It’s time for Readers’ Revenge, the weekly feature in which we turn Grantland over to YOU, the unpredictable reader. This week’s topic was Your Best Prank. One thing you should know about Reader’s Revenge is that I love reading the e-mails, and narrowing them down is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. That includes the time I had to choose which relative I loved the most as the beneficiary of my insurance policy (in the end, me). When I’ve narrowed down my list, I always feel like I’ve screwed up, so anyone who sent me an awesome story, don’t take it personally if you didn’t make the cut. It’s my fault.
Below are the top nine e-mails, and you can check out past installments in the box below. The topic for next week will be Worst Moment With the In-Laws/Significant Other’s Family. Send your very best to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday for a chance to make the cut. Stories can involve you or someone you know, and anonymity is allowed. Those with a high degree of hilarity and humiliation always do well.
9. The best prank I was ever a part of was not elaborate by any means, and it’s probably a pretty standard restaurant prank, but it still makes me laugh now, like 10 years later. I was working at a pizza place in Athens, Georgia. I’ll skip the complete anthropology of this particular joint. It was simply a pizza restaurant kitchen where a bunch of dudes were constantly talking shit about football and how “mind-blowing” Yonder Mountain String Band was last night, whatever. But since we hired pretty much only on a referral basis, we never had many true new guys to mess with. Sometimes, though, we’d get some random guy who happened to be filling out an application at the exact moment one of our regular guys called out on account of scoring free tickets to Widespread Panic in Macon, or something. So we did take on the occasional stranger.
I never messed with the new guys too much, beyond serving them their first shift-beer in a sippy cup. Sometimes, while I was teaching them how to toss pies, they would tear a hole in the dough, and I would send them to the walk-in cooler to grab a “dough patch-kit.” “Yeah no they’re by the stack of butter. No? OK, check behind it. Keep looking, dude — they’re back there.” Once, though, a couple of my buddies picked out the perfect mark for something way better. This guy was young and eager — not eager to be an awesome employee, mind you, but to get in good with the guys who had the best, um recreational aids. Nice kid, but trying way too hard.
So one night I see this guy coming out of the walk-in cooler with a huge, black garbage bag full of air, taking it out the back door, and releasing the air into the parking lot. Then he’d walk back in, get more air, go back out, release, repeat. A couple of the other cooks had told him that the air in the walk-in was stale, and that it needed to be changed. This poor guy changed the walk-in air — one garbage bag at a time — for about 10 minutes until no one in the kitchen could hold it together anymore. It was great for us, of course, but completely humiliating for him. I felt just a little bad for him, actually, so after his shift, I treated him to a tall sippy cup of Guinness.
— Ian S., Tucker, Georgia
8. Last year, I graduated from a really strict, video-cameras-in-the-hallway prep school in New Jersey. I’m not really sure how it started, but during my junior year, my best friend and I kind of got into a prank war. The school was really strict about missing tests, so one day he stole my calculator before a big math test and sent me on a scavenger hunt the whole morning to find it. I would respond by taking a book I knew he needed for the weekend during last period on Friday, and not telling him where it was until after he had already missed the bus. These pretty boring, innocent pranks went on for a number of weeks.
Being a bully was the least tolerable thing a kid could do in my school. Because parents shelled out a small fortune every year to send their kids here, our principal was extremely strict when it came to bullying. My sophomore year, two seniors got kicked out for cyber-bullying a kid by calling him fat on a couple of Facebook pictures. In short, bullying was a REALLY big deal, and was dealt with severely. The locker next to mine belonged to a tremendous dweeb who we’ll call Josh. Don’t get me wrong, the kid was really nice and no one ever gave him trouble, but he was the epitome of a nerd. He was prone to fainting, and once had a panic attack on a school trip to the Empire State Building. I always tried to chat him up about his weekend on Monday mornings, and learned he was always at home doing “nothing.” He was also kind of dumb, and was basically a depressing kid to be around.
