Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Washington Post Is A Practical Joke

My greatest contribution to the science of the practical joke was the creation of the "coup de chair." Chris was my first victim only because he sat just behind me. It was his bad luck I suppose. All of my practical jokes were first tried on Chris, though eventually they led to Randy. But I never tried out a prank directly on Randy for if you failed Randy would both humiliate you and get you back good. First I had to be sure the trick would work then I needed to figure out a way to blame the deed on someone else so I would not receive the wrath of Randy's retribution. At this point I hadn't even heard of the term "false flag attack" in my entire life.

Sometimes a prank would come to you in a flash of brilliance. For example when I was punching some holes in papers destined for a three ringed binder I happened to notice Chris sitting down to his desk and as usual clicking on his little fan atop his work station. He could do it without even looking he'd done this task so many times before. His left hand knew exactly where the fan lay, reached out instinctively as he lowered himself into the chair. I laughed pondering the practical joke possibilities. The truth of the matter was Chris arrived at work several hours before me and left for home earlier as well. This meant I could turn his work station into an cubical minefield before he'd return the following day.

Chris got up from his desk, put his coat on and began making his way towards his Metro station. I smiled and bid him farewell. I could see the unease in his face as he knew something may be up by the tone of my smile. He immediately checked the back of his coat for kick me tags. No, this would not be an evening where he'd walk out of the Post building, down 15th Street, into the Metro for his ride home only to have his wife pull the paper taped to his back and ask, "What's this?" Well...this was a sign that read, "I'm Stupid." At that point Chris realized why so many folks in the subway were so joyful and filled with laughter that evening. Yes one certainly had to be careful or one could find one's self walking out of the building with any number of tags or miscellaneous items dangling from their person.

But that would not be the case for Chris tonight as he groped and checked himself. "Chris. What ya doing there buddy?" I asked innocently enough. "I'm not going home with another one of you little signs again, thank you very much sir." I puffed out a couple of indignant blows of air and replied, "Chris, I'm shocked that you would attribute such a childish prank to me. Shocked...just shocked." Nonetheless Chris removed his coat and examined it carefully before putting it back on and backing out of the cubical. I bid him farewell still smiling.

This was Friday evening and we would not return to work until Monday. Be that as it may, once Chris disappeared around the bend heading down the hallway, I got up from my chair with my handful of paper dots from the puncher and deposited them unnoticed in Chris's fan. However, the best laid pratfalls often do not go as originally planned but can nonetheless result in acceptable outcomes for the developmental prankster. I returned to my desk and finished out my shift. By the time the weekend was over and I returned to work on Monday I'd forgotten completely about my little joke.

There was nothing to remind me of the dots either. Nothing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. All quiet on the practical joke front. Then on Friday the fruits of my efforts became apparent. Chris exclaims, "Goddammit! That's where those dots are coming from!" I wheeled around to see Chris looking down at his fan perplexed. "What's the trouble there man?" I inquired doing my darnedest to look like an alter boy. Then Chris launches into his silent struggle story. "All week long I kept seeing these paper dots appear around my work station. They were coming from my fan apparently. I can't imagine how they got in here." I got up walking over to his fan that was still running. "No shit man?" I remarked tilting his fan a bit. I few more dots flew out of the fan hitting Chris and landing on his keyboard. Apparently, all the dots didn't fly out of the fan at once when he turned his fan on the first time as I had planned. No. Instead a few flew out each time the fan was turned on or jiggled. He hadn't noticed where the dots were coming from all week. He would just clean them up and go back to work only to have more dots mysteriously reappear. "Oh man! That's clever." I commented wiggling the fan and once again releasing more dots in Chris's direction. "You know, this has all the markings of Randy." I speculated to Chris hoping to avoid retribution.

Sadly, my acting did not save me and I found my computer, keyboard, mouse, etc. completely Scotch taped the following Monday making it impossible to work. In the meantime Ronnie was screaming for close times for the Daily but I damn sure couldn't step the ads along their way until I'd freed my equipment of the tape. Fortunately I did so before Ronnie noticed and demanded an explanation.

Chris naturally was the proving grounds for the test flight of the coup de chair. Ah the coup de chair! Brilliant in its simplicity. The victim sits up an ergonomically correct $1,200.00 chair. I'm talking real comfortable compliments to the work experience. It certainly could lull a person into a false state of confidence in the laws of gravity. The chair itself sits upon six individual rollers which permit the seat to be able to flow easily in any direction. One can whirl to the left, then to the right effortlessly. The same holds true for backwards and forwards and all points in between.

