We like to think of ourselves as nice people. Yet even the nicest person can engage in cruel, vindictive, or just plain mean behavior. For this Blogging for Books, write about the meanest thing you have ever done - either to another person or to yourself.
It was a warm day in late spring -- much like the days are now -- and I was at work. Our quarters were old and cramped, much like the building itself. Air conditioning was a luxury we enjoyed a great deal...when we went somewhere else. So during the warmer months, every window in our little corner of heaven was flung wide open to let in some fresh air, along with a mess of mosquitoes, a swarm of mud wasps and the occasional bird.
The library had been in a critical space shortage for the past twenty-seven years or so, and because of that, there were no actual study spaces available. Every possible inch of floor space was filled with shelving units and every possible shelf was warped from weight of too many books. Yet somehow, because of -- rather than in spite of -- our meager working environment, the second floor managed to be the social hub of the department.
It would seem that this particular morning was indistinguishable from every other morning at work. Here I was, sitting in front of my trusty 2-ton Olympia manual typewriter, a Diet Coke to my right and a pile of work to my left. While I worked, I chatted with my boss.
But this was no ordinary morning. I had a secret, and I had a plan. This morning I had come into work early, armed with Malice Aforethought.
And a five foot tall cardboard standee of Rambo.
I told the secretaries that I had forgotten my office keys, and I needed to borrow the master so I could let myself in. Being the lovely, helpful, and thankfully naive ladies that they were, they gladly handed over the goods.
All systems were go.
I ran up to the second floor and let myself into the office of the symphony conductor. He was a loud and jovial kind of guy who stopped by the library every morning to give us grief. Day in and day out the conversation began with a hearty, "Hey, PAL!" bellowed loudly enough to be heard on the next floor. This greeting would be followed by our daily morning banter, which often consisted of an argument over who was better: The Boston Celtics or The Detroit Pistons. When he tired of being wrong, he would leave the library, turn the corner and walk down the hallway to his own office.
Although he never made it into the office before 8:30 am, I knew I didn't have much time. Grabbing a roll of tape, I worked quickly. The end result, I'm proud to say, was nothing less than fantastic. Entering the slightly darkened office, the first thing that would be seen was a five foot tall waist-high sweaty, bloody hulk of armed and dangerously scary cardboard sitting in his chair behind his desk, staring from across the room.
I tossed the tape back in the library, ran the keys back downstairs, grabbed my Diet Coke and my pile of work and waited.
Finally I heard the all-too-familiar, "Hey PAL!" from downstairs. Grabbing a piece of paper, I loaded it into my trusty 2-ton Olympia, so I would look busy. I typed a bunch of nonsense and waited for him to make his way upstairs.
Nothing happened. No morning visit. No witty banter. Damn! How would I know when he got to his office? How would I know when he opened the door? I didn't want to miss his reaction to
His Armenian bellow snapped me out of my litany of panic.
"WHAT DA HELL??!!!!!"
I typed as quickly as I could, xpoanelaks dvpoaifnasld kfasoviasndf laskdfjpa owerja sldfaspdoie;ldnf, howling with laughter on the inside. My boss got up and walked down the hall to see what was going on. She was gone for a long time, and when she finally returned, I had typed three-quarters of a page of nonsense.
"You'll never believe this," she said as she returned.
"Oh?" I asked as nonchalantly as I could manage. "What's up?"
"There is this big...this big...THING taped to his office chair!"
I started chuckling. "Really?" I asked.
"I don't know what it is," she said, "But it sure scared him!"
I idly thumbed through my pile of work. "Actually," I said nonchalantly, "It's Rambo." I paused for a moment, and then added, "Looks pretty sweet, doesn't it?" Glancing up up from my work, I smiled a wicked little smile, and then returned to my faux typing.
Over the next hour, many students, professors and staffmembers made their pilgrimage to the second floor to hear the story and see for themselves. All that was missing was a few camels and some myrrh.
After the excitement finally wore off, my PAL, the boisterous symphony conductor finally put two and two together and remembered that a certain someone -- in addition to working in a library -- also worked in a movie theatre. The minute he burst into my office yelling, "ALLRIGHT PAL! I KNOW YOU DID THIS!!" I erupted into fits of laughter. I had gotten him, and gotten him good.
CODA: It's only fair to note that no good deed goes unpunished. No good prank does, either. I was the reigning Queen of Cruelty for several months until I walked into work one morning and found a photocopy of my engagement announcement taped to the front door. My engagement announcement, that is, to Boston Celtic basketball star, Larry Bird. MY PAL, the symphony conductor, had taken my recently published engagement announcement and removed every trace of my fiancee. He even went so far as to cut out the face in the original picture and substituted it, along with every mention of his name with all things Larry Bird.
"Har Har," I said dryly as I tore it off the door.
It only took me another hour and a half to remove the other two hundred copies that he had plastered all over the building.