I’ve got a special fondness for men behaving badly, and luckily, I seem to be surrounded by guys who excel at exactly that (I’m not naming names…they know who they are). To be clear, I’m talking about bad behavior that amuses, not the kind that ends up with people on life support.
A good, harmless prank is one of my favorite things ever, because it’s evidence of a sort of wily creativeness that I admire. Men don’t own the market on pranks, of course – I will confess to having planned and executed more than one. Some of have been mild, like filling a friend’s yard with hideous garden gnomes (Pranking 101), and some have required more effort, like the infamous prank a group of us pulled on my friend Wicked D.*
[* Editor’s Note: Wicked D. is not wicked in the least. He’s actually a great guy. However, at this time I had about ten men with the same first name in my life — priests, coaches, professors — so I assigned them all supplemental titles, and as this particular D. was part of a rather raucous social group, he ended up being called Wicked D. Don’t hold it against him.]
Wicked D. and his wife’s home was a few doors down from ours, in a lovely neighborhood that was close to a large public park, and thus would occasionally suffer a wave of criminal mischief. Wicked D.’s home had an outdoor room with a fireplace where a group of us neighbors frequently gathered for blurry evenings of drinks and nibbles; you could access this room from the back yard if you knew how to get in the gate.
One summer, Wicked D. made the mistake of offhandedly mentioning the dates of his beach vacation, at which point I recruited some willing partners in crime to help “decorate” the outdoor room. We collected dozens of empty liquor bottles from various recycling bins around the ‘hood, bought a used toilet from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and somehow got our hands on a roll of crime scene tape (don’t ask). We took all of this, plus a dirty magazine, a bra, a pack of cigarettes, an 82 year old lawyer, some chalk, a box of chicken, and a pitcher of martinis to Wicked D.’s house, and after polishing off the chicken and martinis, and handing the dirty magazine off to the lawyer for “safe keeping” (his request), we got to work.
By the time we were finished, the bra was hanging from the ceiling fan, liquor bottles covered every available surface, the toilet was in the bushes, and the floor was littered with chicken bones, cigarette butts, beer cans, and pages torn (and mauled with greasy, 82 year old fingers, I might add) from the dirty magazine. For the final touch, we had a friend lie down on the flagstone floor and traced her body with chalk, then wrapped the entire room in police tape.
When Wicked D. and his wife came home, all rested and relaxed from the beach, Wicked D. fixed himself a toddy and headed outside.
“Son of a bitch!” he bellowed as he opened the door, his blood pressure instantly skyrocketing. “Some goddamn hooligans had a party here!” Noticing the toilet in the bushes, and presuming someone must have been inside the house to get it, he continued. “And we’ve been robbed, dammit!”
“Aaaahhhhh!” his wife screamed, peering around him and catching sight of the body outline on the floor. “And they shot the robber right here!”
Needless to say, Wicked D. got me back, by bringing the toilet to my 40th birthday party and unceremoniously dumping it on the table in the middle of the dinner service. For the record, however, he never returned the bra.
My boss in D.C. was a great prankster. We used to have regional field reps (called “Reefers,” which is a job title you just don’t see often enough) whose job was to know the ins and outs of every political race in their region. One of our Reefers was a stuffy, nerdy guy. He came to the office one day with his suitcase so that he could catch a cab to the airport from our building, and as he stepped into the Gents at the end of a long, boring meeting, my boss and I tipped the entire silverware tray from the office kitchen into his suitcase and zipped it back up.
“Have a great trip,” my boss said, handing him the bag.
That was in the ’90s. Nowadays, of course, you can’t have any fun at the airport.
A friend of mine and his wife bought a house in another state and had a dynamic decorating duo – we’ll call them Gary and Larry – decorate the entire house from top to bottom, everything from plates to drapes. When my friends arrived at their new home for the first time, it took them a while to realize that every single photo frame in the house – and there were dozens – held a photo of Garry and Lary: Gary and Larry canoodling by the pool, Larry washing Gary’s back in the tub, Gary and Larry dressed to go out, Gary and Larry lounging by the lake in Speedos…
My brother and one of his buddies, who was also his neighbor, were engaged in a series of pranks for years, until they both moved away to take new jobs. They’d borrow each other’s trucks and return them on Empty, mow the yard and dump the clippings on each other’s doorsteps, tow each other’s garbage cans down the block, that kind of thing – benign annoyances that were funny. The crowning achievement in this war was when my brother’s pal knocked on his door one day to ask if my brother had some RoundUp weed killer.
“Yeh,” my brother said. “There’s a new one in the garage – have at it.”
And his friend did, sneaking back that night to spray a message in my brother’s own yard that only became obvious days later when the grass died:
Now, that’s a prank.
I moved a few years ago, and my current friend-group is concentrated on blowing stuff up outside rather than pranking, which is a good thing, given that they all have keys to my house. But, considering our collective aptitude for bad behavior, I suspect it won’t be long before someone gets creative.
Just remember, guys: if medics have to get involved, you’ve gone too far.
*Special thanks to my friend Luigi for helping bring this memory to life.