One day, my friend put Vaseline all over my locker so I wouldn’t notice it until after I already touched it. Instead of pranking him back, I had a brilliant idea. When I saw my friend in the hallway that afternoon, I asked him if he heard what happened to Josh. He said he hadn’t, and I told him that some bully decided to maliciously vandalize Josh’s locker with Vaseline, and Josh was in the principal’s office this very second having a panic attack. I told my friend that the principal is freaking out and calling an assembly, and that they’re going to look at the video cameras to catch the asshole who did this to Josh. Thinking that he had accidentally tampered with Josh’s locker instead of mine, my friend ran to the principal’s office in and started confessing in a frenzy. He said he felt horrible and it was an honest mistake, and that he never meant to bully Josh or anything.
The principal had no idea what he was talking about, but gave him a week’s detention for defacing school property with petroleum jelly.
— Nathan W. From New Rochelle, New York
7. Our co-worker Steve was a mortgage loan originator. The office we worked in was an older building and the roof was constantly leaking so the roofing company was there almost once a month to patch a hole after a hard rain. Steve’s office was a smaller office, maybe 8-by-10 feet. He had a big desk that was probably 6 feet wide which only left a 2- or 3-foot walkway to get around the desk and into his chair. One day the roofing company was there and when Steve went to lunch we moved his filing cabinet from the corner of his office directly next to his desk which blocked the entire walkway to his desk chair. This left climbing over the desk as the only option to get to his desk chair. On the filing cabinet we put “Please don’t move” and signed it “Kyle from Roofing Company X”
For added effect, we moved a couple of his ceiling tiles so they were askew and looked like someone had been up there and put his trash can directly below the open ceiling tiles. We filled the trash can with a little bit of water to make it look like there had been a leak. Keep in mind, on this day it was 80 degrees and sunny, so leaking while he was at lunch made no sense. The final piece of the puzzle was we had a friend call and leave him a voicemail saying “This is Kyle with the roofing company, I just want to make sure you got my sign and you know not to move the file cabinet, if you move that cabinet we will have BIG problems.”
So when Steve gets backed from lunch he is 100 percent rattled because now to get in and out from behind his desk he has to climb onto the desk, shimmy across and climb back down. The best part of this was when Steve would climb over his desk and leave his office, one of us would call his phone and since he was waiting for a call he would run back into his office and attempt to slide across his desk Dukes of Hazzard style to try and get to the phone quicker only to have us hang up. After about 12 times doing this and nearly tearing both ACLs he gave up on the desk slide.
Also, to keep things fresh our friend Kyle from the “roofing company” called Steve every hour to deliver the same message about moving the file cabinet and that moving it would cause BIG problems. I think Steve was convinced if he moved the cabinet the bank would explode so he didn’t dare touch it even though he didn’t understand why. When he asked why he couldn’t move it Kyle would raise his voice and half yell “JUST DON’T! Don’t move it or there will be BIG problems.” Eventually, Steve just started working on the customer side of his desk so he didn’t have to climb back and forth anymore. Our boss was gone and we let this go for the rest of the day and until 4 p.m. the next day.
— Luke D. and Jake B.
6. In college I worked a summer internship in the illustrious Washington Redskins ticket office located at beautiful FedEx Field. There were about five to six unpaid college interns, and basically all we did was count the number of seats in the stadium (no joke) and package together season ticket holders season tickets and mail them out. Because we were doing terribly boring grunt work, we had to come up with ways to keep ourselves entertained.
I became particularly close with two of my fellow interns we’ll call Ricky and Lisa. Lisa was an extremely gullible young lady. Big Rick and I made a habit of messing with her throughout the summer. Seeing as we were unpaid, the ‘Skins had no power over us taking a week or two off for vacations or whatnot, as long as we gave them a heads up. So Lisa took off the first week in July, followed by Ricky taking off the second week.
