Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Prank You Very Much. . .
Living as we do in a university town (well, we don't actually live in the university town, but we can walk there from our house), late August and early September of every year marks by The Return of the Students. And in honor of the beginning of the new school year, I thought I'd regale you with a few tales from my college years. . . ------------------------- I don't know what it was like where any of you all went to school, but at my school, pranks are a time-honored tradition, ranging in complexity from the simple 'pennying-in' (in which the prankster(s) wedges pennies between the prankee's door and the door frame, thus causing greatly-increased friction between the tongue of the latch and its corresponding hole in the frame, rendering it impossible to turn the door knob), or removing the microphone from the prankee's phone (which becomes much more prankish when followed up by a call to the prankee's phone), or 'beer-canning', in which a 'wall' of beer cans was constructed, leaning slightly into the prankee's door, so that when the door is opened, the cans fell loudly onto the linoleum-tile floor, all the way up to considerably more, um, elaborate pranks. The stories at my school have come down through the generations - the time a group of guys disassembled their buddy's Volkswagen and reassembled it in his dorm room, for example. Or the guys who, when their buddy went home for the weekend, removed all the furniture from his room, and replaced it with a patch of sod and a small tree; when they went down to the river that flows through the middle of the campus and kidnapped a duck, which they then leashed to the tree, the prank was complete, and awaited only the prankee's return to his room. Being a loyal member of the student body, I tried to do my part to carry on the grand tradition. Two pranks in particular stand out on my resume. You would be very kind to indulge my retelling of them. . . ------------------------- In my freshman dorm, there were various groups of guys who tended to hang out together on the weekends. One group of guys usually went out to hit the bars, staying until the bar closed (those were the days when 18 was the legal drinking age in Michigan, so virtually all college students were legal drinkers). I was usually in with a group of guys who played Hearts or Risk until the wee hours. So that, when the bar-hoppers returned to the dorm around 3AM, we were usually the only ones still awake to greet them. One such night, we were just finishing a game of Risk when the bar-guys returned, loud and boisterous. We left our game briefly to exchange greetings. One guy, named Mike, was particularly, shall we say, worse for wear. We watched as Mike staggered down the hall toward his room at the far end of the hall, bouncing off one wall and then the other, until, about two-thirds of the way there, he passed out in the middle of the hall. Now, at this point I should tell you that the particular dorm I was living in was something like a 'science dorm'; which, for purposes of this story, meant that many of us shared the same classes. Which became the immediate occasion for the hatching of our prank. As we stood in the hall contemplating Mike's prone-and-unconscious form, it came together. We quickly returned to our rooms and switched from our Friday-night casual attire (which, in the men's wing of our dorm, involved more skivvies than some of you might want to think about) into our more everyday going-to-class clothes (by the mid-70s the distinction could be pretty subtle, but it was there). Grabbing armloads of textbooks, we gathered around Mike's unconscious form and shook him awake. "Mike!" we yelled. "Are you still here?!? Wake up, man! We've got a Chemistry mid-term in 20 minutes! You just slept through the whole weekend, man!" Mike, now awake, but not appreciably less drunk than he'd been fifteen minutes previously, stared back at us, uncomprehending. "Huh?" he said. So we repeated our line, and slowly, our message seeped into Mike's consciousness. "Are you shitting me?" he inquired. "No, man - you slept through the whole weekend, and now we've got a mid-term in 20 minutes!" Mike was exceedingly dismayed as this knowledge worked its way into his brain. Rising to his feet, he began cursing himself. "Aw, MAN! I can't believe I did that! I didn't study at all! I'm gonna fail for sure!" Staggering the rest of the way to his room, he stripped and got into the shower (which he set at something like 32.6 degrees Fahrenheit), in a forlorn attempt to wake up and/or sober up. A steady stream of loud expletives emanated from his shower. In the meantime, our merry band of pranksters returned to our rooms and reverted to our more 'skivvy-ish' Friday-night attire, then wandered slowly down toward Mike's room. Finding him in the icy shower, we professed our confusion - "Mike, what are you doing? It's 3 o'clock Saturday morning!" Mike looked back at us, still not notably soberer than he'd been when he got there. Slowly, the realization dawned on him that he'd been had. And, in his drunken haze, that realization enraged him. He charged out of the shower, chasing us all down the hall. But of course, he was still drunk. Besides which, he was dripping wet, running on a linoleum-tile floor. So he didn't chase us far before he slipped and fell, right up against a door that someone else had helpfully beer-canned earlier, thus causing the intended metallic racket (it just hadn't necessarily been intended for him). It was all too much for poor drunken Mike to deal with, and he burst into tears, creating one of the more pathetic scenes to which I have ever been a witness - a drunk, naked, wet guy, sobbing in the middle of a pile of beer cans. . . Or is that just mean of me? ------------------------- A couple years later, I was living in a different dorm with my buddy Rich. Early in the spring, we had one of those delightful unseasonably-warm days, the kind where people throw open their windows just to smell the fresh air for the first time since before the winter. Adjacent to our dorm was a women's dorm, and that very fact was more than some of the young men in our dorm could handle. One pair of guys in particular were especially obnoxious, keeping up a steady loud stream of obscenities directed toward the young ladies next door. After enduring this stream of vulgarity for as long as we figured we could (and longer than we figured we should have to), Rich and I hatched a plan. Looking out our window, we ascertained the room from which the disturbance was emanating. In fact, the guys would lean out their window whenever they would yell at the girls. So Rich, who had a bit of the daredevil in him, climbed up onto the roof from the balcony at the end of our floor, and I passed a bucket of water up to him. The plan, such as it was, was that, the next time our guys leaned out their window to yell at the girls next door, Rich would douse them. I watched from our window as Rich took his position, lying with his head and shoulders just over the edge of the roof, waiting for our prey to reappear. Except they never did. Apparently their mood had passed. So Rich and I decided to abort the plan, and dump the bucket harmlessly onto the grass below. Except that, instead of dumping the bucket away from the building, Rich dumped it inward, toward the building. So that a cascade of water fell in through the still-open window of our erstwhile disturbers-of-the-peace. At that point, the pace of events quickened dramatically. In short order, two very angry guys came running up the stairway to our floor, from the one below, where our 'friends' lived. First, they went to the room directly above theirs, only to find a very bewildered resident with closed, but very wet windows, wondering (a) why his windows were wet, and (b) why these angry guys were banging on his door. Rich, sensing that the moment might not be opportune for him to climb back down onto the balcony, nevertheless handed the bucket down to a freshman who lived in the room next door to ours, and who was in some sympathy with our aims. So that, when the still-angry guys from the floor below came back down the hall, wondering who had doused their room, if the guy above them hadn't, they suddenly encountered our young man holding a bucket on the balcony, providing them with a new target for their rage. It turned out that they had a TV set in their room, which they kept directly below the open window through which Rich had poured the contents of our bucket. Or, by that point, I should more properly refer to it as a former TV set, since the watery cascade had, as they say in the industry, gazorped it. And they were ready to do some serious bodily harm to the poor kid holding the bucket. I knew it wouldn't be right to let the kid take a beating for our misbegotten prank, so I casually wandered out to 'see what the commotion was about', trying to adopt the role of peacemaker, and, you know, 'defuse the situation'. Meanwhile, other guys were running up and down the hall, breathlessly announcing that "There's someone on the roof!" Which was sort-of working against my peacemaking, defusing efforts, and moving the angry guys to suspect that my own motives were, shall we say, less than pure. Rich, meanwhile, had gone to the other end of the dorm and climbed down to the balcony at the opposite end of the building. So that he came sauntering down the hall from the opposite direction, wondering what all the commotion was about. Perhaps they discerned something a trifle ungenuine in his demeanor, but in fairly short order, he became the new object of their wrath. The situation was touch-and-go for a while, until one of the guys cooled down a little and convinced the other one that beating the stuffing out of us wasn't worth the trouble, so they left and went back to their room, while the three of us heaved a heavy sigh of relief. When I explained the situation to Rich (he hadn't known about the blown TV), he more clearly understood the nature of their wrath. So he went to the party store across the street from the dorm, and bought a peace-offering of beer, which he and I took to their room. They accepted it, and then told us to never let them see our faces again. Which, so far as it depended on me, I was only too happy to oblige. . . ------------------------- The story doesn't reach its final conclusion until a couple months later. I was returning to the dorm after my last class of the day, and there were three police cars, lights flashing, parked in front of our dorm. As I stood there, wondering what was going on, the police emerged from the building, with our two erstwhile victims in handcuffs. They put them into the back seats of separate cars, and drove off, leaving me still wondering what had happened. The next day's newspaper contained a front-page article describing a major on-campus drug bust. Two guys had been arrested who were doing something on the order of $50,000/year (and these were honest-to-goodness mid-70s dollars, not the meek little things we have today) out of their dorm room. And then my eyes got real big when the article went on to note that the dorm they were taken from was ours. After that, Rich and I got a huge laugh (with a hefty dose of the willies mixed in) from the idea that we'd fritzed the TV of a couple of major on-campus drug dealers. . .