Random Thoughts

My favorite practical jokes

... putting a little fun into life

by Ann Robbins Talbot



I was watching a real oldie – Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis. Mr. Babbitt is a middle-
aged real estate agent in small town America. He is devoted to his family, his job,
his town and his lodge, the Zebras. Every once in a while he has too much to drink,
usually with fellow Zebras.

One day, while he is having lunch at home, he receives a telegram from Maureen, a
woman he cannot recall. She is anxious to get in touch with him again. He sticks the
telegram in his pocket. The next day, at lunchtime, another telegram arrives.
Maureen is disappointed that he did not respond and she sounds a little threatening.
Again Babbitt just puts the telegram away.

The third day, when the doorbell rings, he runs to the door before anyone else in
the family. And again, a telegram is delivered. This time Maureen suggests that
instead of her coming to confront his wife, Babbitt should send his lawyer to meet
her lawyer at a certain place. He is getting very edgy, because he cannot remember
Maureen.

Babbitt meets his lawyer for a drink and arranges a meeting. As they are talking,
one of their lodge friends stops by the table and inquires about the great looking
woman at last month’s Zebra convention. Babbitt thinks perhaps that was Maureen and
he had had a few too many.  

Maureen’s lawyer arranges that Babbitt will meet with Maureen, but he is not to know
where she lives. So he is blindfolded. They drive to a hotel and the lawyer leads
him to a chair. Maureen confronts him and threatens to commit suicide. There is a
gun shot.

Babbitt rips off the blindfold and discovers he is sitting at his lodge meeting
where the Zebras are about to honor him as Grand Master. There never was a Maureen.

I never played too many practical jokes myself. In our college dorm, it was the
custom to unhinge the doors from bedrooms and hide them. We tried this on our
principal's office door once, and he did not think it was one bit funny. My sons got
into the TPing of people’s bedrooms. One Memorial Day weekend we arrived home from a
camping trip to see our house and yard festooned with toilet paper complete with a
giant bow around our chimney. This was supposed to be a great honor.

Once I did play a joke on my school faculty. My last year of teaching at Middle
School I was in charge of the Secret Santa project. Everyone who wished to
participate drew a name and played Santa for a week to that person, doing little
favors or leaving little gifts. The day before vacation we had a get-together and
each person received a gift as the Secret Santas were revealed. I decided to be my
own Secret Santa.

Each day, on my desk in the office area, a gift would appear – an ornament, cookies,
a collage which made people say “your Secret Santa really knows you” narrowing the
choice to someone on my team. A beautiful bouquet appeared near the end of the week
and everyone was dying of curiosity to see who had been so extravagant. Actually all
this stuff was coming from my house. At the ending party, I saved my gift to the
very end. Because I had been a bad girl, my gift was a bag of coal.

My favorite practical joke was played by a group of students at a Montana high
school. They let three goats loose in the school. But, before turning them loose,
they painted numbers on the sides of the goats – 1, 2, and 4. The school
administrators spent the whole day looking for goat number 3.


June 1, 2012


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