Do you like practical jokes? Me too. Sort of. In theory they are great and can be a lot of fun. In practice you really run the risk of hurting someone, physically or mentally. I’m not a big practical joker, I verbally make fun of people instead. That being said, on one memorable occasion a coworker and I decided to set up a prank and it went off without a hitch and still makes me smile, ten years later.
Peaches and I worked together in a group home. We usually had six teens living there at a time. We were an emergency home, meaning that we could take last minute admissions and deal with some of the crazier teen behaviours out there. Because an admission could come at any time and because we were also back up to other houses in our agency, we had two people on overnights. Peaches was the resident, meaning that she slept at the home, and there was an awake overnight staff – the awake. A big part of the awake’s job was to get things ready for the next day and help maintain the house. They’d have to clean, do some paperwork, get lunches ready for school, stay up with kids who weren’t sleeping. We’d often leave a to do list for the awake because there was almost always a lot to do and we really needed the stuff to get done.
One evening as we were getting the list ready, Peaches and I realized that there was not a tonne to do and began throwing around ideas for really stupid shit that we could ask the awake to do. Now, here, you’ll need a little bit of background. I love party mix. Peaches also likes it, but not all of it. She likes the pretzels and spends all the time we snacked on it, picking the pretzels out. Peaches would add party mix to our grocery order so that she and I could snack at night. So, while snacking and trying to get at just the pretzels, we decided to ask the overnight to take all the pretzels out of a bag of party mix. After we stopped laughing about how stupid that would be, we spent some time trying to figure out how we could possibly get him to do it.
Here’s what I came up with. We had a new admission in that the overnight had not met yet. The story was that this kid had a very, very mild peanut allergy (this a full on fabrication). Nothing life threatening, more like a cat allergy. I explained to Peaches that we should tell the awake that the party mix is peanut free, mostly, but that the pretzels, because of how they are made, have small traces of peanut oil (so much bullshit). Because of this trace amount of peanut oil we were going to need him to remove the pretzels from the party mix so that our new kid would be able to have some tomorrow during movie night. We ran the story by a staff member from another house, who’d stopped by for a smoke (kids were already in bed). She nearly peed laughing and told us it’d never work. I was inclined to agree with her and even though I’d come up with the reason for the pretzel separation, I couldn’t keep a straight face to save my life. Peaches thought we should try it. I agreed but only if she be the one to deliver the message to the awake. While we were still giggling to ourselves, the visiting staff called another staff who’s shift was ending and told them to come over to watch. I couldn’t stop giggling, even at the prospect of trying to get away with this.
So, the awake arrived. I could barely look at him. Peaches greeted him and started filling him on the shift that we’d just finished. As she kept talking I was able to compose myself and join them in the office. Peaches was delivering the shift change and the other two staff were seated off to one side. The were silent and leaning forward in their seats as if they were watching playoff hockey. I don’t even think they were breathing, waiting for the to do list. I paced. I looked at files and avoided eye contact with the overnight. And then Peaches started to explained the party mix problem. Peaches did it with a straight face, barely. She told me later that I, standing behind the overnight, nearly made her lose it because I couldn’t keep a straight face.
He took notes. I swear to god he took notes. When we got to the part about how we couldn’t take any chances with a peanut allergy, he nodded earnestly. In fact, earnest is exactly how I would have described the awake, even if we hadn’t tried this on him. To his credit, he did briefly look a little confused and a little incredulous, briefly. I did manage to join in to the conversation a bit without losing my mind. Peaches and I sold it. We really did. He took his notes and agreed to take the pretzels out of the party mix. I nearly lost it again, as I was coming in from a smoke, because he showed me a large bowl and asked me if I thought it’d be ok to put the pretzels in.
Two things absolutely make this story for me.
1. Peaches told me that she woke up in the middle of the night. Her room shared a wall with the office. In the dark she could her the snack bag crinkle and then a ‘tink’ sound as the awake dropped a pretzel into the bowl. She told me that occasionally she heard a crunch crunch crunch as he ate one.
2. Peaches showed me the bowl of pretzels and a large ziplock bag of pretzel-less party mix that the awake had labelled “Joe’s Party Mix”.
Yes, it was kind of mean-ish. I’d fucking hate if I was the guy who fell for it, but I’m really glad he did. I’m proud and not proud of it. I do see the mean of it but I also see the funny and I know that Peaches and I were never mean, so that makes it ok, right?