In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the time when a job applicant grabbed my tie and made a casual death threat. Several of you asked for the grisly details here in comments and also in private direct messages. I never knew you cared — apparently not enough to send money or gifts, but I will take what I can get.
Here goes. It all happened in a human resources office far, far away in another time . . .
With April 1st approaching, do you have any tips about or ideas for practical jokes at work?
— A Fan
Have you ever been afraid at work?
– Just Wondering
How do you keep yourself inspired to do a good job when everything at work is stressful or crazy or just plain boring?
– Burned Out
A year ago, I was the newest employee in my department. My new co-workers told me that every year the office had a costume competition for Halloween with great prizes for the winning group. They said they had decided on a “Walking Dead” theme and were all coming to work as zombies. I worked really hard on my costume and showed up on the big day as one of the living dead. Surprise surprise – no one else was in costume. They said it was an office tradition to haze the newest person on Halloween. I was embarrassed but laughed along and was looking forward to playing the same joke on this year’s newbie. Now I have been disappointed by the news that the department has decided not to play the joke this year. Should I take this personally?
Don’t be naive. Obviously, the only reason they are telling you that there is no joke this year is because they have decided that EVERYONE will wear a costume this year EXCEPT for you. Don’t be a gullible patsy two years in a row – haul out last year’s ready-to-go zombie costume and thwart your co-workers by showing up in it for your Halloween shift. It will teach them a lesson when you have the last laugh!
You are very welcome.
— Evil Skippy
I SURE HOPE THIS POST DOES NOT GIVE ANYONE IDEAS FOR AN OFFICE PRANK.
On the off chance ES has made you wonder if another practical joke is brewing, why don’t you just talk to your supervisor or co-workers in nearby departments and find out the real plan for Halloween at the office? No one will fault you for asking after last year.
As for the decision to end the “tradition” – there are a lot of reasons it may have ended that have nothing to do with you. For example, someone may have realized (finally) that the joke was too mean for the workplace (even though it sounds hysterical). Just because something is amusing does not mean we should do it at work. It’s called emotional maturity. Knowing the proper time and place for jokes is part of that maturity. On the other hand, perhaps they are skipping the prank because the newest employee this year does not seem as gullible as you were last year. Who knows?
Congratulations on being a good sport last year. Keep being a good sport by letting this drop.
Frequent readers of [email protected] know that I am a great fan of laughter. When something laugh-worthy happens at work, enjoy it – especially if you are the one being laughed at that day. (My colleagues once enjoyed weeks of good times reminiscing about the graceful way I managed to drop a box of documents in a busy intersection while on the way to court on a very windy day and had to retrieve said documents as buses and taxis were honking at me). If laughter does not spontaneously erupt, someone needs to generate the necessary humor once in a while if only for the sake of endorphins and other healthy chemicals. There are a few key requirements to avoid getting fired, however, so be sure to read (or re-read) Evil Skippy’s 10 Commandments of Workplace Pranks before proceeding.
For your reading pleasure and with absolutely no recommendation or encouragement that you follow my lead (and any future lawyers who try to argue otherwise and that I am somehow responsible for your shenanigans are showboating buffoons) – here are five stunts that I have pulled to get laughs at work:
- The Halloween Prank. Our supervisor – who we adored – tended to be overly perky. She was the person who ran every pep rally in high school. You know who I mean. A few weeks before Halloween, she suggested that we all dress up and then also have a party after work. We agreed – but then I talked everyone else into not wearing costumes on the morning of the appointed day. We brought our costumes and changed later in the day – but only after the boss worked all morning as a very wicked and very green witch. We pretended the whole time not to realize she was in a costume and when she asked about our costumes, we each said that we had forgotten to wear one “too”.
- The Wedding Prank. When I worked for the Seattle City Attorney’s office, my boss and her boss (the City Attorney) were getting married on the same day – to different people. When my boss was away for lunch the week before the big event, I had a good friend call and leave the following voice-mail message for her: “This is Melinda DuPont with the Seattle Times. We heard the wonderful news about your pending nuptials to the City Attorney. May we have a quote from you about any concerns you have about working for your future husband? We are running a story today and I need your comment by the 12:30 deadline if we are going to include it in the story. I hope you and your fiancé like the publicity!” Of course, I arranged it so my boss would not hear the message until after the deadline had passed. The payoff came when I heard my boss shriek, then saw her run to the City Attorney’s office and drag his executive assistant back to hear the message while muttering, “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”
- The No Bathroom Joke: When I worked for a famous California amusement park that does not involve mouse ears but is located less than ten miles from said Happiest Place on Earth, the one question I was asked more than any other was, “Where are the restrooms?” This was true even when I was stationed within plain sight of the restroom entrance. One hot summer day when everyone was a little cranky, yet another harried person asked me the usual question. I responded, “I am so sorry. Disney bought all the restrooms. You’ll need to head down Ball Road and stop when you see the Matterhorn.” (I got a reprimand for that one – but it was worth it.)
- The Restaurant Check Stunt. As a new attorney with a private law firm, I worked with another new attorney who was an expert at getting the rest of us to pay for his lunch. His litany included the “Forgotten Wallet” Dilemma, the “I Need To Get Back For A Meeting” Emergency (employed just before the check arrived) and the ever-popular “Can Someone Cover Me Until Payday?” Ruse. One afternoon, we went to a restaurant where I knew the manager quite well. (He was more excited about our evil plan than we were). We enjoyed a great lunch, all five of us, and then four of us snuck out before the freeloader could sneak out first. (I made sure in advance that my buddy did not have his wallet – never mind how). The manager dropped off the check, listened to my colleague’s excuses and then made him do dishes.
