About a year ago, in keeping with tradition, my team at work decided it was time to play a prank on our intern. We’ll call him Kenny. Hi, Kenny!
Let me first describe the setting: a 6 ft. x 8 ft. room, with one table seating 4 people and another small table in the corner seating just me. At the main table, we have Mackenzie, Dustin, Brett and Kenny. My table is positioned to where I can see Kenny’s computer screen, but he can’t see mine or anything I’m doing.
Mackenzie came up with the prank idea: we would take control of Kenny’s computer by inserting the USB signal-thingy from Mackenzie’s wireless mouse into Kenny’s computer. Since he couldn’t see me, I would control the cursor using the wireless mouse at my desk. He normally used his computer keypad mouse, by the way. Our use of the wireless mouse disabled his ability to use the keypad mouse. We didn’t expect it to last more than an hour or so before he caught on. Wrong.
FYI#1: the rest of the team was feeding me ideas via instant messanger throughout the day; this was a collective effort, not just my doing. FYI#2: there were several walk-outs during the day due to uncontrollable laughter. If Kenny had been able to see my face, it would have been over immediately.
We started the prank early in the morning. I began by closing out his various open windows. Repeatedly. He would begin working on something and just as he would turn his head, I would click the giant X in the upper right-hand corner. It was quite enjoyable to watch his reaction, which I imagine was similar to that of a person who thinks they’ve just spotted a UFO. I would mix it up by clicking on random things here and there. I did some fun girly color highlighting in one of his Excel documents. Ah, I love highlighting.
Eventually he made his way to the internet. Being a good supervisor, I couldn’t allow this. Each time he would open a new browser, I would just as quickly close out of it. That started to get old, so I started clicking on outside links from those sites. I think at one point I pulled up an article about Elizabeth Taylor and said something like “um, homeboy, what are you reading?”
It was obvious he was getting annoyed, although he didn’t actually voice his concerns quite yet. The rest of us were messaging each other constantly. We were in prank heaven. But then, he suddenly caught a glimpse of the USB thingy, took it out of his computer, briefly analyzed it, and, I kid you not, PUT IT BACK IN THE USB PORT! This was just too easy. I thought Dustin might come unglued after that move. We were starting to wonder if he was just playing along now. After a quick group discussion, we concluded that he was still oblivious.
Our next move was to send somewhat offensive emoticons from his computer via instant messanger to both Brett and some of our other off-site coworkers. Don’t worry, we had warned them beforehand. It’s also important to know that these coworkers were his superiors. They would reply with things like “dude, that’s not cool” or “hey, that’s not very professional.” Ouch. This was rough. I think he played it off by saying it was an accident and that he had no idea how those messages had been sent. True statements. I think if I were Kenny I would have died of embarrassment right then and there. But, since I was me, I just sat back and enjoyed the show.
Despite my love of working, I thought it necessary to take a break to enjoy a game of Freecell.* I opened it up on his computer and started playing. The look on his face was priceless. He watched it for awhile, not saying anything. At one point he sat back in his chair and just stared at his screen, kind of half-laughing, as if to say “oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.” Then, he finally broke his silence and said ”Uhh, guys, this is really weird. My computer is playing Freecell with itself.” We all exercised our best acting skills and gave him blank stares. That was pretty painful. I think we all felt a little guilty (but not guilty enough to put an end to our fun). I remember saying in an extremely monotone voice “How can your computer play a game by itself? That doesn’t make any sense.” He responded with ”No, really! Look!” As you probably guessed, I stopped playing the game at that exact moment and we all proceeded to give him another helping of “what is wrong with you?” looks.
Certain that his computer had been overtaken by a virus, he finally restarted it (luckily we didn’t have a whole lot of actual work for him to do that day). It was amazing that he hadn’t caught on by mid-afternoon. I even dropped the mouse at one point, knocking the batteries out and scrambling all over the floor for them. He didn’t blink an eye.
It had become evident that Kenny would not be figuring this out on his own. So, we made the decision to reveal it to him before he left for the day. Mackenzie asked one of her friends to send Kenny an email. Her friend worked for our company in a far-away land, so we knew he wouldn’t recognize her name. Here’s the email (with a few minor edits for identity protection):
We have been notified that many of the interns are experiencing issues with their computers. We have researched the matter and suspect that a virus may have been sent through emails from the Human Resources Recruiting department. The source of the virus has not been identified yet, but HR Recruiting has been notified to stop email communications until the problem is solved. If you have received any emails from HR within the last 3 days and have been experiencing unusual program errors, namely with Internet Explorer and email applications, please respond to this email immediately so we may identify how widespread this issue has become.
To help us resolve this issue, please include your name, employee identification number, computer IP address, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, shoe size, a brief description of the issues you have been experiencing and a list of any email communications with HR including sender, date and time. We hope this will help us pinpoint the access location of the virus. If your name is Kenny, please apologize to Derek for insulting him on his birthday and have a good laugh as your team has taken over your computer with a wireless mouse for the day.
As Kenny opened the email, we watched him read it, struggling to keep our mouths shut. We waited for a reaction such as “What?! No way!” or ”Shut up! I can’t believe this!” Instead, Kenny stared blankly at his screen. Sigh. We were out of creative options. We just came right out and told him. His reaction was finally to our liking…full of surprise, awe and laughter. It was truly rewarding, as all pranks were intended to be.
Thanks to Kenny for being such a great sport and for giving me permission to tell this story. I hope he’ll continue the tradition by pranking his future interns. Pay it forward Kenny, pay it forward.
*For the record, in my 3 years with this company, I never once played Freecell at work.