Lisa didn’t know Ricky was going to be away that second week, so Ricky and I decided to tell her that he got fired for stealing a jersey. We told a few other people in the office and the story caught like wildfire, and soon everyone in the office was in on the prank, including our extremely grumpy old boss. In the ticket office there are pictures (mug shots, basically) of people that under no circumstances are allowed entrance to the stadium, and, shockingly, our boss suggested that we get a fake one made up for Ricky. We also managed to get the security staff in on the prank, and the grand finale of this production was gonna be Ricky coming to work, on the Monday he was really coming back, only to be arrested by a security guard.
The week she got back, I somehow managed to tell Lisa the story without laughing, and with everyone in the office backing my story and the mug shot she actually believed it. Everything was going to plan and the day of Rick’s return finally came. Unfortunately Ricky and Lisa arrived at work at the exact same time. Lisa started hysterically pleading with Ricky not to come into the stadium, to which Ricky replied, “I got some unfinished business I gotta take care of.” We were all in the office anticipating his return and when they came into the office Lisa was crying her eyes out and yelling at Rick. Everyone in the office started having some second thoughts about our grand scheme. Everyone except the security guard. The security guard tackled Rick like London Fletcher and promptly handcuffed him and started to take him away. Finally the boss called off the security guard and told Lisa it was a joke.
The realization that 30 of your coworkers have pulled a week-long joke on you really took a toll on young Lisa, as she sprinted out of the stadium and had what looked to be a full-on anxiety attack in her car. The boss had Ricky and I take her out to a very awkward lunch and try to talk her off the ledge and she legit cried for 30 straight minutes, and was given the next two days off to recover. She eventually settled down and forgave us.
— Miguel, Washington, D.C.
5. While I was in grad school completing a PhD a small group of us worked and socialised together. Two other students lived together in an apartment. Let’s call them M and K. K was Irish like the rest of us and owned the apartment and she let a room to M, a New Zealander, over completing a PhD. Since M liked cooking (and was very good at it, too) they often hosted and their place acted as a social hub for the small group of us. One night, they invited us over for dinner. The night before they had gone shopping and happened upon a recipe they liked. M wanted to buy the book and put it into the shopping bag but just as they were about to start going around the store (which was open 24 hours) looking for ingredients K realised it was almost 9 p.m., and the clothes shop she wanted to go to next door was just about to close.
She dragged M out of the store and while browsing through the clothes M realized they had walked out without paying for the book. No big deal since they were just about to go back into the store for the ingredients, but both M and K panicked and in a brain fart moment, drove off to another store. Accidentally shoplifting a €10 cookbook from the Irish equivalent of Walmart hardly counts as a serious offence, but both M and K are good upstanding citizens and felt extremely guilty over the whole event.
The following evening at dinner, K told us about it while M was in the kitchen cooking, and explained how bad M felt for stealing the book. My flatmate and friend at the time was a policeman, but M didn’t know this. It took a bit of preparation but we got the relevant details: approximate time of the incident, location, car registration plate numbers, name of cookbook.
I briefed my flatmate on the situation and told him to come into our office sometime when he was dressed in uniform to question M. Obviously the informal questioning couldn’t take place in front of everyone so I had a lab next door primed, and included a way that we could all hear the events from the room next door.
My friend called in, I brought him upstairs and told him to wait outside the office. I went inside to M and told him quietly that there was a policeman outside to see him. He went outside and my friend asked him if there was anywhere they could go to speak in private. M invited my friend to the lab next door, where my friend questioned him if he had been in the certain store on the night at approximately 9 p.m. where he took a cookbook, left the store and drove off in a car with the certain registration plate. After M confirmed the events, my friend informed him that the store were cracking down on petty shoplifting as a new policy and wished to pursue the matter, and that obviously any convictions would have an impact on M’s visa status, potential leading to deportation. M’s face dropped and began to turn white as he considered the potential consequences.
