Monday, March 28, 2022

Bray Days: We Thought It Would Be Funny

Aside:  (Yes, we are starting with an "aside." And also, apparently, a parenthetical.  Someday I will learn to focus. This is not that day.)
Above is a photo of the ENORMOUS model of the Capital District Area made by the RPI Model Railroad Club. It took up the entire basement under one of the dorms and I completely forgot it existed until I went looking in my Mom's old photo albums for pictures to go with these stories. That should highlight the fact that there may be many other lapses,  inaccuracies and fabrications in these tales from over three decades past.

Some of the non water related practical joke war spilled into inter-dorm conflict. I heard a retaliation being planned for a previous assault on our lounge when a group was heading across the way Cary Hall. I opened my door to find Joe (“PV=nRT right? I’m going downtown.”) wearing a catcher’s chest pad and football helmet, holding cans of silly string and punctuating his own leaping down the hall in ninety degree turns by singing the Mission Impossible theme. 

The raid was successful. They returned with all of the little foosball men from Cary’s game table.
Most of the practical joke war was internal. The origins are lost to the ages, but early on in the year, one night we were discussing old TV shows...
Actually, we discussed them almost every night, but this one specific night we were discussing Candid Camera.
Alan Funt’s tag line (or a close approximation) of “We thought it would be funny” became the calling card left behind with any gag.
Unfortunately, this text story will have to serve as documentation for the battles. The original documentation was an ASCII animation Jesse and I put together on his Atari 800XL computer. Back in the fossil days, this was one of the most impressive gaming machines brought to the dorm. The peak, however, belonged to “Amiga Ed.” Many long nights were spent in his room for floor-wide round-robin tournaments to play 1987’s Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior. Yes, late night digital beheading parties happened courtesy of a game released five years before the Mortal Kombat machine would show up in the Union arcade and change many a student’s life. (Hi, Ben!)
As with most young male engineer/scientist ideas, it started basic (climbing into an open window to leave a note on a computer screen or something), and then amplified out of control.
Jesse sat on his bed one day and it unceremoniously dropped several inches. Someone had climbed or broken in to the room and placed an empty soda can under each leg of his bed. We knew it was Harish, and his roommate Atul was on our side for a lot of this. It is possible getting a bed full of snow was the reason for that. Atul granted us access for revenge.
The beer-a-mid was the most famous collegiate way of stacking empty cans waiting for recycling. A resourceful, budding engineer across from us in Cary Hall managed to create an inverted one, hanging off the ceiling in front of his window. Much more common in the freshman dorms were stacks of soda cans waiting to return to Price Chopper for the deposit. Harish kept his in the cubbyhole of his closet. 

To maximize space, our closets were two sided, on the same wall as the door out was. On the half away from the door was a regular closet with a hanger bar. On the door side was a set of drawers on the bottom, and a cubbyhole with a mirror on top. A sliding door moved between the two sides, covering them alternatively.
Harish piled up his cans on the closet side of the cubbyhole against the divider wall. Atul let us in, and said he didn’t want to know any part of what we were up to. We carefully slid the sizeable stack to the center of the cubby. Then we affixed one end of fishing line to the back inside corner of the cubby, and the other end to the sliding door while it was in front of the closet. The cans were carefully slid back into place, covering the line.
It worked PERFECTLY! 

