A tale of three (practical) jokes …

The best practical jokes were the simplest.

Do you have a three-hole punch in your office? Does it have a bottom on it that collects the punched holes and, after a lot of usage, needs to be emptied?

If you answered yes, then you my friend have a great, ready to go, practical joke.

What you do is this. Take the hole punches and empty them on to your desk. Then push them all into a neat little pile.

Next you take an important-looking memo, document or folder and, on the back of that item, you tape a smaller piece of paper, or light cardstock, with only one piece of tape so that it makes a trap door. Then you load hole punches between the document and the trap door and carefully place the whole thing on the targets keyboard or desk so that when they pick it up, hole punches rain down like confetti.

We called this trick confetti bombing.

I learned this little trick working with a group of guys who perfected, then redefined and further perfected the office practical joke.

I’m not kidding. During the years 2000 to 2002 I worked with a group who took office practical jokes to a level I never considered possible.

These are some of those stories.

A lot of you know Mike from my Facebook feed. He’s a good friend, the best of friends actually. What you might not know about Mike is that he’s a retired Marine. A retired gunnery sergeant, in fact. If you know anything about Marines you know this — befriend one and you have a friend for life.

While Mike was taking his son to school one day, his truck had a flat tire. Fixing a flat, as you know, takes time. This made his son late for school, but hey, that’s what flat tires do, they make you late. Mike assumed this explanation was good enough. A flat tire is a reasonable reason to be late. Unfortunately, for Mike his son already had some tardiness issues and his son’s proclamations that Dad’s truck had a flat fell on deaf ears. The school threatened to suspend the boy unless Mike stopped by the office that day.

Mike, being a bit hot under the collar, did not understand why the school would not take his son’s word for it. At the conclusion of the school day, he pulled into the parking lot and proceeded to drag the flat tire straight into the principal’s office. I know he did this because I was in his truck with him when he did it. Mike and I taught photojournalism to military students at the time and as such always had a camera of some sort with us. I took photos of Mike leaving the school’s administrative offices carrying a flat tire with a slightly apologetic smile on his face.

Flat but with more anger.

Flat but with more anger.

End of story right?

Yeah no.

We were devious bastards. When it became known that Mike had gotten hot under the collar and taken his flat tire into the office of a local high-school principle the others in my officer were giddy. This situation was ripe joke fodder and ideas began to gel.

We ran with it. Someone, I don’t recall who, drafted up an official-looking memo, purportedly from Mike’s Marine Corps leadership, instructing Mike that he would have to repay the school community for this gross transgression. First, the letter directed, Mike was going to have to give a class to the entire student body about anger management, second he was going to have personally apologize to the principal and staff for dragging a tire into their office, and finally, he’d have to write a personal letter of apology to the principal, Mr. Seymour Dicks.

Both Marine officers in our department, who were all too happy to help with the joke, called Mike into the senior guys “office” which was nothing more than a glorified cubicle with little, if any, privacy.

So about the letter. You see what we did there right? The three things Mike was directed to do filled him with so much rage, he never noticed the “see more dicks” part of the joke. It took one of the officers actually verbalizing to a red-faced Mike that he’d have to write a letter of apology to “Mr. See More Dicks,” for Mike to finally get it. The officer has to literally break it down for Mike because he was so furious.

“No Gunny, you’re not getting it. You have to write a letter to a Mr. See. More. Dicks. Get it? See more dicks Gunny.”

When Mike’s lightbulb went on, all eight or nine of us gathered outside the cubicle erupted in a wave a laughter that seriously caused several of us to have to sit down. I don’t recall if it was relief that the whole thing was a joke, or that he the realized he’d just been a butt of a pretty elaborate practical joke (or a combination of both most likely) that caused Mike to, between his own fits of laughter, swear revenge.

It was that kind of office. Were you in hurry to leave early on a Friday? Did everyone know it? Expect to find your car keys in a frozen bowl of ice in the office freezer. Did you not lock your computer before leaving to teach a class? Then you could expect to send an embarrassing email to the rest of the staff in your absence. Your car would even be routinely moved and your keys placed exactly where you left them so that after work you started to think you were losing your mind.