- The Dying Client Scam. While in college, I worked at an office where one of the managers often snuck her tiny Yorkshire Terrier (named Toto, of course) to work with her. The big bosses never figured it out and, truth be told, it was fun hiding the dog. One day, a client visited the office, had a fainting spell and was taken away by paramedics. I called to check up on her and found out that she had gone home with a clean bill of health after being examined at the emergency room. (This was long before HIPAA. Today, I would be lucky to be told by the hospital that a person of the same name might possibly exist.) I then told Toto’s owner that the woman had suffered a severe reaction due to a dog allergy and the big bosses were trying to find out how there could have been dog hair in the office so they could answer her attorneys’ questions.
Now it’s time for you all to confess – tell me about your best stunts and pranks at work.
When I was at a job interview this week, the interviewer asked, “What is your favorite movie?” I thought it was a stupid question (but I did not let the interviewer know that I thought so). I just said “Gone With the Wind” because I thought it was a safe bet. Now I’m wondering, what do you think the worst answers to this interview question would be?
Easy. The worst answer would be, “That’s a stupid question, you moron.”
— Evil Skippy
The ten runners up are:
- “Anything with Adolph Hitler in it. He’s hot.”
- “The movie about my neighbor. I recorded it myself.”
- “Deep Throat.”
- “My favorite is the one they show when the plane takes off. I guess I just have a thing for flight attendants and restraining devices.”
- “Why? Are you asking me out?”
- “The one of my wife giving birth to our son. I have it on my phone – want to see it right now?”
- “The Diary of Anne Frank, because I’m a belieber too!”
- “Any snuff film. They’re all good.”
- “I prefer movies about real people, so it’s Twilight.”
- “Horrible Bosses. Who wouldn’t want to murder the boss?”
- Hum. Constantly.
- If you think it, go ahead and say it.
- Be ready at any time to provide complete and specific details about your last surgery/root canal/colonoscopy.
- Eat more fish. Microwave it in the lunchroom.
- At the end of meetings when the leader asks if there are any final questions, have two or three long ones ready. Ask follow-ups.
- Reply “That’s what YOU say!” whenever someone wishes you a good morning.
- Stop bathing or wear a lot of cologne. Or both.
- If you notice a co-worker managing to sneak out a little early, shout “Leaving already, Bob? Bye!” (If your co-worker’s name is not Bob, improvise. You can do it.)
- Clip your nails while sitting at your desk – your toe nails.
- Always pause for three full seconds before the last word when you say “You like nice today.”
I wrote to you several weeks ago and never saw a response. What’s taking so long? Why haven’t you used my letter?
Because I hate you and your mother dresses you funny.
We did not answer your letter because you just asked which presidential candidate we support. We only answer questions that have something to do with the workplace and are at least mildly interesting. It’s a low bar, but you missed it.
— Evil Skippy
Please excuse ES – he is in a hurry to start his “real” Friday. Besides, we don’t know you or how your mother dresses you or even if she is involved.
To help ease your pain, here is an ES Classic from 2010:
We all have a goof-up or two in our work histories. Some are minor affairs and some turn into big-darn deals.
Speaking of big-darn deals, you have probably heard the saga about how an Apple engineer left the new iPhone prototype in the bar area of a Redwood City, California restaurant. That is a bad career day. My schadenfreude tendency kicked in when I heard about the poor guy. Don’t judge me. There are times when we all take pleasure at someone else’s misfortune — it’s not just Evil Skippy. There is even a hit musical number about it.
My smugness (thinking that I would never have lost the prototype) lasted about three seconds before Evil Skippy started reminding me about my long list of workplace faux pas. OK, most of us have workplace horror stories where we play the lead role in our own embarrassing movie. Evil Skippy is correct when he points out that I have a long list of such tales. The top two both took place when I was working as a waiter during college.
Picture this: I was 20 years old, relatively innocent (except for the part about getting the job when I was supposed to already be 21) and easily mortified. It was a hot August day in Southern California and I was working the brunch shift. Everyone was dying for one of the restaurant’s famous frozen strawberry Margaritas that afternoon, so I was not surprised when a rowdy party of six all ordered one. The restaurant served them in goblets that could also have served as homes for baby killer whales. Those things were huge and they were heavy. Did I mention that I was also a weakling? I leaned over the table to serve the first of the six drinks, my arm quivering from the strain of balancing so many drinks on a single slippery tray. I sensed movement as one of the goblets wobbled briefly before sliding off the tray and on to the back of the woman sitting at the head of the table. She was wearing a bright pink tube top. (It was the 1970s after all). The woman was, how shall I say it, “well endowed”.
Like the drinks, I froze. One by one, all five drinks left on the tray slid off and on to the woman in her flimsy tube top. I know it was flimsy because as she jumped up from the shock of the frozen drink oozing its way down her shoulders and back, she also shook herself from side to side. Two shakes and the tube top was history. Still, she kept on a shakin’ and a screamin’ and her now-bare breasts flung strawberry Margarita on everyone within a six foot radius. I draped a cloth napkin over the nearest breast and then ran off to get another napkin or two because it was not a one-napkin job.
The really bad thing is that this was just the second-worst thing I ever did at work. Once the statute of limitations expires, I might tell that other story.
Since misery loves company, what was your worst moment on the job?