When he opened his closet, Harish could clearly hear, but not see, the clatter of all the cans. His instincts kicked in and he rapidly threw the sliding door the other way…
Clearing the path for all of the now higgledy-piggledy cans that were agitated by the string's return trip to fall out of the cubbyhole all over him.
While never an active part of the war, Atul was often an impressive accomplice. His assist allowed one of the most brilliant moves of the entire conflict, highlighting proper implementation of, “The best place to hide a tree is in a forest.”
Jim was in the shower one day, and his “friends” took that opportunity to remove his mattress. Harish had built a loft, meaning he didn’t need the school supplied bedding items. Atul decided he’d like the added comfort of stacking them under his bedding. A couple other loft builders donated their discarded box springs and/ or mattresses, leaving Atul with a Princess and the Pea type sleeping arrangement. Whether he had a total of seven or eight (or nine...there were a lot) layers would not be obvious to a casual observer. Therefore, Jim’s “friends” depositing his mattress into the stack rendered it absolutely invisible.
Jim was running around the dorm, checking everyone’s room and yelling like a nut. Since a mattress was clearly too large to hide in a tiny dorm room, the subtle suggestions by various “friends” that they may have seen it outside sent him tearing out the door in a fit of rage.
What came next was a burst of teamwork, speed and execution that far exceeded any efforts put in to group projects for classes by these individuals. First, they extricated Jim’s mattress from beneath Atul.
Yes, Atul was sitting on Jim’s mattress while Jim was grilling him about its location. 
Then, in the brief moments Jim was outside, they maneuvered the purloined pillowy object out of the room, down the hall and on the top of the very shower stall Jim was bathing in while they first grabbed it. They all got back to their rooms before Jim returned inside.
On his repeated sweep of the dorm, he finally found his mattress, sitting atop the stall he was recently inside. While the culprits did eventually confess to moving it, Atul’s involvement wasn’t mentioned. Poor Jim remained impressed they’d snuck it over his own head.
After a while, the constant barrage of “We Thought It Would be Funny” moments 
A) Became less funny, 
B) Started affecting needed concentration for RPI classes. 
The kicker was when stressful times, coupled by poorly timed pranks led to: 
C) Damage bill accelerating moments.
Two big ones were, once again, connected to normally harmless toiletries.
Someone “thought it would be funny” to coat Will’s door in shaving cream. Will took one look at the gateway to his room, now white and foamy from top to bottom, and went with his usual direct and pragmatic instincts. He removed the door from its hinges, and brought it into the shower with him to rinse it thoroughly.
The shower easily wiped every trace of shaving cream off the door.
It much more easily wiped every trace of lubricating grease out of the knob and lock mechanism. Will reattached his door and it became a permanent part of the wall. The call to the locksmith added to the overall dorm tab.
Another prank was the final straw that made us realize things were out of hand. Jim of the Lost Mattress and his roommate Chris employed the famous old gag of filling a record sleeve with talcum powder, shoving the open end under our door, and stomping on the other side.
(Try doing that with a download, you rotten kids.)
That might have been shaving cream as well...whatever it was, it was messy.
Jesse and I were both focused on studying, and (per usual) stressed out. My reaction fell to profanity, and grabbing cleaning supplies. (I feel like it was a broom, lending credence to the talcum powder idea...did I mention this was a long time ago?) In a rare turn of events, Jesse’s emotional control was less than mine was at this moment. It is possible his stereo and computer being next to the door contributed to those feelings. He may or may not have grabbed some juggling implements when he ran out after them, who is to say?
Certainly, nobody on either side of the altercation ever had any knowledge of the source of the suspiciously axe shaped gashes that mysteriously appeared in Jim and Chris’s door. We universally agreed, clearly, this was a sign that a de-escalation was needed.
We all met in Atul and Harish’s room and stated directly that since no one “thought it would be funny” anymore, all practical jokes would now cease.
Unfortunately, we had gotten very good at them, and some were intricate and required planning.
We all shook hands and prepared to move forward in our now more respectful lives. Harish picked up his shoes that were sitting atop a tissue box to put them away, after getting a part of them repaired.
Then Jesse and I saw all the tissues come out in a long and festive chain…

almost as if someone had taken the effort to glue them all together individually and then stick the top one to the footwear.
We let out a, “Time for dinner, gotta go!” and beat a hasty retreat.

I do often wonder if anyone found the oversized garbage bag tied over the slowly dripping hose valve in the standpipe cabinet before it burst and deluged the hallway. Perhaps the ceiling pizza was not the only addition to the damage bill the year after us?

That's all the college adventures I can remember for now.
If my brain dusts off some more, I'll put a link here.


longbow said...

Huh. In my dorm we studied and thoughtfully discussed salient issues of the day.
Samsies on gaming: Jaimie's Amiga was the alpha.
Remember how the phones were a full pbx system? One night Carlos DeLeon subtly visited 8 rooms, 4 on each side of the hall, and set each to call forward to the next. Then he called into the loop from an extension outside of it. Each phone rang in turn once but jumped before the occupant could answer. A few minutes of cacophony and Carlos cackling before we realized what had happened and all took them off the hook

Jeff McGinley said...

Was that before or after the ROTC's ran back inside during the snowball fight?

That's an awesome one. The phones had so many weird issues with them. And that's not counting coming up with weird questions to stump IPAC.

Thanx for joining in!