We had a Coast Guard warrant officer who was an insanely talented photographer, a great instructor, a huge, with a capital H, fan of baseball and a devious-practical joker.

He was about to depart for a few weeks of leave and I started thinking about how I was going to get him back for the jokes he’d played on me. I had seen a photograph on the internet of someone having their cubicle filled with packing peanuts. I knew from experience that our supply people routinely had vast, and I mean vast (they couldn’t be carried by one man), bags of packing peanuts.

Like this but with less foil and more peanuts.

Like this but with less foil and more peanuts.

Chief went on leave and I mentioned my idea to a co-worker. The details were worked out and yeah the Chief’s cube was duly filled with packing peanuts. I can even recall thinking we set up the joke too quickly. The Chief wasn’t due back for a few weeks and every visitor to the office wanted to know what the hell was up with that office cubicle.

In fact, the joke was almost anti-funny by the time he finally returned. Anyone on vacation for two weeks in that office knew they were walking back into a joke scenario of some sort. He came back, cursed and laughed, tore open the saran wrap barrier we had erected to hold in the packing peanuts, packing peanuts went everywhere, we eventually cleaned it up for him (hey it’s only fair) and everything was rainbows and puppies going forward, right?

No, that devious motherfucker’s head got to thinking. I mention before that this guy was a huge baseball fan and had all the memorabilia to prove it. All of it was in his cubicle. A hat signed by some famous baseball player, an autographed glove and above all a shit-ton of baseball cards. Many of them prominently on display.

He was really into baseball cards.

He waited about three days to enact his revenge, and then came to talk to me in my cube.

It was a great joke he said, he wished he’d have pulled it off himself, he said. He thought it was great, but there was one problem: One of his more expensive baseball cards was missing. He asked me when we had filled up his cube, and he said he needed to know because if it was right before he returned it could mean someone stole it from his cube. I told him we filled it up the day that he went on leave.

He sighed.

He told me that he thought we might have thrown the card away during our cleanup efforts. There was really no other explanation and it kind of made sense. There were fucking packing peanuts everywhere for the love of god. I knew, I’d cleaned them up. Had we inadvertently thrown away a valuable baseball card? It was possible.

Now, if we’d have pulled the prank the day before he came home, then there were all sorts of other explanations about what might have happened to the card, but considering that the cubicle was covered in packing peanuts, there was only one real explanation.

I debated with him for a moment or two, but it became pretty obvious to me that yeah, I’d probably somehow swept it into a bag with all the packing peanuts. I admitted that I was likely the cause of the loss and asked him how much it would cost to replace. He told me. I don’t recall how much it was, but it was enough that I was going to have to tell Dagmar about my fuck up.

I told him I’d bring him a check the next morning and he thanked me, apologized again for the situation and let me stew until the next morning when I showed up with the checkbook (which Dagmar rarely let me use) before falling on the floor in a gut-busting fit of laughter and let me off the hook.

Yeah, maybe revenge IS the funniest joke after all, dickhead.

And so it went.

There used to be (and for all I know still is) a feature in Microsoft Word that allows you to automatically change a word into another word when its typed in a document. Did you just type the word “awesome?” Well, there was a way to make word “awesome” automatically change that word to “fuckface.” It was a handy feature for the jokesters. Endless fun was had by those in the know when some new person came along. A favorite in my office when I was teaching photojournalism was to change the word photograph to pretty picture. Oh, the howls you’d hear from the uninitiated.

The third and final epic joke involved one of those “executive” cubicles with the walls that almost, but not quite, reached the office ceiling. It belonged to one of the instructors who taught the advanced courses and it had a door that locked. The key to the door had long ago been lost so if the door was closed you were forced to climb over the wall and jump down to open the door.

It was a rarely used gag employed to get a quick laugh if the instructor was in a hurry.

