Some years ago, when I was new in town, I had a project to do at home. But it wasn’t a one-person job. So I ordered pizza, invited some friends over and asked a few of them to help me in a back room of the house. The rest of the gang stayed in the living room to watch television. At least that’s what they told me they were doing. Only later did I discover the truth.
My friends knew I kept a tidy place, so they decided to have some fun at my expense. While my back was turned, they did some rearranging. They swapped some of the dust jackets on my books. They put DVDs in different cases. They emptied the salt into the pepper shaker and vice versa. They hid objects in the microwave, the toaster oven and the freezer. They exchanged entire kitchen drawers.
This was the day when I first realized there is not much to do in Searcy.
As a neatness fanatic, I spent the rest of the evening setting things right. I was so thrown by the prank, that I took way too long to restore order. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say that, when I discovered the kitchen drawer switch, I spent half an hour carefully emptying the contents of each drawer so I could transfer them to the proper spot. It never occurred to me simply to take the whole drawer with the flatware out and swap it for the whole drawer with the dish towels.
Ultimately, it was the prank that kept on giving, since I found the last mis-cased DVD almost exactly six months later.
If things ever get dull at a dinner party, just bring up the subject of pranks. Everyone has a story or two, and they tend to be good ones. My father once TP’d my bedroom — while I was asleep in it. I woke up the next morning, and the whole room was covered in Charmin. It was dangling from the light fixtures, hanging across the windows and draped over every piece of furniture. I could not get out of bed without breaking a strand. I thought it was hilarious, but my mother made dad bag up the toilet paper and use it. It took him three months to finish the bag.
One of my friends was once out of town for a couple of days. When he returned, it was late at night, and he wanted to take a shower before bed. Imagine his surprise to turn on the lights in the bathroom and find a half dozen live lobsters in the tub.
When I was a kid, I loved the practical jokes you could get at the magic shop: whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, fake vomit, peanut brittle cans full of spring snakes. Of course, all of these gags had been around since the 1940s, so I seldom scored with any of them. In fact, I once got in trouble for wasting two slices of bread after I left a fake sandwich on the kitchen table, hoping someone would bite into it and discover the piece of rubber peanut butter I had slipped inside.
After telling some stories of pranks on campus in recent issues of “The Bison,” I heard a few more from alumni. One told me that song books were routinely swiped and hidden. Some time ago, when Vice President Dan Quayle came to Harding as an American Studies Institute speaker, the Secret Service had to inspect every inch of the Benson Auditorium. During the process, they came to Public Safety and asked, “Did you know there are stacks of songbooks above the ceiling tiles in the ladies’ restroom?” Harding had been looking for those particular books for years.
When Dr. Clifton Ganus was president, he made announcements in chapel each day, and he always picked up the heavy podium and carried it off center stage at the end of the program. Until one day when he went to lift it and could not. It had been bolted to the floor.
The school used to keep goldfish in the Lily Pond. That is, until someone put in a live catfish, who promptly ate his colleagues. The fountain in front of the Benson has been filled with red dye, pink bubble bath and other assorted colorants. No doubt the deans will love me for telling you this.
My mother and I have an ongoing joke. Years ago, she bought this tacky ceramic figurine of a little girl dressed in a flower suit and playing the violin. We keep taking turns hiding it where the other will eventually find it. It’s in my possession at the moment. Stay tuned, mom.
There’s not much to do where she lives, either.