While I'm on the topic of my days as a summer employee at 7Up (if you missed it, you can scroll down to the previous posting, or take a hi-tech shortcut by simply clicking here ), I'll share with you the cruelest practical joke I ever played.
And I've played many practical jokes in my day; hundreds, at least, if not thousands.
This one was bad.
Let's turn the clock back to the summer of 1982. I was a college student driving a truck and doing whatever was needed at the local Jersey Shore 7Up distributorship.
In those days, New Jersey lottery drawings were held only once a week, on Thursdays -- the big drawing anyway -- and it was televised at 8pm. There was no internet or recorded phone line that you could use to get the winning numbers.
One Thursday, I pulled my truck into the warehouse around the usual time, 5 pm.
Tony, one of three forklift operators who worked from 4pm until midnight loading trucks for the next day's deliveries, told me that he and the other two forklift guys, Steve and Mike, had each chipped in $50 to buy tickets for that night's drawing.
The jackpot was up to $11 million and, in those days, that was real money. Today, I wouldn't bother crossing the street for $11 million, but that was real scratch in 1982. .
A stroke of inspiration hit me immediately.
"Let me see one of your lottery tickets," I said to Tony. "I'll write down the six numbers, and then I'll call back after 8 o'clock and say that I saw the drawing on TV. I'll read back these numbers and you let Mike and Steve think that you guys won."
"Yeah, yeah, great idea," Tony said as he enthusiastically showed me one of the tickets.
Later that night, I called the warehouse from home. I read the six numbers to Steve, saying that I had just gotten them off the TV.
I later found out that the three men had retreated into the company lunch room, which had a full-length plate glass door. They spread the tickets out on a lunch table. Steve was the one who first came across what he thought was the winner.
"We won, we won!!" he started screaming as he bolted up from the table and rammed his hand into the plate glass door in a euphoric attempt to open it.
Instead, he hit the glass too hard -- and at a bad angle -- and the entire door shattered, cutting his hand. Here's what I imagined it looked like. First this:
"Oh no, you broke the glass!" Tony later told me he said.
"Screw it, who cares?!" yelled Steve. "We'll buy a new door. We'll buy a new warehouse. We'll buy the company!"
With that, he and Mike ran into the warehouse, unoccupied by humans at this hour, and began throwing 2-liter bottles of 7Up everywhere, the entire time cursing the company and yelling about what they were going to do with their share of the $11 million.
Tony was petrified.
He suddenly realized that his two colleagues would be furious with him when he broke the news that they had not won the $11 million. He later told me that it took him about three or four minutes to work up the courage to finally tell them that it was all a joke.
Whenever people tell me how cruel they think this practical joke was, I remind them that for three or four minutes I caused a couple of guys to feel really elated. They probably experienced a more focused and intense happiness than many people ever feel in their lifetimes.
This was not run-of-the-mill "I'm glad my kids got through college with a degree"-type happiness. This was "I won the effing lottery!"-type EUPHORIA. It doesn't come along very frequently.
Am I rationalizing? Probably.
The next day, when I pulled my truck into the warehouse, Steve was the first to greet me. His hand looked like this:
Well, maybe not with that fake red blood stain, but close.
These were three unhappy campers.
Despite the fact that Tony was originally in on the joke, and I couldn't have pulled it off without his cooperation, he was now squarely on the sanctimonious "We're going to get you back," bandwagon. In fact, I think he was driving it.
For the rest of that summer I was constantly looking over my shoulder and around corners wherever I went. This would've been my new work headgear had it been available to me:
But, luckily, nothing happened.
I think the sting of the moment eventually wore off. I just hope that none of those guys read blogs, not this one anyway. After all, they felt really great for a few minutes....
- LG checks in from a road trip to Chicago later this week
- Our interview with Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of MTV's The Jersey Shore
- Ben sits down, and mans up, to represent Illinois in the LG Report's 50-State Interview Series