Someone, I don’t recall who, suggested we fill the fucker with balloons. At first the idea seemed folly. How the hell are we all going to fill enough balloons to cover such a huge area? Then someone mentioned they had an electric air compressor that could easily fill balloons and the idea went from “if” to “when” territory.

When the target of the joke took a Friday off,  poor guy took time off, it was game on. We became some sort of assembly line of mischief, filling, tying off and placing balloon after balloon into the locked cubicle. Some evil bastard even placed a few water balloons on the floor so the poor guy couldn’t just pop them willy-nilly. We honestly worked late into the night making it happen. Eventually, the cubicle filled up.

Monday morning, all of us gathered around the community meeting area with cups of coffee and watched as the target once again climbed the outside wall of his cube, only to discover his office filled with balloons. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This normally mild-mannered, soft spoken, polite and well dressed man turn his head toward us from atop his cubicle wall and said, “You motherfuckers.” It’s a speech I will never forget. Someone told him about the water balloons (I think we had rethought the wisdom of that decision over the weekend) and one of us volunteered to jump in and open the door. As always we cleaned it up. It’s not funny if someone suffers, the only fun is the reaction.

It all ended of course. Nothing that awesome can go on forever.  A new member to the team came, and a few people knew her and warned me about her. I was the guy in charge by this point and I’d been taught to let people stand on their own legs. Don’t prejudge. Which is what we all agreed to do, let her stand on her own two legs and we’d form our own decisions.

She honestly fit right in. You couldn’t leave an unlocked email account around her, she had an excellent ability to bullshit and she honestly brought a fresh viewpoint the jokes.

Case in point. We had one massive classroom that, in the back had several cages the held the student’s camera equipment. Each instructor had the key to his own cage. She waited until all the students were out of the room and had her students move my camera equipment cage so that the doors were reversed and against the wall. She had her kids drag this huge metal cage out. Turn it 180 degrees and put in back so that it looks completely normal until my kids tried to put their camera’s away.

Well done, well fucking done. She was upping the game.

It ended with a piece of cake. That’s it a piece of cake.

Someone on my team took a photo of the new girl eating a piece of cake. Then, in what in that office would’ve been considered a rather boring joke, photoshopped the cake to make it look like her plate held a massive amount of cake. Get it? In the photo she’s eating a lot of cake, like an amount of cake no person could ever possibly eat.

On a funny scale of one to ten it’s barely a two. No one considered it even anything more. It was a sort of lame, vaguely funny but not really joke.

Except she didn’t think so. Turns out she had a bulimic, anorectic or what the fuck ever eating disorder as a kid and didn’t find it funny at all*. She went straight to the grownups. The school’s leadership got wind of it and before you knew it I was sitting before the man assuring them that the games were in fact over, that we would stop the shenanigans and yes, I understood that this time they really meant it.

But all the while I couldn’t help but think, really? This is what pushed us over the edge? This cake photo? You’re kidding me? Did anyone ever tell you about the time we signed that Air Force guy up for all the gay newsletters?

Really, this ends with a cake photo?

* In hindsight, getting older and heck I don’t know, just trying to be a better human I know completely understand that this could’ve been traumatic for her. She didn’t ask to be assigned to our little joke-filled office and did her damn best to keep up until a seemingly innocent joke from our point of view stirred up some crappy emotions for her. I’m sorry Air Force lady, no one ever meant for a second to upset you.

3 responses to “A tale of three (practical) jokes …

  1. I did a slightly altered version of the gay newsletter prank…once in high school i signed my buddy up for a year subscription to an extremely disturbing fetish porn website that sent out monthly spreads to his parents house…did quite some time detained in my bedroom without so much as a bucket to piss in once my parents found out. Although, in hindsight, I’d probably do it all over again

  2. Ha, love it dude.

  3. yeah I was blessed with the opportunity to see the look on his mothers face when she checked the stack of mail on the table i damn near cracked a rib i was laughing so hard and then decided to admit to my nefarious deed considering i’m pretty sure she was about to completely disown my buddy

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