Successful pranks are heard about. Unsuccessful ones are buried in the sands of time. Here is one from more than a half-century ago.
I entered Dave and Larry’s dorm room and saw Dave was alone, reading from a book of plays into a tape recorder. (Remember, I said over fifty years ago). He and Larry were both trying out for the annual school play and were recording their voices so that they could tune up their auditions.
I asked Dave if he knew a mutual acquaintance’s phone number. He stopped the recorder.
“No, I don’t, but Larry might,” Dave said. He started thumbing through Larry’s little black book.
“Hey, here is an interesting entry, ‘Diane – met on the bus from Bakersfield’. Hmmm. I don’t remember Larry every mentioning anyone named Diane.”
“Me neither,” I said.
And so, the germ of the prank was planted.
Dave was in his dorm room alone and reading from a book of plays into a tape recorder. The phone rang. Without turning off the recorder, Dave answered.
“Hello. No Larry is not here right now. Can I take a message?”
A moment of silence, then . . .
“Tell him that Diane, the girl he met on the bus from Bakersfield called and that it is urgent that he call back as soon as he can. Right, got it.”
“You sound upset. What’s the matter?”
A longer moment of silence.
“Oh, my gosh! That’s horrible. You need help right away. No, I don’t know when Larry will be back. But, I can help. Tell me where you are, and I will get there as soon as I can.”
After a few more moments, Dave hangs up the phone, and dashes out of the room, still leaving the recorder running.
Then another friend and I walk by the open doorway.
“I never saw Dave move so fast,” I said. “And look, he even left the recorder on. I enter the room, rewind the tape, and turn the recorder off.
Several hours later, Larry returns and turns in for the night. At around 3 AM, Dave, reeking of liquor, slams open the door, turns on the light, mumbles something incoherent, staggers across the room and falls into Larry’s bed on top of him.
“Dave, what are you doing?” Larry exclaims. “Turn off the light and get in your own bed!”
Dave stands, mumbled something more, clomps over to his own bed, falls into it, and apparently passes out.
Larry calls out for Dave to turn off the light, but gets no answer. Grumbling, the roommate turns it off himself and gets back to sleep.
So now, the bait has been set.
In the morning, Larry will confront Dave about what happened to him the previous night. He was such a mild manner guy, after all. The behavior was totally out of character.
Dave would deny everything.
Then some time later, when Larry was doing his play practice, he would turn on the recorder and hear about the phone call.
He would confront Dave a second time, but Dave would stick to his story. He had never stayed up pass midnight, and that was only when he was cramming for an exam the next morning.
Larry would then call Diane, but of course, she would deny everything as well. She never placed a call at all.
And then . . .
Well, that was enough preparation. What happened next would just naturally evolve from Larry’s reactions.
So, the next morning, Larry went off to breakfast while Dave apparently was sleeping in. Dave waited in the room for Larry’s return so that things could get rolling.
But Larry did not return. Evidently, after breakfast he went directly to his next class.
A day passed, and then another.
Finally, Dave (and I) could stand it no longer.
“Say, Larry,” Dave said. “Are you still using the recorder in preparation for the auditions?”
“Yes, I am,” Larry said. “And oh, about that. When I turned it on. I heard some of yours but rather than moving down the tape, I just started recording over it. Sorry.”
And that was the end of that.
Well, even so, an evening of prank planning was still better than doing homework.
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