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The following is from http://www.snopes2.com/inboxer/stooopid/cleaning.htm

I suggest you check this site in the future before forwarding hoaxes.

Origins: Ê This perennial April Fools' joke used to be told about the phone system and spread by photocopies and faxes; now it's the Internet being cleaned, and the message is disseminated by e-mail. Granted, "cleaning" out the Internet makes a little more sense to the non-technical user than cleaning out a phone system, but really . . .

Prior to its "Internet cleaning" version, the jape featured convincing the gullible that phone lines had become dirty, necessitating that the phone company force air through them to clear the debris. Users were cautioned to place plastic bags over handsets, lest the dust being blown through the lines settle on everything in the house.

A 1974 version featured "frozen" phone lines:


A radio announcer told his audience that, since the community had experienced several nights of unusual below-zero temperature, the telephone company, at a specified time, would put "heat-a-lators" on all the telephone lines to thaw them out. The disk jockey told his listeners to put their phone receivers in an empty bucket so that, as the lines thawed out, water wouldn't run out and ruin their rugs.

So many people took their phones off the hook that the central office was in a "no tone" condition for four minutes.
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