Monday, August 01, 2011

Shenanigans at the Office

This is a list of the pranks we've played on our co-workers at the office... in semi chronological order. I'm sure I'm forgetting a few... Remind me if I've missed anything.

1. Changing the auto-correct on Microsoft Outlook
Victim: Pragyan and the CJ
Perps: CJ then Shravan
One afternoon, Pragyan let his guard down and left his computer unlocked. CJ jumped at this opportunity, opened Pragyan's Outlook auto-correct function and changed words like "Pragyan", "Energy", "Prices", "The", "Power", "Thanks", his bosses names, etc to "NEPAL".
When Prag came back and started to write an email he was stunned to see that everything he was typing was changing to "NEPAL". Eventually he figured out what was done and painstakingly fixed the changes.
A week later, CJ left his computer unlocked and Shravan jumped in and changed his bosses name to Anant "Disaster" and Judah "Big Boi" and changed keywords like "Gas" to "Disaster". Unfortunately CJ didn't notice the changes in his haste and sent out an email that read "disaster prices are expected to stay flat in the future"... it was only a week later that he realized that he had sent this email out to everyone in the office!
It was then decided that perhaps this was too disastrous of a prank and auto correct pranks were abolished.

2. The Shravan-Pavlov Experiment
Victim: Shravan (intended)
Perp: CJ & Achal (as co-conspirator)
One of our less successful pranks. CJ wanted to try the Pavlov's dog experiment on Shravan. Everytime Achal's phone would ring, CJ would offer Shravan (who sat across his cubicle) a piece of candy, hoping that eventually, with conditioning Shravan would automatically ask for candy each time Achal's phone rang. Unfortunately, Shravan decided he didn't like candy anymore, so CJ switched to cheese puffs (who doesn't like cheese puffs). This went on for a couple of weeks, but with the lack of results, the experiment was prematurely abandoned and labeled a failure.

3. The Mouse in the Jello
Victim: Maity (but switched with Patrick to trap the perp.); later Isak and Pragyan
Perp: CJ
I came in to work one day and noticed that my mouse had been encased in jello... an old office classic. I had an inkling of who was responsible, but to flush out the perpetrator, I switched the encased mouse with Patrick's and pretended that the prank was played on him. CJ's surprise and later after a conniving interrogation over lunch at Amma's CJ implicated himself as the criminal.

It didn't end there. After the mouse was rescued from the jello, even tho
ugh it was wrapped in Saran Wrap, it was unusable since the jello had seeped in. After cleaning the mouse, it looked normal and we replaced Isak's mouse with this defunct mouse. Isak, of course, did what we expected and stole Pragyan's mouse. An hour later, in his frustration, Pragyan sends out an angry email to everyone demanding the return of his stolen mouse!

4. The Inverted Cup
Victim: almost everyone
Perp: almost everyone
Old school prank. Filling up a glass of water to the brim, covering it with a card, inverting it and sliding it over the desk leaves an inverted cup of water on your desk. Those unfamiliar with it had a few "accidents" at their desk. Eventually, people wizened up. The next phase was played on Ankit. Thirteen inverted cups were left on his desk, only three with water in them!

5. Windings on Excel
Victim: Achal
Perp: CJ
Once again, a computer was left unlocked and CJ jumped at the chance. He went into Achal's Excel and set up a small macro that converted everything he typed into windings. It was set to run automatically every time a new Excel sheet was opened. Achal was working from home the next day and he had no idea how to fix it. He didn't get much done that day and needless to say he wasn't pleased with CJ.

6. It Snowed Indoors
Victim: CJ
Perp: Maribeth and Achal (I think)
Again, old school. CJ's desk was essentially TPd!

7. The Overturned Desk
Victim: Achal
Perp: CJ
Another classic. Everything on Achal's desk was turned upside down. His computer, the maps on his wall, his desk, his name tag, everything.