In an interesting twist, my friend then asked if M had any information on a small blond woman in whose company he was seen with that night. The same woman “was wanted by a number of stores in the area in relation to similar incidents, and the main store would be willing to drop charges against M if he helped with enquiries.” Basically, we wanted to see if M would shop his friend and flatmate in order to save his own ass. Sure enough, he responded that she was next door and when he came in to get her we were all waiting to let him know all about the prank.
M returned to the store that night to pay for the book, and hasn’t trusted my friend since. I have been watching my back, wary of retribution since that day. I know it’s only a matter of time.
— Donal O.
4. This was a prank that got out of hand over the course of a few days. The e-mail updates that I sent to friends and coworkers set up the story best.
(E-mail, Day 1) At work, Mike gets a monthly delivery of three very fine bottles of wine from his wine taster’s club. This month’s box showed up today, and Mike is not here. I sliced open the bottom of the delivery box, removed one bottle, and put it in a safe place. I went to a local liquor store and picked up a $2.99 bottle of Boone’s Farm. That cheap, nasty swill fit perfectly in Mike’s delivery box, so I all I needed to do was re-tape the box. The box is now sitting in Mike’s office, waiting for the wine connoisseur to open up his nice surprise. Cheers!
(E-mail, Day 2) The box sat unopened all day right next to Mike in his office. Mike had no idea that he just spent the day next to a bottle of Boone’s Farm flavored wine product. Mike just now walked out the door heading for home with the unopened box tucked carefully under his arm. When he opens the box at home, I hope that he draws the connection that there are jokey jokemakers at his workplace. Otherwise, he might call the wine connoisseur club asking for an explanation.
(E-mail, Day 3) Mike had been in his office all morning and had not said a word about the wine. I was trying to figure out whether he was “icing” the joke by ignoring it. Around noon, a co-worker told me, “You better go by Mike’s office; Things have developed.”
I saw Mike standing in his office, yelling into his cell phone about wine shipments. His free hand was gesturing wildly. His face was beet red. Oops.
I quickly went and grabbed the original bottle of fine wine from my office, hid it behind my back, and waited outside of Mike’s doorway. When he was finished shouting on the phone, Mike came out of his office. I told him we had gotten him a birthday present, and then held out the wine bottle from the club. He looked at the bottle, looked at my face, looked at the bottle, looked at my face. His jaw about dropped to the floor. He said “ oh ”
Mike was a really good sport and said, “You guys really got me.”
Mike went on to tell us that he had yelled at the winery for having the nerve to send him a bottle of Boone’s Farm. They had assured him in an offended voice that they would never even possess such a bottle, but they apologized profusely. And, here’s the kicker: Mike told us that the winery had already shipped a new case of three bottles as compensation! And not only that, but the owner had conducted two full audits of the distribution center that morning!
Mike took a deep breath and called the wine club again. “You wouldn’t believe what the guys at work did ”
Fortunately, the wine taster’s club thought it was funny.
Last I heard, Mike has been saving his bottle of Boone’s Farm for a “special occasion.”
— Steve S., Boulder, Colo.
3. When I was in college, I found a decent paying opportunity to work on a campaign for a governor’s reelection, despite zero interest in our political system. A roommate of mine worked on the campaign, as well, and we both worked directly for a mutual friend our age who was significantly more responsible/mature then us — she had a high-level role as a finance director, and my friend and I reported directly to her.
After a year, we had moved to a much larger office to accommodate our growing campaign staff in the summer leading up to election day, and this came in the form of an architecture firm’s old corporate headquarters slightly off campus. By this time, everyone had pretty hectic travel schedules across the state with various fundraisers and campaign events, so it was pretty common for the only employees on site to be our group of college students. On a rainy day, we found that we could break into some abandoned store rooms of the architecture firm, where we began to find old drawings of buildings around campus, some pretty expensive drafting chairs (which I quickly traded out with the p.o.s. chair at my desk), along with all kinds of random tools and equipment. This immediately became our new smoking room — anytime the weather was bad, we could sneak back here for cigarettes instead of standing outside in the rain.
