review of the best practical joke ever played on me
May 27, 2007
I’m not really a practical joker. The closest I come is hiding in closets or behind shower curtains or under beds to try to scare my kids. That kind of backfires, though, because then they can’t sleep, and guess who takes the hit for that?
Neither have I been the target of a huge number of practical jokes. Oh, sure, Elden used to put macros on my computer in the old days, slowing down keystrokes, or making WordPerfect type a “g” whenever I pressed “h.” Hilarious.
But, I have been the victim of one particularly subtle and carefully executed joke. In fact, I didn’t find out it was a joke until years later, and even then, only inadvertently.
I’ll start at the beginning, and just tell the story. I’m guessing you all will be smarter than me, and you’ll know right away when the joke starts. I didn’t. The lesson, as always: I am an idiot.
Kim and I have been married for a month shy of 18 years. Before we got married, Kim had lived all over the country, and had graduated high school in Chicago. I, on the other hand, lived in the same house pretty much my whole life, in a suburb of Minneapolis. Kim was hip, cool, worldly. I was, well, not. Kim had followed the Grateful Dead a bit during some of her high school summers. I played a lot of basketball in my backyard.
The summer after Kim and I got married, the Grateful Dead were on tour, and were scheduled to play Las Vegas, and since I was such a schmuck, Kim insisted we road trip to Vegas to see them play. After all, it was inconceivable that the only concert I had attended to that point was the Styx, Paradise Theater tour, and the woman I was married to had seen, well, EVERYTHING. I needed educating.
So we piled into my 1980 Mazda RX 7, and headed south, planning on hanging out on the Vegas Strip until the wee hours, then parking in the desert and sleeping in the car, true Deadhead style.
Somewhere around Cedar City, 3 hours south of Salt Lake City, I was driving, and since Kim and I had been married less than a year, well, er . . .
Let’s just say, the mouse was out of the house for a bit. More exactly, the mouse was out of the house, for a bit, Kim went to sleep, and we arrived in St. George and stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank and get some Diet Coke and other sundries.
Kim kept sleeping, and I filled the tank, walked inside, filled my coke cup, bought my Twizzlers, paid for my stuff, and went outside. I decided to use the rest room since there’s not much between St. George and Las Vegas, so I went back inside. I stepped up to the urinal, went to unzip and free the mouse, and lo and behold, THE MOUSE WAS ALREADY LOOSE! That is, apparently I’d been driving for an hour, and then walking around a crowded gas station buying coke and treats, with my junk aired out. No wonder the clerk behind the counter gave me the stink eye.
I told Kim about my gaffe back in the car, we had a good laugh, and drove away. And that, as they say, was that.
Flash forward about 5 years. I am now working at Novell, in Provo, UT, in the technical documentation group, as a writer. My boss, Susan Salgy, heads up a team of about 10 writers and editors, a mixed bag of loose screws and uptight tools.
We meet every week for an hour or so to go over projects, deadlines, workloads, movies, and restaurants. During the big meeting, Rebecca, I’m pretty sure that was her name, is telling a story about the time she was in St. George for Spring Break with a bunch of her girlfriends, and there was some guy walking around a gas station/convenience store wearing ratty baggy shorts and a big tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt, with his junk hanging out.
Mark Talbot, privy to the story of my Las Vegas pilgrimage, immediately cries out “It was Doug!”
“Shut up!” I say tightly, kicking him under the table. Miraculously, he does.
Nobody seems to notice our exchange, and the meeting progresses apace and concludes without further incident.
But soon after, I decide the opportunity for comedy is too great to pass up, so Mark and I go to Rebecca’s office and I blurt out, “Rebecca, I’m sorry to say this, but I think I may have shown you my penis. I apologize.”
In retrospect, she was remarkably cool about the whole thing. “What, that was YOU?”
“Yes, yes it was. Well, probably.” So I tell her the story of my Las Vegas trip, and we decide that yes, the timeframe matches up, and I was almost certainly the junk dealer from her spring break in St. George. Crazy coincidence. And no big deal, really, except explaining to my peers why my junk might have been loose in the first place was a bit awkward. But other than that, no big deal. Funny story. Crazy coincidence.
Is the hallmark of a good practical joke that the chump involved never be let in on the joke? Maybe not, maybe that’s just one way to measure a good joke. Cuz other times, it’s the immediate reaction that’s funny, like with Candid Camera, or these jokes.
It would be another several years before Mark would accidentally let it slip that I was set up. Susan Salgy is a genius. And I will never tell her another embarrassing story again.
Wait, is this on the Internet? Damn it.