8. Variations on a Theme (of the Overturned Desk)
Victim: Achal and Pragyan
Perp: CJ
This one took a bit of work. Achal and Pragyan's desks were completely switched. Everything was moved. It took them both a while to figure out that they were not sitting at their desks! The execution was quite brilliant!

9. The Taming of Ankit
Victim: Ankit
Probably the most well executed and definitely the longest con at the office.
While CJ was away on vacation, Ankit, who was new at the office and not yet initiated in our ways, innocently inquired why CJ had not been showing up to work. This was easy prey we thought, and our eyes gleamed at the prospect that lay before us. We told Ankit that CJ had gone for his wedding and his subsequent honeymoon and that he would be back at the end of the week. Like a well-oiled machine, everyone picked up on this thread. Emails started shooting back and forth. Reduced photographs of other people's (Nishit's) wedding photographs were passed off as CJ's (since all brown people look alike, Ankit didn't notice the difference). I think CJ's wife's name was Mina or such. We decided that we must buy a gift for the newly weds and we decided that we all would contribute $50 towards it. Achal agreed to be the point man on this and collect the cash and buy something nice for the couple. In the meantime, I messaged CJ, alerting him that for all intensive purposes he was now married to someone called Mina. The next day Ankit handed Achal a check for $50 which was quickly cashed.
At the end of the week, CJ returned and we all congratulated him within earshot. At the happy hour that week and CJ and I waited in line for food, Ankit walked up to CJ and wearing a jovial smile, congratulated him on his nuptials and wished him the best. CJ, of course, graciously accepted. That evening we sat around and thought on how we ought to end the prank. We went up to Ankit's desk and picked out his prized autographed book of music, wrapped it up and put it in a fancy box and waited. The next day, before lunch, we called Ankit over and asked him to give it to CJ since he was the youngest. With all of us as witnesses, Ankit, handed CJ the box. CJ opened and box and lo it was a book. Ankit exclaims, "dude I have the exact same book, except mine is autographed". CJ flips to the first few pages and says, "yeah dude, so is mine". Slowly it dawned upon Ankit that he had been played, because by this time no one could hold in their giggles...
I think we've destroyed Ankit's innocence. Never again will he trust.

10. The Hanging Effigy
Victim: Achal
Perp: CJ and Maity
A little on the darker side... CJ and I went to a thrift store next to Korean Deli and found this wonderful teddy bear and rocking chair set for $5. You never know when such things might come in handy, so we bought it, along with a candle holder for an extra 50 cents.
Back at the office, we had Dave, Achal's manager, call him away on the pretense of some work, and CJ and I got to work. We printed a photograph of Achal's face, taped it over the teddy's face, taped a small empty bottle of tequila to one hand and hung him from the rafters using the mouse cable with a suicide note left on the rocking chair and a candle burning (see pictures).
Achal returned to his desk, saw the shenanigans, stopped, said "I'll laugh at this later, right now I have work to do!"... [It wasn't actual work, Dave had just made up something so he would be away from his desk for us to set it up]. The bear was left behind as Achal's legacy at ICF.

11. The Other Keyboard
Victim: CJ
Perp: Shravan and Isak
(write-up coming up from Shravan)

12. The Thrashing of Pragyan (Variation on a Theme)
Victim: Pragyan
Perp: Achal and Shravan
Achal and Shravan completely thrashed Pragyan's desk, with keyboard, mouse, monitor, docking station taken apart, confetti and wrappers lying all over... it looked like a hobo's joint. It was just plain mean.

13. Not a Green Prank
Victim: Pragyan
Perp: Shravan (he claims it's not him)
Shravan took Pragyan's car keys and left his car on in the garage.

14. The Stapled Cups
Victim: Isak
Perp: CJ and Maity
A semi-failed prank. We took a host of cups (thirty odd) and stapled them together, placed them on Isak's desk and filled them up with water. Due to our shoddy stapling job Isak was able to tackle the problem easily but the idea was quite good.

