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The Joke’s on You

Over the years I’ve been the recipient of a few practical jokes and spawned a few of my own and with a new year beginning, why not start it off with a laugh?
Back in the late 70’s at my job at ARCO Chemical Company on Sheldon Road, a real favorite was dropping a nickel in the soda machine and then filling the coin return with red or green indelible ink.  The price of a soda was a quarter and when an unsuspecting Operator would put money in the machine, it would drop a nickel.  Delighted at the savings, the guy would reach in for change and come out with a red or green finger, which would last a week or more.
The second prank involved taping the black plastic spray nozzle at the kitchen sink with electricians tape.  When someone came up to wash their hands, it would spray them in the chest with water.  One time I did this, and then twenty minutes later accidentally sprayed myself.
I think it was 1979 and one of my younger brothers was getting phone service on Sun Oil Road in Mont Belvieu and seeing that the old rent house didn’t have a phone in a while, they were pretty excited.  He gave me the new number the day before and said to call the next day.  So I did – about 9am.  His Bride, my sister-in-law answered and I identified myself as an employee of GTE, the phone company back then.
I advised her we were “going to be blowing dust out of the line” and to put her phone in a paper sack until it was done.  I hung up and promptly forgot about it until my brother called the house that evening when he came in from work.  You guessed it.  The phone was still in the paper grocery sack awaiting the dust blow.  I found this hilarious, as did he.  My sister-in-law not so much, as she had wanted to use the phone all day.
In 1999 we were starting up a new unit at work and hired a lot of new people.  One particular new guy was a prankster and laughed a lot.  He was infamous for “coning” people, which was the act of placing inverted tape on the inside of a cone-shaped paper cup  and surreptitiously placing it on the back of another person’s hard hat when they looked away.  The unsuspecting person would walk around “coned” and everyone would pretend it wasn’t there and laugh behind their back.  No one was spared including me.  One fellow had three cones on his hat for a couple of hours.
One day “Jeff” and I were sitting in the break room and there was a cheeseburger left over from one of the many overtime meals and he asked who it belonged to.  I told him truthfully it was up for grabs, as were the fries and he cheerfully dug in.  I stood up and yawned and walked straight to the supervisor’s office and enlisted his help in the prank.
He was a fairly cranky guy and in many ways acted superior and he casually walked into the break room after I had retaken my seat.  “Where’s my cheeseburger?” he grunted.  I pointed at the half-eaten burger and as Jeff’s eyes went wide open, he blurted, “Bert gave it to me!”
“I said, “No I didn’t” and the supervisor cursed loudly and left the room.
Jeff said, “You gave to me!  I thought it was yours!”
“Well, you can’t believe everything you hear now can you?  You better get in there and apologize to him!”
Well, the good natured fellow was near apoplectic, but confused and yes, a bit scared, as he was a new guy and he had just ate the supervisor’s lunch, so he gets up and goes in and begins apologizing.  The supervisor can’t keep the charade up for long and the joke is sprung.  We dubbed him the “Hamburgler” after that.
Possibly the best prank I’ve pulled was about 5 years ago and also at the Plant where I work.  I’ve been a computer nerd since my first computer, a Tandy TRS-80 and the folks at the Plant give me their computers to repair.  My company was making a big to-do over brand new Dell computers coming with a tuned version of Microsoft’s Vista, called Vision.  There were all kinds of advance enthusiasm and promises of the latest technology coming to each of us.
One early morning after getting the Plant readings, I stopped in the front offices to fax a copy to necessary parties and behold, a giant new printer was in place.  We went from a fairly simple machine to a glorious shiny plastic behemoth and an idea hit me like a bat to the head.
I did my business and hurried back to my desk.  Surfing the Net, I found an official looking Ricoh document, imported it into Photoshop and made an official document declaring the printer to be “voice activated”.  I even used the company logo and the new Vision graphic.  Hurrying back to the front offices, I placed it on the new shining leviathan and then as an afterthought, I stopped in at the computer lab and made signs advising people at the other printers to try the “new Vision voice activated printer in the front office”.
As is my modus operandi, I soon forgot all about it, being caught up in work.  Some two hours later, my buddy in the safety department calls me and he is laughing so hard, I can hardly understand him.  It seems everyone was having a go at it with no results and this caused them to go to one of the other printers… all, but one fellow.
This determined and savvy geek of geeks spent 15 minutes issuing commands until one of the managers who I used to work for noticed it wasn’t a Ricoh printer, but an HP and declared “this has Bert Marshall written all over it!”
I want to add one caveat to this article on pranks.  Modern MTV-type pranks often include injury.  The best practical jokes do not.  They are funny because you got the person in an awkward moment only.


Sandi White said…
Had to revisit this, thought it was hilarious the first time I read it, and I still laughed on the re-run.

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