  Dennis was innocently remarking that he wished his Realistic Mini 23 mobile radio had an "S" meter, so that he could give other people meter readings while he was driving around the area.  He felt bad, he continued, because he was always asking other people for meter readings, and he felt that it would be only proper that he be able to offer one in exchange.  However, evidence of his true motives could be found after listening to him when he operated from his base, which had an "S" meter.  Here he would freely offer signal reports even if one wasn't requested.  Watching signals was all part of the radio experience for him,  one that he was sorely missing in his mobile.  But I digress......  Anyway, Dennis had just finished lamenting about the source of his current discontent, when Blue Bandit, who was never far from the radio,  piped up from out of the woodwork and announced that he had the ideal solution to Dennis's perplexing dilemma. "You have an electronic tach in that car of yours, don't ya?", Bandit asked.  Dennis replied that he did.  So Blue Bandit explained that all he had to do was rev up the engine in his car and hold it at a steady 2000 RPM, and then ask someone to give him a count and look for the signal reading as an additional deflection on the tach.  Dennis was a little skeptical at first (why? Seems logical enough ;-) ), but after a little more coaching and reassurance from Bandit, Dennis was ready to try it. 

Another person might have inquired further about how you would actually read the signal,  what the scale was, and the accuracy.  But then again, someone who thought it through enough to ponder those things, would not have fallen for the gag.  That's why we had Dennis.......


So, the next thing we knew, the channel was being treated to the sound of the glass pack muffler equipped Chevy 350 c.i. engine in Dennis' 1973 Nova SS revving up in the background, the raucous engine noise further amplified with the help of Dennis's Turner JM+2 microphone, as he announced that he was holding 2000 RPM and now ready to test Blue Bandit's suggestion.  Bandit, using his best faux deadly serious voice, then gave him a 5 count, but a noticeably disappointed Dennis reported that he did not see a difference in the tach reading, and he actually sounded truly surprised that it didn't work.  Bandit acted equally surprised, and then mused that Dennis had to be doing something wrong  and suggested that maybe he wasn't revving the engine high enough, and that he should try it again at 3000 RPM.  So once again the channel was awash with the sound of a revving engine, only this time it almost drowned out Dennis' voice as he signaled that he was ready to try it once again.  Like before, Blue Bandit counted again, and Dennis got the same result.  Bandit bit his lip and resisted the temptation to have Dennis run the engine up to 4000 RPM, (Which he probably would've done) and instead offered the excuse that it might only work on Japanese cars (after all, Dennis' radio was made in Japan right?).


By now, the rest of us on the channel, who had pretty much stood by quietly despite the almost overwhelming urge to bust out laughing while Blue Bandit's prank played out to its inevitable conclusion, had finally lost all remaining self-control and just started ribbing the heck out of Dennis.  Dennis finally realized, at that point (Took him long enough), that he had been had.  But true to form, he shrugged it off and had a laugh himself.  But he had been made.  He was now a marked man.  Dennis should have learned a lesson about trust from this incident, but..........


The next joke happened some weeks later, after the "tach" incident had faded away to just another memory.  We were engaged in a deep discussion, as we frequently did, on cheap and dirty methods to improve our signals. The usual topics ranged from replacing RG-58 coax cable with RG-8, to which antenna performed the best, whether or not trimming the coax cable really made a difference in SWR, and even grounding methods. This may have been the initial discussion which inspired the ill-fated salt ground project.  In any case, we had just finished talking about how a boat on the water had an ideal ground plane, due to the conductive characteristics of the water.  Expanding further on that concept, we then included coastal stations, who ran ground leads into the adjacent body of water, and how this enabled them to increase their range, by taking advantage of the characteristics of water.  Dennis, as usual, sat in awe of most of the technical aspects of the discussion, which were clearly beyond his comprehension.  But he definitely was interested in ways to get out better.  They just had to be explained in terms which he understood.  At this point, utilizing his uncanny, almost psychic ability to sense that the opportunity was right to play another good joke, Blue Bandit once again broke his usual silence and offered that it really didn't matter how large the body of water was, as long as it was solidly attached to the ground side of the antenna.  In fact, he continued, you should be able to see some signal improvement with as little as a simple bucket full of water.  Of course, most of us knew immediately that this was a load of B.S., but Bandit was trolling for Dennis again.  As predicted, Dennis swallowed the bait hook, line, and sinker, when he then asked some more detailed questions about the concept of using a bucket of water under his antenna.  Sensing that Dennis didn't quite trust Blue Bandit after the "tach" incident, I then became an impromptu co-conspirator to corroborate Bandit's claim.  Mustering all the self control that I had to keep my voice steady and serious (it was a tough thing to do back then), I offered that first off, the bucket had to be metal. After all, I continued, a plastic bucket wouldn't conduct R.F.. Taking a page from some other well-known grounding tips, I also advised that it would be smart to keep the ground lead as short as possible and to use thick cable. I concluded my "technical" evaluation by adding that the closer the bucket was to the antenna, the more uniform the signal improvement would be. We ended our discussion that night, with Dennis once again ready to give it a try. 


The next afternoon, during our usual daily after school gathering on the radio, Dennis breaks in and announces that he had a bucket full of water in the trunk of his car.  He had carefully followed Bandit's and my advice and centered the bucket directly under his trunk mounted antenna, and ran only enough ground cable to allow him to fully open the trunk lid.  I could hardly contain the laughter, and I had to un-key for a few moments to regain my composure.  Of course, Dennis wanted a signal check from everyone on the channel to see if his newly constructed bucket-of-water ground plane was helping him.  Most of us saw no difference (What, did you think this would actually work?).  But Blue Bandit, always looking for maximum effect, suggested that Dennis should drive to a nearby hill to make the test more valid.  Of course, when you have a loose bucket full of water in a moving vehicle, the obvious problem then becomes how to keep the water from sloshing out of the bucket while driving.  But Dennis didn't think of it at the time, and he started to drive off.  He didn't even make it past the turn at the bottom of his driveway, when he heard a crash in the trunk and stopped to investigate.  When he opened the trunk, he was greeted by a tipped over bucket, and a gallon or two of freshly liberated water sloshing around in his trunk.  Fortunately, he didn't have much in the trunk which could be ruined by sudden exposure to water, but it made a mess just the same.  Once again, we all got a good laugh over this latest prank and, once again, Dennis realized that he had been the object of yet another practical joke.


There were other similar incidents during Dennis's career as a CB'er, as others tried to cash in on Dennis's obvious gullibility to gain a few laughs.  But none were as funny as these first two, and most people lacked Bandit's ability for dead pan serious delivery.  I don't think Dennis trusted anything Blue Bandit told him ever again.  But at least he eventually learned not to believe everything that he heard on the radio, so maybe there was a silver lining to this cloud.  The old saying: "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me", probably applied here.  


Now where did I put that A.C. Battery? I'm sure I left it right next to my metric adjustable wrench....