Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Remembering Childhood Pranks

I just finished chapter 2 of the Steve Jobs biography and as interesting as Steve Jobs is, I have to say, I find Steve Wozniak endlessly more interesting. And funny. I guess I just identify with Woz more; I laughed so much during this chapter, reading about some of their pranks.

I love pranks. I grew up in Alabama and didn't have any of the tech type skills that Jobs and Wozniak had, but I had the same penchant for pranks.

I remember that a friend and I figured out one time that you could call a flower shop and order flowers for one person and have the bill sent to another person's address. I find it hard to believe that it could work but I remember specifically picking a delivery address on my street and we were floored when the flower truck actually showed up!! We laughed ourselves silly because we knew that 1) the person receiving the flowers would have no idea why they were being delivered, 2) they wouldn't know the person they were from (most likely), and 3) the person getting billed would be so confused and pissed when the bill showed up. Hahahaha, that was fun. We did it a few more times but it got boring because we never really got to see, firsthand, the results.

Then there was the X-Lax gum incident, where a girl in our class dared my friend Lewis and I to replace the gum in a Chick-lets package with X-Lax gum. They looked exactly the same. We were dared so we had to go through with it (no 'man' could shy away from a real dare). We were so gleeful, meticulously opening the Chick-lets gum package, discovering that the X-Lax gum really did look exactly like the Chick-lets gum, and then replacing them and resealing the package.

Then we gave the devious pack of gum away on the bus, to a kid named Bailey. We offered it up and a few kids declined. We, of course, had real Chick-lets gum to help sell the idea that we had gum to give away. Bailey took the gum and Lewis and I hunkered down in our seat, laughing our asses off. We did it! We would peak our heads up every few minutes to see Bailey chewing, renewing our laughter fest. Then we looked up and he wasn't chewing anymore. That was unexpected. We asked him what he had done with the gum. We were still chewing our own, so we were afraid he had thrown it out. He answered "I swallowed it" and our jaws must have dropped. Oh my god! This was turning out even better than anticipated.

Well, Bailey wasn't on the bus the next morning. We thought that was funny. Not as funny as the day before, but funny. Then, close to lunch time at school, I got called out into the hallway where the principal was standing with Bailey's mother and all the other boys from the bus. My amusement turned to utter fear. I was in big trouble! Bailey didn't really know us so I guess he couldn't name us specifically as the culprits. The other boys were cool enough not to rat us out, so there we all were, standing in the hallway, getting lectured about the dangers of laxatives. Bailey had been shitting his brains out all night. He was going to be okay but what we did was very dangerous. I felt really bad but couldn't believe we had gotten away with it! My parents would have killed me if they had found out.

A couple of days later, on a Saturday morning, I pulled my bike out of the garage in order to ride to a friend's house. I noticed a bunch of older kids hanging out on their own bikes down by my mailbox. That was strange. The mailbox was on the left side of the driveway - the direction I needed to go in. Instinctively I turned right instead. Most of them followed, calling out to me in angry tones. Uh-oh. Luckily I had a ten speed, which was fast. Most of them were on dirt bikes. I liked speed too, so I was comfortable flying around corners on my bike. I took the long way to my friend Ron's house. A couple of the guys had gone another route to try and cut me off but I was going so fast I beat them to the cut-off corner. I flew into the driveway and back yard of Ron's house, my adrenaline pumping hard. I didn't know exactly why, but these older boys were out to give me a beating. From the safety of Ron's back yard I asked why they wanted to beat the snot out of me. They said I had tried to give the X-Lax gum to one of the guy's younger sister. I denied it, big time, but they were right. I had. I had to watch my back for a few months after that. I guess that was my first real lesson in tactical paranoia, hahaha, something the infantry would later teach me much more about.

There were so many other pranks. Relentless calls to radio stations requesting the dumbest songs, ring and runs, firecracker pranks, rotten eggs in mailboxes, flaming poo, etc... We tried to get our school bus to overturn once. That one took coordination but, surprisingly, the kids were game.

There was a particular turn on our bus route where the two adjoining streets were both going downhill. It felt, everyday, that the bus was really listing as we turned that corner, so we got all the kids to jump from the uphill side of the bus to the downhill side of the bus right as the bus reached its peak point of listing. It didn't work but to this day I can't believe we actually convinced a busload of kids to actually try this. The bus driver was pissed, obviously, but that was nothing new.

My friend James and I rigged my house with fishing wire a couple of times, putting taught lines of it from furniture to furniture, cabinets to cabinets, etc... in the dead of night so that when my parents or sister got up they would walk right into them unexpectedly.

My friend Steve and I got to go to a Commercial Art competition in high school along with another classmate, Jason. The three of us were put up in a hotel room in Ft. Worth, Texas. Jason stayed out later than Steve and I so we moved all the furniture around, turning the sofa on end and placing it just inside the door to the room. We put toothpaste on the bottom of the door handle so that when Jason showed up he would get toothpaste all over his hand. That really distracted him. We could hear him through the door, hahaha. "What the hell?" Then the door opens - it's so dark in hotel rooms when you've got the curtains closed and the lights off - and Jason walks right into the upturned sofa. Bam.

I almost got hospitalized from one of the firecracker pranks, or rather the repercussions of the particular prank. We thought it would be really funny to throw a string of lit firecrackers on top of a passing car, so we did. The car had a couple of older high school kids in it and it scared the hell out of them when the string of firecrackers started going off right over their heads. We laughed ourselves silly. About fifteen minutes later that same car came down the street again. We were so caught up in our own mischief, wanting to throw another string of firecrackers on top of the same car, that we didn't even think about them having any. The car goes by, I throw our string of firecrackers, and didn't notice the giant M80 the guy threw out the car window at me. By the time I did notice it, it was too late. It went off right by my side and tore me up pretty good. I had a slight burn scar on that side for a few years. It must not have been quite as close as I thought it was, because if it had been a couple of inches closer I'm sure it would have done some major damage.

My life eventually took me to New York City and Chicago, two cities that I love dearly. The more liberal mind set suits me. Looking back, though, I have to say, growing up in Alabama was a lot of fun and I treasure the experience and what the place had to offer.

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