One day, we got a great idea to play a prank on our boss. We “invented” a homeless man that was living in these quarters, so we made sure to rearrange some blankets and trash to make it appear that someone was living in the storage area. We also thought it would be a nice touch to make it appear that this homeless person was delusional, and fixated on an upcoming act of violence against our boss. (It’s really important to remember that we played all sorts of dumb pranks on each other — it really is a sign of respect.)
Later that day, we invited our boss back for a smoke, and tried to act incredulous when she accused us of inventing this homeless person, as well as the drawings of the office building and her car on fire, and other phrases and quotes meant to make her panic. We quickly realized our poorly thought-out prank was terribly executed, so we gave up, and our boss gave us a quick lecture about how stupid we were and told us to clean it up before we went home. Since it was already close to 5 p.m. on a Friday, we took off and figured we’d clean everything up on Monday.
Sunday morning, I awake from a hangover around 7:30 in the morning to my phone ringing. Not recognizing the number, I answer it with a “Hello?” only to discover that it is the head director of the campaign, calling to ask me if I know anything about a set of drawings threatening the governor. Apparently, the capital police had found them the night before and were investigating the building to see if any continued threat existed. I told him what we had done, and why we had done it, and we scheduled a meeting to discuss this on Monday. I showed up for our meeting — he made me sit in a chair across from his desk with four to five other high ranking officials in the governor’s campaign and policy office. From there, he pulled each drawing (which looked like they were made by a 3-year-old) and each item with a threat, and kept asking “And this one? Did you draw this one?” and made me answer “Yes, that was me” to each of them.
Despite the embarrassment of confessing to my horrible drawing skills, I was relieved to find out that I was simply being put on “probation.” When others asked me what that meant, I didn’t have an answer, so I figured it was only fair to trade out my drafting chair for a preschool-sized desk chair that I found in the store room for the next couple of weeks.
— Derek B.
2. Back when I was in high school (five years ago now), I was staying at my then-deceased grandmother’s house for the summer with a friend. We had the same circle of friends through church and school connections and would have them all over just about every night that summer. Being very religious and church-going individuals back then somewhat limited the number/comedic level of pranks pulled but one stands out above all the others.
After a long day of work, I returned to the house to find the usual number of friends cars parked in the driveway. I went inside expecting to be welcomed by all my friends only to find all the lights in the house turned off. I walked into the kitchen to find my friend, Nash (one of our few friends who did not regularly attend church) sitting at the table. When I asked him where everyone was, he said “I don’t know, they were all here one second, and then they were just gone.”
Suspecting some sort of ill-conceived prank, I continued to ask him where everyone was, only to receive the same answer. Taking it upon myself to find everyone, I proceeded into the living room and discovered several pairs of clothes strewn about the floor. I recognized my roommate’s clothes, as well as girls clothes, other friends clothes, etc I continued to look around and noticed an open bible on the couch. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was opened up to a passage in Revelation (the last book of the Bible), that discussed the Rapture.
For those who do not know, the Rapture is the event Christians believe will occur upon the return of God and Jesus to earth, when all the “believers” will be taken up to heaven, and all “non-believers” will be left on earth as it’s being destroyed. The Bible also states that those who are “raptured” will be taken up into heaven as they were brought into the world, naked. Therefore, their clothes would be left behind and anyone left on earth after the event would be doomed to an eternity of pain and misery.
