Op-Ed

Reformed prankster warns: If you see a dead raccoon, just walk away

Dave Hall is one of six reader columnist for The News Tribune.
Dave Hall is one of six reader columnist for The News Tribune. Tacoma

The other day, after one of my fellow caddies pulled off a prank on another looper, he leaned in and asked, “Don’t you just love practical jokes?” My immediate reaction was, “Nope, not a fan.”

As someone who used to have the reputation as a prankster, I had to think about why my gut response was so negative. Then it made perfect sense. My lifetime batting average of creating successful practical jokes is lower than the starting lineup of our 2019 Seattle Mariners.

Oh, sure, I’ve cooked up a few brilliant ones during my six-plus decades, like when I signed up for the 5th grade chorus under a different name, so when the instructor tossed me out for cracking jokes during rehearsals, I showed up at the next practice looking completely innocent. The teacher spotted me and yelled, “Peter Mitchell, I told you that you’re off the chorus!” I put on a puzzled expression and said, “But I’m David Hall.”

My fellow students, who were in on the joke, immediately confirmed my identity, and I was allowed to stay.

Or there was the time I created a fake letter from a local TV station and sent it to a colleague inviting him to audition for an amateur talent show. Hook, line and sinker, he believed that a producer had heard great reviews of his unique skill of Irish step dancing while playing the bagpipes.

The payoff came when I overheard his panicked call to the station, where the staff disavowed any knowledge of the invitation.

But for every success, I’ve also had a bunch more epic fails.

During my senior year in college, my ROTC unit sponsored a huge military ball for the cadets and cadre. On the drive to this event, my girlfriend thought it would be hilarious if we told everyone that we’d secretly gotten married the day before. Although I had serious doubts about Sherrie’s idea, she was very persuasive, and I caved.

You know the expression, “And then everything went horribly wrong”? I’m pretty sure it was coined that evening.

My naïve expectation was that there’d be some surprised congratulations, and then we could easily end it with a “Just kidding!” Instead, the news spread through the packed ballroom like a cavalry charge, and pretty soon the officers’ wives were giving Sherrie advice about life on an Army post, while my brother and sister cadets were literally “passing the hat” for a cash wedding gift.

When Sherrie and I were presented with over $2,000 in cash, the colonel proposed a toast to “Cadet Captain and Mrs. Hall.” I figured my career as an Army Officer was over before it had begun. Sweat seeped through my dress blues. Sherrie hissed through gritted teeth, “Don’t blow it, Dave, we can still pull this off!”

That’s when my training kicked in; I quietly approached our unit commander and explained the situation. The colonel, a pretty easygoing combat veteran, instantly grew beet-red, grabbed me by my lapels and growled, “Unscrew this right now, Mister!”

As I stood at the microphone and made apology, I was able to salvage a piece of integrity, but my reputation for common sense evaporated.

There are several more examples — super-gluing a dead raccoon to the back window of my sergeant’s patrol car turned out to have unexpected negative consequences — but the moral of my story is simply this:

If an idea for an awesome prank occurs to you, whether on April Fool’s Day or the rest of the year, dismiss it from your mind. You’ll thank me later.

Dave Hall of Steilacoom is a former soldier, retired cop, and full-time golf enthusiast. He’s one of six News Tribune reader columnists in 2019. Email him at dave.hall058@gmail.com

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