Monday, September 15, 2008

Office Prank Stories: The Banana Boot

Gizmodo has a call for prank stories, which jogged my memory about some of the workplace pranks that I was a party to.

I'm no Peter Van Der Linden, but I've played a good joke or two in my time. Below are a few of my favorites that I can think of off the top of my head.

Back when I was a teen I used to work at a sewage treatment plant with a bunch of other like aged youths. One of them was Matt. Matt had the type of personality that just begged to be pranked. Matt had an almost comical ability to mess up even the most trivial task. I've never met another person who was more deprived of common sense as Matt. If you didn't spell out exactly how to do a job Matt would, almost geniusly, find a way to screw it up.

Take for example the time Matt was tasked with painting the inside of a small building. On the plant there were a ton of small 10' x 10'ish brick buildings. From time to time, we'd paint the inside of the buildings. 

For the rest of the crew, and I would hope everyone else, if you're given a bucket of yellow paint and told to paint the inside of a building and there are yellow walls, you would paint the yellow walls.

Matt, interpreted the instructions a little differently. Matt would paint the walls. He would also paint the light switches, the doors, the lights, the electrical outlets, and the windows. I don't get it. At what point of painting the inside of this building do any of these items before, I don't know, asking someone if they want it painted seem like a good idea?

It wasn't just on the job site that Matt could mess up. On his way to paint a fence, Matt thought it would be a good idea to swing his paint bucket like a lunch pail. About every ten or fifteen feet on the walkway was a pancake sized splash of white paint. Again, at what point does one think to himself that swinging a bucket full of paint is a good idea or at what point does one not notice the sound of splattering paint as he walks?

Little snafus weren't the only thing that Matt was good at. The one time that he was allowed to operate the bobcat to load sand was the first, and hopefully last and only, time that someone at the plant managed to drive the bobcat on top of the 8 foot high pile of sand. Let me explain this a little bit. To load a skid loader with sand, one needs to pitch the front bucket down and move the loader forward.

If the bucket isn't pitched down enough the whole loader will start to climb the pile. The correct thing for the operator to do is to back up, adjust the pitch of the bucket, and try again. Having the machine climb is not a subtle experience. I had it happen to me the first time I used it, and it got my attention. The only thing that happened for me was the front wheels moved up the slope about six inches, I stopped and tried again until I got it right.

Matt had a different learning experience, he didn't stop going when the bobcat started to lurch back at an uncomfortable angle. He gunned it and drove the bobcat full bore until it was teetering dangerously at the apex of the sand pile.  

At this point Matt had to be rescued carefully by everyone else. He really was a danger to himself operating heavy machinery.

At this point you may be feeling some sympathy for Matt. After all, he's probably got something wrong with him. Maybe there was. There had to be. 

Why would we play a prank on poor Matt? Well, Matt used to play pranks on everyone else with wet willies and novelty hot and sour candies, so we regularly returned the favor. The Banana Boot was the prank that really got Matt worked up the most. 

Matt used to leave his work boots in the locker room overnight. They were easy to spot. They were the only boots that were so worn at the ankles that they flopped over on their sides. I don't know how one would wear out boots like that. I would venture to guess that Matt must have worn them without tying his shoe laces. 

Either that, or the fact that he never really walked, it was more of a shuffle. Matt would have a hard time sneaking up on someone because the sound of his boots scraping on pavement was a sure giveaway. 

One night, after Matt had left and left his boots in the locker room, one of the guys left an unpeeled banana in the toe of one of Matt's boots.

I was not part of this and it was probably a good thing because, as oblivious as he might have been, my uncontrolled hysterical laughter would be a sure tipoff to him that something was up.

Instead we were all treated to watching Matt go through his morning ritual of putting his work boots on. Since I was not privy to the joke, I wasn't able to enjoy the exact look on Matt's face when he put on his banana'd boot. 

I did get to see him shuffle faster than I'd ever seen him chasing the guy who did put a banana in his boot.

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