A while back, I wrote about a prank some co-workers played on me and the laughs we shared years later because of it. From the emails I received, I think we have a few practical jokers in our midst and I thought it would be fun if we’d all share a few of our favorites. So I’m asking you to join in. Let’s crank this party up! Because when it comes to breaking the monotony, few things can take the place of a well-executed practical joke.
Before I begin, let me share a few thoughts on the topic. After all, people view practical jokes a little differently. To one person, it’s a welcome act of creativity and humor. To another, it’s a thoughtless intrusion into their personal space. And to some, it’s nothing more than a waste of company time that could have been better spent generating profits. People in the last two categories are boring. Let’s not talk about them.
Actually, I guess we have to but only to the extent of laying a few ground rules. The fun side of me says to just throw away the rules, but we have to at least observe a few guidelines. Otherwise, somebody gets hurt. Or mad. Or fired. As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.
First things first. For every practical joke, there has to be a fall guy, somebody who is the unwitting target of the prank. This is where it’s good to know your audience. A co-worker who recently lost a loved one probably won’t react well to a fake heart attack. And one who’s twice your size and has the temper of a rattlesnake is probably not the best target for your prank. Well, unless you can set it up so they’ll never figure out who did it. Then it’s funny as hell.
Also consider the environment. Especially in the workplace, we have to be sensitive to our surroundings. Are customers present? Are people using dangerous machinery? Is the boss watching? A little common sense goes a long way.
And if you’re doing this at work, be mindful of how much “company time” you spend setting up the prank, or cleaning up afterward. Most bosses will look the other way as long as you keep it reasonable, but anything that takes more than a few minutes probably won’t put you in line for a pay raise. In fact, it could put you in another line of work.
When it comes to pranks, my uncle is the grand master. He lives to make people laugh. And in a family of nine siblings, he’s the only one who lived beyond the age of 65. Coincidence?
One of my favorites is the time he was flying home from his job on a tugboat. He’d picked up a few things to eat on the way to the airport, including a can of beef stew. This was before the days of metal detectors, and after he got on the plane he realized he still had that can of stew in his pocket. Now who could waste an opportunity like that?
He sat quietly in his seat pretending to feel sick. When he was sure he had an audience, he jumped up, clapped his hand over his mouth, and ran to the lavatory. Once inside, he emptied the stew into one of those bags we all hope we’ll never need. Then he went back to his seat, asked the flight attendant for a spoon, opened the bag, and casually sat there eating its contents. And he did it with a straight face.
So in the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty much an amateur. I tend to amuse myself with simple things, like shooting a rubber band across the top of my cubicle with no earthly idea where it might fall. Or going into an empty conference room and dropping all the chairs to their lowest height. A dozen people will sit there like first-graders at the big people’s table before somebody figures out something’s not right. A few of my other favorites:
- Taping down the receiver button on a co-worker’s phone so it keeps ringing after they answer it.
- Turning off the restroom light while the boss is in the stall. And if the boss is reading this, I’m only kidding.
- Loading up the door of a co-worker’s overhead bin with about 10,000 paper chads that I’d collected from every hole punch in the building. We all learned a few new words that day.
- Re-routing two co-workers’ phone lines so that her calls rang on his phone and his rang on hers. It took them all morning to figure out that all those people weren’t dialing the wrong number. And the whole time, I was snickering like a little boy who just broke wind in an elevator.
- Changing the settings on a co-worker’s computer to include a German version of Windows, left-handed mouse buttons, and the sounds of barnyard animals.
- Leaving a suggestive message on the voicemail of a manager who came in every morning and played his messages on speaker phone where the whole office could hear them. Suffice to say he never did that again.
But my absolute favorite was a prank I played on that same manager. This guy was meticulous about the placement of everything on his desk. It not only had to be in a certain place, it had to be perfectly squared. I’d stand there talking to him, casually moving things around just a little. He couldn’t stand it. Within seconds, he was subconsciously putting them back where they were, using both hands to square them up. Okay, we all know by now that I’m easily amused.
Anyway, when he went on vacation, I rotated his entire office 90 degrees. Everything was still there, still usable, and still in the same basic orientation as before – it was just all on a different wall. When he returned, he stared at the office for a few seconds trying to figure out what had changed. Then he burst into roaring laughter and I thought he’d never stop. I did offer to put it back the way it was, but he was so thrilled to be the subject of such an elaborate prank that he left it that way. I’d say it was worth it.
As you know by now, I’m a firm believer in the value of laughter. Nothing is better at fighting stress, and anything that reduces stress makes everything else just a little better. It’s good for your mind, your body, and your soul. There are very few situations in life where a little well-placed humor isn’t welcome. So give it a try.
And with that, it’s your turn. Tell me about some of the best pranks you’ve every pulled. Just click “Comment” below this post and share your story with all of us. If you want to protect the not-so-innocent, just say “A friend of mine (wink-wink) did this.” But if it’s really, really good, don’t be surprised if you read about it again someday. I may just have to try it myself.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon