Day 40: Today play a practical joke.Posted: February 9, 2011
Ah, yes, the practical joke.
The Book offers a half-dozen suggestions, all of them “classic” practical jokes: the “kick-me” sign, the super-glued coin, the flaming dog shit, the cellophaned toilet, the salted sugar bowl, and the bucket of water on the door.
Classics, I suppose, but not really my style. I prefer a bit more … let’s call it subtlety. For example: when I was much younger, my mom pulled the same April Fool’s joke on my dad several years running, with slight variations: she moved his car in the campus parking lot. She didn’t move it much: one space over, or turned around in the same space, things like that. Subtle.
The best practical jokes, in my opinion, are the ones that make you question your memory, or your sanity (or both). There are exceptions, of course – like covering the floor of an entire department with Dixie cups full of water. Oh, and this:
There’s still an element of the surreal to both of these exceptions – if the joke is going to be obvious, then it also needs to be so outlandish the victim(s) will want to refuse to accept it.
I also like my practical jokes to have an element of anonymity, or at least delayed recognition – which is part of why I found today’s task challenging. Talking about practical jokes that I’ll probably never get around to doing – like breaking into someone’s office and rearranging the bookshelves – is fine, and actually pulling a practical joke is also fine, but talking about a practical joke I’ve actually done feels wrong. It feels somehow sacrilegious, like I’m violating the purity of the joke by sharing it. I’m going to share a few anyway, though I’m going to withhold some details.
In the English department’s common room is a multi-volume set of books, all with numbered dust jackets. I took several of these off the shelf today, swapped the jackets, and put them back on the shelf. I don’t know how often this set gets used – I’ve never seen anybody consult it – so it may be years before this joke pays off (like the spoon I buried at the bottom of the ice machine at the Starbucks I used to work at).
A bit later, I was in one of the libraries on campus, in the
restricted current periodicals section, and I turned over perhaps a half-dozen of them – front covers still facing out, but upside down. Not enough to be immediately noticeable, of course, and they’re far enough apart that whomever finds them may, at first, think it’s an isolated incident – but my hope is that said person will, after noticing the second or third, go over the entire section with a fine-toothed comb.
The last joke (that I’ll mention) occurred digitally. I logged on to Twitter, with an account I won’t link to (because I say some awful things over there), and sent messages to random folk who turned up on the public timeline. I didn’t send anything offensive or extreme – they were, in fact, literary, though slightly nauseating. No replies, yet, but neither has my account been suspended. Success, I think?