By Wild Bill

There are certain laws which are going to be broken no matter what. I know for a fact, most people exceed the speed limit when driving; others cheat on their taxes. Speeding is not really morally wrong, other than violating a law, but cheating on your taxes is stealing, and the ten commandments covers that. I try to stay within the law most of the time, but I have a pastime some construe as illegal and/or immoral. No, itís not sex with animals or cow-tipping, it is eavesdropping. Not eavesdropping in the normal sense, but utilizing a scanning radio to listen to private radio broadcasts -- those intentionally emitted, but never intended for reception by the general public. These emissions include cellular and cordless phones, baby monitors, business radios and short-range walkie-talkies.

It all began with an interest in listening to local police calls. When I worked for Radio Shack, this type of equipment was sold in the store, so we learned to use it; time passed quicker with something to listen to. It was interesting to listen to police, ambulance, and fire calls, and amateur radio as well. Each new model brought more things to listen to. When I left Radio Shack, I purchased my first scanner; cordless phones came into use, and it did not take long to figure out how to listen to them as well. Later came the baby monitors, which work like one-way walkie-talkies, then cellular phones. Equipment was modified or purchased in order to take in the additional listening areas; as the interest grew, antennas sprang from both vehicles and home. Currently I have several modified consumer type scanners and a commercial model which displays preprogrammed messages and is configured using a computer. I keep hoping Santa will bring me a good general coverage receiver with a computer interface one year.

As I understand it, from a legality standpoint it is okay to monitor any of the radio services except cellular phone, provided you do not derive any monetary gain or pass on any information you may have heard. Unfortunately, the morality issue is not as clearly defined, and is probably best left to each individual. I personally see nothing wrong with listening in to what people say when it carries into my personal space. The person using the phone or monitor assumes he or she has privacy, when in fact the signal is being radiated well beyond its appropriate range. I compare this to walking down the street and overhearing a loud conversation going on within a house -- they donít intend for you to hear what is being said, even though it can be heard beyond what they perceive is the normal listening area. Some claim it is no different than tapping someoneís phone. I say a phone tap is violating the privacy of the "victim" by intruding into his environment with a concealed presence, while the scanner is merely intercepting a signal which has travelled beyond itís intended destination and into anotherís personal space.

As far as things I have heard, they include two female ambulance personnel, using radios with a range of 30-40 miles, talking about a male co-workerís penis size and sexual appetite. Another call revealed a man talking to one girlfriend, placing her on hold to give another girlfriend directions to his house, all the while denying his messiní around to both women. Drug deals are commonly overheard, as are people checking their voice mail. Cellular users donít realize someone could simply decode their mail ID and password to have access to at least one mailbox.

Baby monitors have yielded some interesting activities, including parents spanking their children, and led to practical jokes, since they share frequencies with voice-activated headsets used to talk between motorcycles. On one outing we overheard an infant making sounds on our headsets, so I keyed up and said in a baby voice, "Mama, Dada, poo-poo." The mother went nuts thinking her child had spoken, and we listened to her try to get the child to speak again as we rode out of range.

Cordless phones have to be the most interesting thing to listen to, because their short range limits reception to a block or less, meaning the people you hear are more than likely neighbors you know. Apartments are even more interesting because there are more people within listening range, and on one occasion yielded a rather interesting set of events. A woman was first heard talking to a female friend about not having a date one evening, complaining she really needed some "dick." Later she made calls to several men, all of which claimed to have previous commitments. One man even identified his commitment by name, only to be told she was a diseased slut, who was not as talented at performing oral sex as the caller; despite her bragging, she still went without that night.

Probably the most memorable thing overheard was the conversation between a young, teen-age girl and her older and wiser boyfriend. Not being allowed to go on an unsupervised date, the two sought mutual gratification by talking on the phone and simultaneously masturbating. According to background noises, the bathtub seemed to be her favorite place, although his was not readily identifiable. These calls went on for weeks, and discussion topics included what type of garden vegetable she could use to simulate his penis, and what she would do to him on their honeymoon.

I have from time to time discussed what I have heard with others who share this interest, but keep to myself around most "unbelievers" for fear I will be labeled as a pervert -- this is the first time I have disclosed much of this information to outsiders. Most of my peers share the same beliefs concerning the right to listen in on others, although some feel it could easily become an obsession, like watching soap operas. I feel it is up to the individual to evaluate his state of mind to determine if he can enjoy this sport without feeling guilty or becoming obsessed.

In closing, I will say my listening is more to keep me entertained rather than an obsession, since my listening usually occurs while I am programming or writing. I really donít know if what I do is truly morally wrong -- in my mind I feel it is not. I would never use anything I overheard to get someone in trouble, (except maybe a drug dealer), and I find humor in knowing other people often do the same things we do (With the exception of wanking over the phone).