I’m in the middle of a prank war with one of the campus police officers at work. It all started innocently enough a few weeks back. As I walked into my office one day, I noticed that my “Words of Wisdom” jar had been turned upside down. A little while later, Andrew, one of the police officers, walked by and flashed me an impish grin, and I immediately knew who the culprit was.
The next week, as I opened the door to my office in the morning, I noticed a water bottle on the desk. “That’s weird,” I thought. A moment later, I noticed Andrew sitting in the corner of my office and nearly jumped out of my skin. He later told me he had originally been planning to stand up and say something, but he thought that would be too much. (I don’t know if worker’s comp covers heart attacks, so I’m glad that he thought better of that.)
Soon after, I couldn’t walk into my office because a giant sandwich board was on the other side of the door, blocking it. I’ve also encountered a chair in the same situation once or twice, which means I have to awkwardly move the door back and forth to dislodge it just enough to sneak an arm around the door.
Andrew’s next attack was a bit more in-depth. Before I describe it, though, some context is necessary. I’m a sticky note kind of person. If it doesn’t get written down, chances are it ain’t gonna happen. As a result, I generally have anywhere from 3-8 sticky notes on my desk at any given time, and that’s not even counting the motivational quotes and items I have for quick access taped just below my computer screen. One morning, I walked into my office one morning and found sticky notes all over both my computer screens.
None of these attacks have fazed me. On the contrary, I enjoy them and I’m pretty sure I’ve laughed out loud at every single one of them. But sometimes, a girl’s gotta strike back. Now, this is a bit tricky because Andrew has two very crucial advantages over me: as a police officer, he has a key to my office door. And second, he shares an office with all the police officers, so I can’t really attack his office space.
These two components eventually lead to me walking down to the parking deck last week in the summer sun with a full deck and a half of sticky notes in my hand. For the next ten minutes, I gleefully stuck them all over his car windows. As I walked back to my office, I laughed at my ingenuity. Little did I know that the joke was on me. Later that afternoon after I came back from my lunch break, Andrew had put the sticky notes all over one of the walls in my office. Every. Last. One.
“Well, shoot!” I thought. “I’ve been outmaneuvered – again!” So I did the only logical thing I could do: I called up an expert that very night. “Dan?” I said to my brother after he picked up the phone. “I know we haven’t talked in a few weeks, but I need help.” For the next 25 minutes, my brother listed prank after prank after prank. Some of them were too in depth, some weren’t feasible with the conditions at work, and some were just way too much. The pranks involved dead cockroaches, saran wrap, wrenches, freezing nuts and bolts, social media, anonymous notes, Craigs List, water, and so much more. Finally, he shared one that I thought was doable. Before we hung up, I had to ask. “How did you come up with all of these off the top of your head?” Knowing my brother, I should have expected his response. “Oh, it was easy. I’ve done all of them before.” I thought back to the prank he described to me involving the parts of a doll, a dead cockroach, and notes signed raZ (with the Z in size 72 font), and I made the wise decision not to ask any more questions. (Plausible deniability is a real thing, or so I’m told.)
A few days later, I created a flyer. In big, bold letters at the top, it said, “PUBLIC MASTICATOR” and underneath was a picture of Andrew that I had found from his wedding website. Below that was my favorite part: “If seen, please call Campus Police immediately.” Now, to masticate means to chew or grind to a pulp. Thus, a public masticator is one who chews in public…or in other words, any of us. But for those of us who don’t know what a masticator is, well, it just sounds like a really bad thing.
Dan’s suggestion had been to put a hashtag on the flyers and post them all around campus so that students would actually start calling Campus Police. That was a little too intense for me, so I just posted a few of them on his car and again, laughed my way back to my office as I patted myself on the back for a job well done. Another police officer had warned me that Andrew was planning something similar for me, so in anticipation, I posted a few of the Public Masticator signs in my office before I left for the night.
The next morning, I entered the main office with a little bit of nervousness and a good bit of anticipation. Andrew was there, talking with our office assistant, ready to see my reaction. Without saying a word, I just shook my head at him as I walked in. Taped to the outside of my door were two pictures of Josh Groban, and I burst out laughing. Andrew had suddenly materialized behind me. “That’s only the prelude,” he warned me. As I opened my office door, I found pictures of Josh Groban everywhere. Andrew had cleverly taped some pictures of Josh over the pictures of himself on the Public Masticator signs. There was a picture of Josh hiding under my keyboard, and there were three different pictures around the room of Josh with another woman, who conveniently had my head taped over hers. As I kept laughing, I saluted him for a job well done.
These pranks have no deeper purpose than to get a good laugh, but each time one has happened, it’s brightened my day immensely. As I was thinking about it the other day, I realized this is for two similar reasons. The first is that I grew up with five older brothers, where teasing was synonymous with “I love you.” I was never bothered when one of the boys said something silly to me because I knew that if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t bother. It’s a comfortable feeling to get to that level with someone outside of your family.
The second reason relates to connectedness. I’m in the middle of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly right now, which is about shame and vulnerability. Before she gets into her research on vulnerability, she first defines what she calls Wholehearted living. She writes, “We’re hard-wired for connection – it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The absence of love, belonging, and connection always leads to suffering.”
As human beings, we crave connections with others. In elementary school, connection looks like playing with other kids on the playground or eating lunch with your friends. As we grow older, the ways in which we connect evolve and multiply. We might connect with others through volleyball, through a book club, through meaningful conversations at work, on long walks with friends, and so on. In this instance, Andrew and I are connecting with each other and creating a sense of belonging based on laughter, childish glee, and playing tricks on each other.
Are Andrew and I best friends, and would I suddenly trust him with my deepest secrets? Of course not. There are different levels of connection and various types of friendship, and very few make it to that highest level of friendship. In fact, Aristotle says that in our entire lifetime, we’ll be lucky if we have even a few of what he calls “perfect friendships.” But connections exist in a number of different ways and serve varied purposes. Ultimately, our lives are richer for those connections, as they create the beautiful tapestries of our lives.
Now that I’ve got this connection solidified, it’s time for my next prank. It might be time for another phone call to my brother…