If I’m feeling low, I have a few go-to TV shows I sometimes watch to cheer myself up. Among them are old episodes of The Office, mostly because of the pranks between Jim Halpert and Dwight Schrute. A swiped stapler left wobbling in a mound of yellow Jell-O. A workspace moved into the bathroom. A phone handset gradually weighted to become heavier and heavier, then the weights abruptly removed, causing the answerer to whap himself in the head when the phone rings.
Strange as it may sound, I’d like to be doing my time in an office like that. Work days are more interesting when broken up with a prank here or there.
Years back, I worked with a man named John who was constantly playing jokes on most everyone in our office. As I can be terribly gullible, I was his most frequent target. One time, John pinned a tail to my coat that was so light I didn’t notice it, flipping perkily along behind me, until I’d finished every one of my many errands and was getting back in my car. When I promptly sat on the tail.
I decided to return the favor by sneaking John’s charcoal-grey dress coat from our office closet and stitching the sleeves shut. Except moments after I’d hung the coat back in the closet, two things happened at once. John walked in wearing a different coat. And a customer who had been in our office retrieved his charcoal-grey coat from the closet.
I’d actually managed to prank myself. (Not to mention that poor man.)
Few are immune to workplace tricksters, however. Just recently, a friend from my writing group, Charlie Dennie of St. Albans, shared about a time when his dad worked at Union Carbide.
The workers in his dad’s area had a common locker room, where they’d change each morning to go out into the plant. One morning, the men were milling about, getting ready for work when one of their coworkers arrived wearing a snazzy new hat. I believe Charlie called it a “Homburg,” which is a little like a fedora. He said it was stylish and classic, something a businessman would wear more so than a plant worker.
Since the man wearing the hat wasn’t typically a slave to fashion, it drew the attention of his coworkers, who wanted to know more about it.
“I got it from Kelley’s Mens Shop,” he said.
He proudly brushed off his hat before storing it in his locker for the day and when the work day was over, Charlie said his dad recounted. And the men watched as he carefully brushed it off again before putting it on. The next day, same thing. He clearly cherished that hat. Walked a little cockier when he had it on.
So the chance for mischief was ripe.
When payday rolled around, the men decided to pitch in a few bucks each and they went to Kelley’s Men’s Shop and purchased the same hat, except in a larger size. They smuggled this new hat into their locker room and, after their coworker put his beloved hat in his locker to go out into the plant for the day, they quickly swapped his hat for the larger one.
When the man returned at the end of the day, he brushed off his hat as always and placed it on his head. And it dropped down over his eyes.
After looking momentarily confused, he sort of tilted it back a bit and headed for home. He continued to wear the larger hat every day, saying nothing about it to anyone about it. They said nothing to him.
When the next payday rolled around, the men again pooled their money and headed back to Kelley’s. This time, they purchased the same hat in the smallest size it was made and then they swapped out the hats. At the end of the workday, when their coworker placed his prized hat on his head, it just sort of perched there. Balanced on top of his noggin.
The men had planned on trading back to his original hat the next day, except their coworker wasn’t at work.
They called his house. His wife said he’d gone to the doctor, concerned because his head was shrinking and swelling.
With me, it was only a tail. Compared to him, I think I came out ahead.