Growing up, I was an ornery thing. From kindergarten through college, I liked to play “jokes” on people. But probably the victims never saw the humor in it. I’m embarrassed by my behavior, but I’ve grown since. I don’t like pranks on me or other people, and I don’t like watching shows that prank people.
One of the first times I remember pranking someone, I was at the tender age of five. My kindergarten class was seated on the floor while our teacher, Miss Brand, read to us. I had a Cracker Jack ring that was the perfect prop for my plan. By tossing it behind Martha a few people over from me, I could reach for it, tap Martha on the shoulder, then sit back up with my ring in hand. The perfect alibi for, if by some strange chance, Miss Brand asked any questions about why I was reaching way down my row. I’d just say I was picking up my ring. Well Miss Brand was a smarter cookie than I gave her credit for. “Cheri?” she called me out before I was even sitting back up straight. “I was getting my ring,” I tried. “I know what you’re doing. That’s enough.” So much for my brilliant plan.
In first grade, I learned a great word. Epidermis. Unfortunately I used my newly acquired vocabulary against Emily, a very quiet, shy, proper girlfriend. I bent close, whispered in her ear, "Your epidermis is showing." Her face changed to worried. She asked what that was. I just said it again. "Your epidermis. It's showing. You better do something." She searched her body, her clothes, trying to find where or how her wardrobe was failing her. I was cruel and just kept reacting like it was unseemly and that I was a bit shocked. "You know, your epidermis." I thought it was hilarious. She was mortified.
In sixth grade, I was in gym class and was getting distracted instead of doing what I was supposed to do. A natural born leader type like myself named Scott got distracted with me. The class had removed their shoes for some activity and the pile of footwear caught our attention. Scott and I decided it would be fun to tease Gloria (the poor girl who was forever at the brunt of bullying) by making her think we were putting her shoe in a pile of ants. We didn’t really put them in the ants, but from the angle where Gloria was, it appeared we’d put her shoe in the ants. We did everything we could to convince her we were putting her shoe in the pile of ants. But here again I encountered a smarter cookie than I anticipated. Gloria went to the teacher. The teacher sent us to Mr. Shouse, the principal. Scott and I sat in chairs outside his office, waiting and worrying just how many licks we were going to get. This was a southern school that was a little slower than some to give up the time-honored tradition of paddling recalcitrant children. When we finally were ushered in to see Mr. Shouse, we’d both had our own come-to-Jesus meeting out there in the waiting room. We’d decided to reform even before we received our sentence. Mr. Shouse must have seen the fear of God in our eyes, because he only gave us a good tongue lashing and we were released on our own recognizance.
By ninth grade, I’d forgotten the lessons of my youth and went back to pranking. Ms. Elmore was my music teacher for Junior High, and I was taking private voice lessons from her and she was a friend of my parents. So I guess I felt a certain freedom with her, wiggle room to prank her. Everyone who was smart knew not to cross her, but I knew her well enough that I didn’t fear her quite as much as if she were still the scary enigma she was to the ordinary student. One day when she was still in her office inside the music room, the bell hadn’t rung yet and we students were left to our own creative endeavors. Someone had brought in this fun Coke can that looked like it was sitting on its side in a puddle of spilled cola. The puddle was made of amber, bubbly latex. I got this brainy idea that we should put it on the Concert Grand piano—the instrument that Ms. Elmore forbade any living creature to ever touch. Being a piano player myself, and growing up with a Grand at home, I figured I knew my way around a piano just fine and was well versed in how to touch it without damaging it. And for safe measure, I placed a tissue between the latex and the piano finish. We all settled into our chairs, watching and waiting. When the bell rang, Ms. Elmore emerged from her office and started toward the front of the room. I was watching for that sudden moment of recognition when she’d see the thing on the piano and figure out what it supposedly was. I hadn’t really thought about what would happen after that. And I should have. Especially when the folding chair flew across the room. Uh boy. It didn’t quite go like…well, I hadn’t even thought that far so I don’t know what I expected. But she became quite angry. Enraged. I think once she found out it was a fake, there was still the issue that ANYthing had been put on her Grand. After a frightening scene, she went back into her office and we all cowered in our seats wondering what we’d just done. I don’t know if she was in her office calling my mother to get me expelled, or if she was laughing because it really was such a good prank.
My freshman year of college Barb lived in the dorm room next to mine. There was a thin wall between our beds. A radiator ran the whole length of the outer wall of the building so sound carried too well between the rooms, especially the adjacent rooms. Sometimes Barb’s boyfriend spent the night with her and because of the radiator, I could hear some of their conversations. One time, they were talking about something I found rather comical. The next day at breakfast, without thinking through the implication of my actions, I just repeated the conversation as I’d heard it. Because I thought is was a funny conversation. Barb did not think it was funny. In fact, poor Barb was mortified. She probably suddenly realized that perhaps there were other things that might have been broadcasted through the radiator. (No fear Barb. I never heard anything.) Abandoning her breakfast, she reared up, her hand over her open, horrified mouth, and she fled the dining hall.
One night while studying late, I took a study break with a few other friends on the floor. We girls got to talking and scheming about what we might be able to do with one of the girl’s Coke can collection. (Once again Coke seduced me to a life of nefarious behavior.) With the leadership qualities I just can’t seem to squash, I instigated a stunt to place all the Coke cans in front of Barb’s door so when her boyfriend came out at about 2:00 a.m. as usual, he would walk into a wall of aluminum. We set up an assembly line and moved the cans from the room to down the hall and stacked them in front of Barb’s door. We had enough to go all the way to the top of the door frame. It was going to be spectacular! Then someone walked by when we were placing the final cans on the top row. After we explained our plan in playful whispers, and that we just needed Barb’s boyfriend to emerge, she said, “He’s not in there. He’s down in his room studying tonight for a test tomorrow.”
It was such a great prank, we couldn’t waste it, so we decided to save it for another night. We formed a reverse bucket brigade and passed the cans back to where they’d come from. But by the time we’d removed most of the cans, we were a little careless and rowdy. We still had a row left when Barb’s door flew open. She was furious and demanded to know what in the world we were doing. She didn’t think it was at all funny. By the time she finished dressing us down, we didn’t really think it was funny anymore either.
But it really was a great prank. I still wish I could have seen how it played out to have Barb’s boyfriend walk through those cans at 2:00 a.m. It would have been something!
(So I should like to take this opportunity to apologize to the boatload of people I was mean to. I can’t name them all, because I wasn’t sensitive enough to learn all of my victims’ names. But to begin with, I’d like to say I’m sorry to: Gina, Gloria, Martha, John David, Kenille, Emily, Barb (many times), Corilee (we already cleared up the "scarf incident" but I wasn't nice that day), Becky, and all the others I can’t remember but I know are out there. I hope I wasn’t significant enough to cause harm, but I fear I might have been. So I am sorry.)
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