The rub was this see. Those wheels lifted the chair about three inches off of the floor. I discovered a wheel could be easily popped out of the socket leaving the chair still standing upright. In fact one could sit right down in it and feel confident in the sturdiness of the construction. Ah but looks can be deceiving can they not? For as the poor sod is wheeling this way and that in a carefree manner just trying to do their job, that's when fate could strike and upend their entire world. Well it would seem that way at least for a brief second. That's because removing only one of the six wheel permits the sitter to roll in all directions except in the direction of the missing wheel. One might not, by happenstance, not move in the forbidden direction for quite some time increasing the folly in their belief of the chair and balance system of the universe. As with life, move in the wrong direction and you will topple. In the case of the coup de chair the fall would be fast and frightful to the poor victim who for in instant would believe the whole world was shifting from under their feet as they lurched towards the ground. Then the stump from which the wheel was originally attached would touch down to earth stopping the free fall in its tracks. The victim would still be clinging to the arms of their failed seating apparatus, teeth gritted with a look or terror and desperation. At this point you couldn't help but bust out laughing. It was impossible.

So I WAS rolling around on the floor laughing as Chris was marveling at the dynamics and the possibilities of this new practical joke fondly know henceforth as the, COUP DE CHAIR! Everyone on the floor would come to know that they could be toppled at any moment. But Tumbleweed would be the next victim and Chris couldn't hardly wait until Dave went to get a Diet Coke. As Tumbleweed hopped his heavy ass away from his work station around to the soda machine, Chris slipped over to Dave's desk. The deed was done and Chris return to our base location for some reconnaissance. We stooped over leaning on Chris's desk behind the divider waiting for Tumbleweed to topple. All we could see was his head poking up over his cubical divider. Dave swung this way and that but nothing. Nadda! We were wonder what went wrong? Then in an instant like a bolt of lightning Dave would go down. He twirled to his left grabbing a large page proof with both hands then twirled to his right to lay the proof on his desk. In an instant Tumbleweed's head dove below the cubical line of horizontal visual demarcation and Dave was gone. But not forever. After a moment Dave arises scratching his head looking a bit dazed if the truth be told. Then he reached down and lifted his chair to get a better look at the problems looking like a monkey pondering screwing a football. Seeing the wheel missing Dave looks up and begins scanning the horizon for signs of enemy activity. Immediately Chris and I duck behind our cubical wall. Naturally the two of us are gagging our respective laughter as best we could holding our hands over our mouths. Fortunately our desk was separated enough from Dave's that he never heard our laughter from afar. He found his wheel that Chris had left laying there then figured out how to put it back on his chair. He did so then went back to work never the wiser, at least at that juncture. Just a bit of damn bad luck is all he thought silently to himself.

This was good enough for Chris and Tom. Randy would be our next victim. Our assignment coordinator and grand master of the practical joke. Randy not only prided himself in the range of practical jokes he'd developed through the years, he was practical joke bullet proof himself. That dude had eyes in the back of his red head though Ronnie use to call him "yellow hair." Time and yours truly would come to prove Randy incorrect about that bold assumption though only now do I feel safe enough from his wrath to admit the facts.

The following day before Randy got to work I walked over to his desk and dropped a paper. I leaned down to pick it up and on the way yanked off one of Randy's wheels and laid it aside. I stood back up with my paper, looked around innocently enough and return to my cubical where Chris and I waited for the blossoming of the fruits of our evil genius. Of course it serves Randy right because he was late as usual and came rushing in throwing his things down onto his desk. No time to check for pranks, he logged onto his computer and began moving ads down the electronic conveyor belt. He was just happy Ronnie was still in the manager's hand off meeting and hadn't been there to catch Randy coming in late.

Chris and I lay in wait behind the grassy knoll...well the big gray file cabinet to be more exact but less dramatic to be sure. It didn't take long for Randy to dive below his cubical line out of sight as he picked the wrong direction to roll. In an instant he arose, Chris and I laughing as we looked from behind the big plants sitting atop the gray cabinet. Randy had both his hands indignantly on his hips staring downward while he assessed the situation. Then he reached down disappearing again but returning to our field of vision holding the wheel to his chair. He scratched his head then began to look around. Chris and I tucked our heads below the cabinet and hid straining to contain our laughter. After a moment Randy appears around the corner walking in our cubical flipping the wheel up and down in the air.

"What's up boss?" I inquired pinching myself to keep from laughing while Chris bit down on his tongue. "Are you idiots crazy?" Randy exclaims under his breath. "If the Post caught you messing with their equipment they might fire you, you dolts!" Chris speaks up and replies, "Fire us. Why would the Post want to fire us when we're just sitting here doing out jobs, boss. Got to keep the ad revenue flowing boss." I try to speak to defend myself but all I can muster is to spread my arms apart in a "what, me boss" gesture.

Randy returned to his desk for some tool time on his chair while Chris and I laugh the night away. I was never the victim of the coup de chair though several attempt were made on my regime. However, I fell victim to the sword of the practical joker often enough to feel the sting of embarrassment and shame. I would wear the pink spurs of humiliations.

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