I’m a bit of a practical jokester when the opportunity presents itself; like the time I bungy-corded the kids’ bedrooms door shut very early one Christmas morning. To my knowledge no property damage was ever done, no fatalities or major injuries suffered. But I’m sure I have annoyed a few people along the way, not that they necessarily ever connected me to their state of annoyance.
A case in point …
Nick is a really nice guy, but was known at the time to be a bit full of himself. He was a fellow team leader in a large federal procurement office that will remain nameless. He also had a habit – for some reason – of taking his shoes off in the afternoon as he sat at his desk. No cubicles back then, which is important to the story.
Anywho … I had the mischievous and compulsive thought one day to grab one of his shoes as I walked past his desk and he was distracted on the phone. That only one person, Pete Z, saw me do it in an office crowded with desks lined almost end-to-end was amazing. He smiled but never said anything.
My misdemeanor theft went unnoticed for twenty minutes as we sat waiting for something to happen. So I decided – in a flash of non-brilliance it would turn out – to turn up the heat a bit.
I looked up the name of the Commanding General’s Aide-de-Camp, then called the secretary of the Division Director imitating said Lieutenant stating that Mr. Nick L would be receiving a commendation personally from General WhoseIts for Something or Other in approximately 15 minutes.
There was of course an immediate flurry of activity as the secretary called about the various offices looking for said Division Director who was elsewhere in the building. In the meantime, said secretary went over to Nick L to relay to him the good news of his impending commendation; at which point Nick quickly reached down to replace his shoes upon his feet.
Ruh roh …
At that very moment as Pete and I stifled our schoolyard giggles, the Division Director came marching urgently back to the office to don his suitcoat and prepare for the visit by The General. I started to get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. In the meantime, said secretary and Nick had started frantically searching the area around Nick’s desk trying to find his other shoe. The image of Nick standing there either in his socks or with one shoe on and one shoe off was causing me and Pete fits of muffled laughter.
Nick had figured by now that his missing shoe was no accident. But he hadn’t put missing shoe plus out-of-the-blue General visit together. He was way too busy scurrying from one suspect’s desk to another trying to discover the shoe bandit before he ended up standing next to an Air Force General who would be wondering why this idiot was standing next to him with one-or-none shoes on!
For some reason, I was not high on the suspect list. But Pete was. And as the search intensified – now with the Division Director involved and a bit incredulous over this turn of affairs – I glanced over to see Pete head down as if working studiously on a compelling procurement dilemma, glancing sideways at me with this deer-in-the-headlights look on his face. It was obvious that he was uncertain that he would be able to keep a straight face when they got to his desk and shined the glaring Light of Suspicion upon him!
Ruh roh …
That’s when I bolted from my desk in a controlled panic, deftly hiding the purloined shoe behind a file folder (i.e. what we used before computer files) as I quickly – but as inconspicuously as possible – retreated in the opposite direction from the Shoe Hounds. Pete looked like he was going to throw up; but I had to figure out how to end this before someone – namely me – got hurt.
So circling around the office to get behind the line of the suspect sweep, I grabbed an interoffice envelope (i.e. what we used before the creation of e-mail) and stuffed the missing footwear inside and tied down the flap with the red stringy thing. Then I calmly and stealthily snuck into the Division Director’s office – which was just a big cubicle – and placed the shoe-stuffed envelope on his desk.
As I strolled back to my desk through the phalanx of InterOfficePolice, I buried my head in the file folder as if I was working on a compelling procurement dilemma. The Office Gumshoes were just a few desks away from the profusely sweating Pete Z when I placed a call to the secretary’s phone, telling her in my best disguised guilty-as-hell voice, “The shoe is on Mr. Director’s desk.”
After fifteen minutes of standing around waiting for a General that wasn’t about to appear, Mr. Division Director leaned over to an exasperated Nick and said, “I think someone was playing us.”
They say the Most Successful Prank or Swindle is the one where The Victim(s) never connect the perpetrator with the crime. If that’s the case, then this was indeed my Greatest Caper! But I’m convinced I haven’t tried it again simply because it went to the brink a lot faster than I would have anticipated had I bothered to think before I had swiped that shoe.
I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere.