Perspectives: Using the power of pranking for good

OPINION – Most people would bristle at the prospect of being labeled as a troublemaker, but I’m not one of them.

When an old friend told me that, while we were growing up, he considered me somewhat of an evil genius; I was mildly flattered.

My friend estimated that, during the years we were in school, most classmates who set out to engage in mischief ended up getting caught roughly 90 percent of the time.  Amazingly, he calculated that I enjoyed a success rate of at least 50 percent whenever I pulled a prank.

I don’t know if his claims can be statistically proven, but since he is an accountant, I have to give him some benefit of the doubt.

The pranks he refers to were never destructive or particularly elaborate. They were typically spur of the moment opportunities that produced annoyance rather than actual harm.

One favorite prank included checking out library books with dubious titles in the names of my friends and carefully placing the book in another section of the library. It was fun to watch classmates squirm as their names and the titles of their overdue books were announced in class.

For obvious reasons, no self-respecting junior high boy wants to be publicly known as the guy who checked out “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” from the school library.

My friend also reminded me how we once had a study hall with a teacher who sounded like Fozzy Bear from the Muppet Show whenever he became agitated. Something about this teacher’s remarkable voice tended to bring out the Rich Little in me and my friends.

Leaving his classroom one day, after a particularly rowdy study hall, I let fly with a dead-on impression of him urging us to settle down.

In a flash, the teacher was out of his seat and, for a old codger, he moved frighteningly fast. Yelling out a different student’s name, he grabbed one of my classmates by the arm and yanked him back into the classroom as the rest of us quickly filed out the door.

What made this memorable in my friend’s mind was that our teacher failed to recognize me as the culprit because of an apparent look of angelic innocence on my face as I exited the classroom.

My classmate was released without further harm a few minutes later and soon joined us outside to report that the teacher had simply grabbed the student who was laughing the hardest and let him go when he realized that he had the wrong guy.

To my classmate’s credit, he took the scare in stride and didn’t rat me out. Was it stupid and childish? Without a doubt. But it still brings gales of laughter from my friends after more than three decades.

My pranking glory days are long behind me, but I still can appreciate a good prank.

Over the years, pranking has become its own art form. The popularity of Allen Funt’s Candid Camera has spawned dozens of prank-based TV programs and hundreds of freelance imitators on YouTube. Some pranks are fun and clever, many are mean-spirited, and some are downright Darwinian.

What if the power of pranking could be harnessed for a good cause? What if, instead of having a laugh at the expense of an innocent mark, we could have one at the expense of someone who deserved it?

I once read about a guy who was fed up with the stories of people having Christmas packages stolen out of their cars while out shopping. He decided to use the power of the prank to teach a lesson.

He would find a good sized box and fill it completely with whatever he could dump out of his cat’s litter box. Afterwards, he’d carefully tape the box up airtight and then wrap it beautifully and top it with a bow.

He’d drive out to his local shopping center and leave the box sitting in the bed of his truck in the parking lot while he shopped. The box was always gone upon his return. Every single time.

Now remember, the idea here is to prank would-be thieves–not good Samaritans. Only someone looking into the bed of his pickup would see the Christmas package. That person would then have to reach into the bed of the truck in order to remove the package.

Honest people wouldn’t take a package from someone else’s car. But a thief most certainly would.

Imagine the look of surprise on the face of the thief when he finally opens up that beautiful package he just swiped. Who wouldn’t feel justified in having a nice laugh at his annoyance?

Pranking is clearly not for everyone but if you must be a troublemaker, use your powers to vex evil-doers, don’t be destructive and always keep a straight face.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • JAR October 3, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I’m willing to bet, you carried a concealed Woppie Cushion into your forth period class daily.
    (I know, your asking yourself, what’s a Woppie Cushion?) Who me?
    You know, you would be labeled bully now a days don’t you? Back in the day, I bet Brain Hyde was the poster boy for corporate punishment training by the school staff.

    • Koolaid October 5, 2014 at 10:33 am

      I bet he supports mandatory bishop counseling for non-conformists

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