February 13, 2021 – Natural Born Prankster

We all need levity once in a while, especially at work. Day after day, we spend hours alongside our coworkers, working side-by-side on an assortment of tasks or projects in order to earn a living. Often what we do is physically exhausting or mentally exhausting and sometimes both. I’ve been fortunate throughout my life because nearly every job I’ve had has been indoors. With the current cold spell, I cannot imagine having to do anything outside. When I was out walking the dog earlier today, as I rounded the corner, I saw some men working on a construction project at my neighbor’s home. Another mile down the road, I came across yet another group of men repairing someone’s roof. When I witness people out trying to earn a living in the bitter cold, I feel so incredibly fortunate. And let me tell you, it was cold today. The ‘high’ was 23 degrees!

Work is…well, it’s work. Most of the time, it’s not something most people get terribly excited about. It’s a means to pay for housing and transportation and food and everything and anything else required in this life. If you’re lucky, once you pay all of your bills at the end of the month, you’ll have a little money left over to put into savings or to use for whatever purpose you so choose. If you’re lucky, wherever you happen to work, the person that you report to, your boss, will be supportive and appreciative and accommodating and understanding. If you’re unlucky, you could end up with a boss that is demanding, unyielding, impatient, or that sees you as just another cog in the wheel. In other words, a turd. I’ve experienced both in my 40+ years in the workforce. When you work for a ‘turd’, it can make going to work especially unpleasant.

I refuse to accept that! There is nothing worse than walking into a dismal workspace each day and watching a bunch of people just going through the motions. We humans are not cogs in a wheel. We need levity, we need laughter, we need something or someone to break up the work doldrums so that life is more livable. That’s where I come in. I love to make people laugh. My friends, there is nothing better than a fun ‘prank’ or ‘screwing with management’ to loosen people up and lighten the mood. I’ve been engaging in these activities for well over 30 years and have only had a couple go sideways. As I think back, one of the first pranks that stands out is when I worked at a library. This is when libraries still had (paper) card catalogs that were stored in drawers, and the only computer in the library was the one at the checkout counter.

One of the worst ‘tasks’ to get stuck with was manually calling each person that had an item on hold and telling them they had until such-n-such date to pick up the item or it would be returned to the shelf. Yes, this was before email and even before library ‘robot calls’. It stunk! When I had to do it, I always hoped the person wouldn’t answer so I could just leave a message on the answering machine and hang up. I just wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. None of the librarians or library assistants looked forward to this nightly task, it was a real drag. Something had to be done! One evening that was not unlike the others, I decided to bring some levity to the situation. The librarian that had been making the calls was so ‘over it’ and remarking on the drudgery of the process; there simply had to be a better way to make the notifications that didn’t take so much time! I found my ‘in’.

The items on hold were always stored on the bottom shelf in our workspace. As she was nearing the end and had only about 5 items remaining on the shelf, I took it upon myself to add about 20 random books. She was on a call at the time and didn’t notice me ‘adding’ to her workload. If you could have seen her face when she stood up from her chair and walked over to the shelf! I stood with a poker face for as long as I could but it didn’t take long until I burst out laughing. Fortunately, she had a sense of humor and got a chuckle out of it, too. It was totally harmless and helped break up the monotony of the day. I also love to screw with management. I had the best boss at the community college I worked for. He was a real trooper and never got upset with me for my ongoing shenanigans. One thing he was very ‘clear about’ was his absolute hatred for anything ‘disco’. He also had a very keen dislike for Barry Manilow and Lionel Richie.

It was too easy! I hounded him for years, even after I moved away. On his birthday, I threw him a ‘disco’ party. For his gift, I made him a calendar featuring him along with his ‘bestie’ Barry. I’ve never had so much fun ‘photoshopping’ heads onto other people’s bodies. I thought he’d be upset but he actually loved it. I’d also make giant posters that said ‘Headquarters of Barry Manilow’s Fan Club’ as well as ‘Headquarters of Lionel Richie’s Fan Club’ and plaster them to the outside of his office door. One time, I even printed out a picture of Lionel Richie with the caption, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” and stuck it under his vehicle’s windshield wiper. He was such a good sport! After I left, I continued to mess with him. One year I sent him 3 Barry Manilow records and another year, I actually signed him up for Barry Manilow’s fan club. I could hardly sleep that night because I kept laughing.

He knew it was me behind the whole thing from the moment he received the email from the official club, welcoming yet another fan to ‘All Things Barry’. He emailed me right away and said, “Are you responsible for this?” I wrote back, “Gotcha!” and nearly wet myself. Something else that is really fun to do is to buy a bunch of random tchotchkes at the thrift store, place them in people’s offices, and see how long it takes for them to notice. I can spend hours in a thrift store laughing at all of the ‘crap’ that lines the shelves. How humans come up with some of this stuff is hard to fathom. And it costs so little for a good laugh! I don’t usually spend more than a few bucks, and the entertainment value is priceless. The weirder the stuff, the better. I don’t buy things that are perverted or inappropriate, I just buy weird stuff.

There are countless figurines with odd features, like a sweet little kitten with demonic eyes. There are bobbleheads, books, trophies, mugs, and tons of homemade or handmade items that are so ghastly or ridiculous that you cannot help but crack up! Why on earth did anyone think making a Kleenex box out of a doll’s head was ‘adorable’? No! Totally creepy and perfect for office pranks! Anyway, I will share one more of my famous pranks and then I’d better wrap this up. This one, unfortunately, was one of the ones that went sideways. At the job I had before my last job, I worked for a ‘turd’ that had no sense of humor. I dreaded going to work each day. After a while, I couldn’t take it any more, so I put a plan together. A guy that had a cubicle about three down from me had a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints resting on top of his file cabinet. They sat there for days and taunted me.

Each day I walked by, I thought about how I could ‘have some fun’ with those Thin Mints. And then I had an idea! The first thing I did was go to Big Lots and buy a different kind of cookie from a package that was almost the identical size. I also bought some super glue. When my coworker was out of the office, I carefully removed the box of cookies off his file cabinet and carried them back to my desk. With the utmost care, I opened the bottom of the box, removed the Thin Mints, and replaced them with a different cookie altogether. I then used the (generic) super glue that I purchased from the dollar store to reseal the bottom of the box. That’s when things went slightly awry. When I squeezed the tube, the glue squirted out the bottom (rather than the top of the tube) and got all over my hands, and then one of my fingers got stuck to the desk.

That’s the thing about pranks, sometimes they backfire. However, when I choose to ‘engage’, I have to realize that ‘things not going as planned’ comes with the territory. Sometimes the laugh’s on other people and sometimes the laugh’s on me. I’m willing to take my chances. Thanks so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. I love to write and I try to infuse humor into everything I do and I hope I was able to make you smile, especially if you had a really crappy day. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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