15. The Blockade
Victim: Andrew
Perp: Patrick and Maity
We surrounded Andrew's desk with a wall of used coffee cups. I think Andrew came in, saw what was done and went home as he was want to do.

16. Nepal vs. India - The Ambush
Victim: Pragyan
Perp: Achal, Shravan, CJ, Maity (video by Isak)

17. The Voice in the Computer
Victim: Jesse
Perp: CJ, Achal, Maity
This one was never going to work, but it was a lot of fun making.
Stage 1: Borrow Achal's Blackberry and record me screaming "You, you there at the computer, help me! Get me out of here! Call 911!"
Stage 2: Set that as the ring-tone on Achal's phone.
Stage 3: Place the phone inside the common Bloomberg machine.
Stage 4: Wait.
Jesse walked into the office and sat at the Bloomberg machine and started working in earnest. Then CJ and called Achal's phone and Jesse was so surprised! First he thought that we had run a program in the computer. Then he thought it was a clip. For the longest time he couldn't figure out what was going on. The rest of us pretended that we couldn't hear anything!
It was great!

18. The Old Switcheroo
Victim: Patrick and Ankit
Perp: Laura and CJ
Changed the automatic language option on Patrick's computer to German and Ankit's iPod to Mandarin.

19. "Hi, I'm Mark"
Victim: Mark
Perp: Mainly Achal
Posters of MPurser were left all over the office.

20. Sleight of Hand/Bait and Switch
Vicitm: Mainly Pragyan
Perp: Achal and CJ
I'm not sure what this one was about... Anybody remember what was done?

21. One Cup to Spill Them All
Victim: Shravan
Perp: CJ (?)
A stack of paper cups with water in one of them were left on Shravan's desk.

22. Tape the Speaker, Hide the Earpiece
Victim: Shravan
Perp: CJ
CJ taped over the mouth piece on Shravan's phone and people on the other line couldn't hear what he was saying.

23. Taping of the Phone (Redux)
Victim: Isak
Perp: CJ
CJ quite meticulously taped up Isak's phone with tape.  I'm sure Isak's retribution is not far away.

24. The Gift of CJ
Victim: CJ
Perp: Isak
While CJ was away on vacation with his family in their exclusive Hamptons chalet.  Isak used CJ's gift paper (Disney's "Little Mermaid" - his favorite) and wrapped his computer, telephone, chair and other objects on his desk.  Quite the novelty.  The note on the right is a reference to the prank that Isak and Shravan played on CJ earlier in the year (see:  11. "The Other Keyboard").

25. Farewell Wrap
Victim: Trevor
Perps: Maribeth (with Nicole as cohort)
Serane wrap around Tevor's Scion.   See photographic evidence!

"Carolineeee, You Danceee" or The Great American Road Trip Part 1

The People: Jenny, Michelle, Matt, and Maity
The Car: 2001 Lexus CS 300
The Trip: Washington DC to Malibu, CA
The Distance: ~3600 miles
The Duration: 10 Days (28 May - 6 June)

The day before departure, I had a peculiar sense of foreboding, like this trip would be star-crossed for some reason.  The signs were ubiquitous.  Matt's stomach was in ruins.  Jenny's trip from NYC to Washington DC on the eve of our journey was marred by the towing of her car and a traffic ticket; and, of course, the pleasant city traffic of New York meant that by the time she reached DC on Thursday night, she was haggard and had sacrificed dropping in on the Amish of Pennsylvania. Michelle, who was supposed to bus in late evening on Friday, suffered the curse of banking and stayed in to finish banking stuff till 3 in the morning, missed her bus, bought an expensive train ticket for 5 in the morning, missed that train, and finally embarked on a 6.30 train for DC.  While Michelle's delay was a blessing in subtle disguise - we got to drink beers, sleep in late and play Settlers of Catan into the night - I was worried about the inauspicious beginning to our trip.  A fear that, and I thank the Gods here, turned out to be quite unnecessary.