Normally, I would not have bought a prank similar to this, but again, being the deeply religious person I am, the Bible being open to that specific excerpt and my non-Christian friend being “left behind” was all I needed to achieve massive freak-out mode. My first step was to skim through the Bible to find some kind of loop-hole that would allow me into heaven. After 15 minutes of fruitless skimming, I ran outside and began looking around for hopefully some sign of anyone still being raptured. Luckily for my friends, none of our neighbors were home, so I couldn’t confirm anything with them. After running around the yard and up the street, I walked dejectedly back to the house, resigned to the fact that I was going to hell, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I sat down on the couch, curled up in a ball and began to cry. (I’m not sure why I didn’t think of calling my parents. The traumatized state I was in hindered rational thinking, I suppose.) After another solid half-hour of balling my eyes out, I began the denial stage and cursed God and everything about the Bible. While this was going on, I noticed a faint blue glow light up and disappear in the bathroom across from me. Getting up to inspect, I discovered all of my friends hiding in the bathroom, phones out, recording the entire nights events. Needless to say I was embarrassed, but that wasn’t even the worst part, my friends not only sent the audio to everyone at school, but everyone in my church as well, including the pastor. When I saw him at church after the event, he said “Perhaps if you were a more fervent believer these things wouldn’t happen.”
— Ben in Missouri
1. I never intended to play football — my first love was always soccer. My high school football team, however, had no field goal kicker, and after watching the team lose wildly spectacular fashion in the sectional playoffs because they didn’t have anybody to kick 30-yard chip shots, I figured that kicking a football couldn’t be that hard. I “tried out” the next year, had a moderately successful season, and managed to secure a small scholarship to play at a midwestern NAIA school.
During pre-camp, the team ate all our meals at one of the dining halls on campus. One night, about two days before the end of camp, I was eating dinner with a bunch of seniors. Our starting tight end (let’s call him Tiny), a very, very large individual who had apparently foregone playing in the Big Ten to goof around and kick the shit out of people in the NAIA, had just left the table to grab more food. The guys around the table started talking about Tiny’s father, who was apparently a piano virtuoso. They mentioned that at the first team chapel of the year, Tiny’s dad was apparently playing a piece he had written. Now, I thought this was a bit strange — you know, football and piano are sort of odd bedfellows — but who was I, a very skinny, glasses-wearing freshman to question any of this? The general consensus around the table before Tiny returned was that I should ask whether his father was, indeed, going to play the piano.
Tiny returns, I meekly ask if what the guys say is true and if his father is playing at chapel, when he interrupts me in mid-sentence by flipping his tray of food upside down, shattering about every glass on the table, and then attempting to flip the table over. I think, though I was scared I thought I’d crap my pants, that he said something along the lines of:
WHAT THE F**K IS YOUR PROBLEM MAN? WHY WOULD YOU EVEN ASK THAT QUESTION? ARE YOU SERIOUS? I OUGHTA KILL YOU, YA BITCH.
By the time Tiny was finished screaming and had marched up the stairs to the main level of the atrium (which overlooked the dining commons and led to the parking lots), the entire — and I mean entire — dining hall had gone completely silent. The girls soccer team, who also happened to eat in this particular dining hall were all staring at me darkly, looking at me like I possessed the plague. The coaches looked even more shocked, well, more pissed, really, and here I am standing with my food in my bare hands with the world’s most dumbfounded look on my face.
Come to find out, Tiny’s father had lost his hands in the world’s most horrific industrial accident about six months before camp started. And the guys at the table apparently thought it would be funny if the freshman kicker — of all people — were to ask Tiny about it. Alternating between wanting to cry (I figured he’d kill me in my sleep) and rage that these idiots had asked me to ask Tiny the question in the first place, I made the slow walk up the stairs to the atrium where I could still hear Tiny yelling. It was, quite simply, the longest walk of my life.
When I got to the top of the stairs, I made my way over to Tiny, who was looking out into the parking lot. As I started to squeak out an apology, I heard him start to laugh hysterically and saw him pointing behind me. The entire team had made their way upstairs to the atrium and everyone was pointing at me laughing. I had fallen victim to the yearly prank known as “piano hands.” Neat.
— Nick D.