Day 1
So, on Friday the 28th, after stocking up on snacks and stories, we picked up Michelle and her massive sleeping bag from the metro and started our 3600 mile journey to The Pacific.  Day One aim was to get as close to New Orleans as possible.  We headed west on the dreaded I-66, the scourge of all interstates, and then headed south on I-81, passing through Virginia, the tornado ravaged lands of West Virginia, and finally Tennessee, where we stopped for a bite in the university town of Knoxville.

Knoxville was surprising.  It was hip.  Something I did not associate with the South.  Perhaps because it's an university town that it felt like it was really hip and youthful.  Perhaps we only saw that part of the city.  We walked through the central plaza, almost an European type piazza with fountains and Frisbees.  We walked through a rather curious sculpture garden where we got our first taste of Southern modern art.  We made it a game of guessing the prices of some of the works.  Dinner was at an upscale joint on the corner of the piazza.  I had a Atlanta brew called Deepwater 420, a really sweet and hoppy beer that felt like it was brewed with saltwater.  Matt had the most amazing bisque.  Jenny and I shared a rather interesting gourmet Mac'n'Cheese.

As we left Knoxville, we decided to drive for a couple of hours and get as close to New Orleans as possible, which was still about 500 miles away.  We decided to stop at Chattanooga, TN a little border town by Alabama.  Unfortunately, the recent tornado and storm activity meant that all the motels and hotels around the Chattanooga and surrounding areas were filled to the brim with refugees from Georgia, and Alabama.  We had no choice but to continue driving down south.  We found a room in Gadsden, AL and with Matt at the wheel, we raced through the dark, straight, empty highways of Alabama to find beds for our tired souls.  By the time we hit the sack at the Best Western in Gadsden, it was about 1 in the morning, and we had covered about 700 miles after almost 11 hours of driving through five states.  This was also the start of our rather unhealthy obsession with Best Westerns - the Largest Hotel Chain in the World.  That night we simply collapsed.

Day 2
Early Saturday morning, after a complimentary breakfast courtesy of BWH, we set out for New Orleans via Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama.   Birmingham in the 60s was one of the epicenters of the Civil Rights Movement and the city is littered with monuments and testimonies of the men, women, children, and events that led the fight for equality for all.  We drove into Birmingham on Sunday morning at ten and parked next to the civil rights museum where a large sign warned "No Panhandling".  Almost immediately, a ragged gentlemen stepped up to ask for some spare change.

Birmingham was a dead city on a Sunday morning.  Presumably, everyone was in church!  We walked around the city along the historical Civil Rights Walk, where the likes of MLK had raised a ruckus almost fifty years ago.  It was here that we encountered a small medical center - "Hugs n' Kisses - Alternative Care for the Mildly Ill Child".  After a quick loo break we left the eerie town and headed back on the road towards NO.  I encountered my first ever Cracker Barrel and Jenny and I were racked with curiosity.  Matt and Michele fed us, what we later learned, apocryphal stories of what exactly a Cracker Barrel is.  We were told of mysterious peg games, and exotic foods, but more on that later.

On-route, we stopped for lunch on the shores of Lake Tom Bailey in the state of Mississippi.  Apart from watching people fish and enjoying some fresh air, discussion of a potential two days stop at NO was brought up.  There was a movie shoot that was happening somewhere around NO, but to go there meant stopping at NO for an extra day.  This quickly became a contentious issue.

As we continued driving through the swamplands and mangroves leading to NO, we encountered the first signs of the consequences of Katrina and Rita, almost six years ago.  One of the long bridges controlling the ebb and flow of traffic into NO, lay in ruins...

(To be continued...)

Final Route*:
New York, NY -> Washington DC -> Knoxville, TN -> Chattanooga, TN -> Gadsden, AL -> Birmingham, AL -> New Orleans, LA -> Houston, TX -> Brenham, TX -> Austin, TX -> Carlsbad, NM -> Santa Fe, NM -> Grand Canyon, AZ -> Santa Monica, CA -> Malibu, CA -> Washington DC
*Places in bold are where we spent the night