The Locked Bike Prank
I pride myself in my ability to execute an elaborate prank. Sometimes the hard part is not in setting the prank into motion, but in recovering when something goes wrong.
Part of being a professional is being prepared, so when I became embroiled in a prank war with John Hargrave, I mapped out a
few options for future action. As John lives in Massachusetts, It would be best to recruit some helpers and have pieces in
place, ready to strike.
What pranks could I pull by mail?
My first idea was to send John a fire extinguisher. To a normal person, this would be a thoughtful gift, but from me to John, a fire extinguisher would be seen as a warning of something terrible to come... a firey emergency such as a flaming bag of dog poop on the porch.
He'd have to demonstrate to his family how to operate the fire extinguisher, training them to aim at the _base_ of the flaming poop sack in case he wasn't home when it arrived. Maybe he'd fireproof that part of his porch, waiting in vain for the delivery of a portable excrement bag.
It was an idea, but not good enough for John. It was subtle and original, but there was no punchline. I needed an ending.
I was getting ahead of myself. My first prank hadn't yet been delivered.
My first salvo arrived in October; a bright bunch of flowers delivered to John under the name of Raoul. In the resulting photographs I saw John's house for the first time. It was similar to the White House, only smaller and in a good neighborhood. Something caught my eye, a wrought iron stair railing.
Decorative iron railings are very tough. They can last for hundreds of years. Not unlike Karl Rove, I was going to use this strength against John's house... by locking a horrible bike to it.
My flower prank was done. I awaited John's revenge, but this wouldn't be idle time. I'd put together a plan to get a bike locked to that railing in Boston.
Now, I'm not so cruel as to make poor John saw apart his own railing to get rid of a bike. I needed to get him the key, but in a way that delivered the key without him knowing he even has it. This was easy. I'd mail it to his neighbor, Pam. The beauty of this plan was that the ugly bike would not only affect John, it would also offend the neighbors. Ideally, Pam would have a prime view of this horrible bike locked to the front John's house, quietly boiling at this blight ruining the view from her kitchen window, and unbeknownst to her, she'd be the one holding the key that could get rid of it.
This would be awesome. I put out the call for helpers in the Boston area. Paul K. volunteered immediately.
Before the lock even arrived at Paul's house, he and I were checking Craigslist for horrible bikes. Have you ever searched Craigslist in other cities? It is oddly satisfying and uniting. The same kind of weirdos we have in Sacramento, they have them in Boston.
Rust. Banana Seats. Ape hangers. The uglier they were, the more I wanted them. Not content to sort through the ads, Paul posted his own ad, looking for an ugly bike, stating his willingness to pay "ones of dollars" for the right piece. Paul's ad was so well crafted, he saved screenshots. You can check them out on his site, One Foot Tsunami.
His ad struck gold. Blue gold. For seven dollars, he bought a blue Huffy Omni, a girl's 10-speed bike with blue tires. It was actually in pretty good shape. Hideously good shape. He brought it home and prepared to strike.
Unfortunately, the prank went bad. Pam got the key and questioned John immediately. What was this mysterious key for?
Pam knew it was for John just as John knew it was from me.
John wrote, asking if I knew what the deal was with this mystery key.
The key was found and locking the bike now would be pointless!
I told Paul the bad news. The prank was on hold until I could figure out another way to sneak a key into John's possession. What was worse was that John was now aware of a mystery key, and might be focused on any lock or key-related packages arriving in the mail.
Paul suggested sending a gigantic janitor's keyring with hundreds of keys. A great idea, but where could I get one?
One idea was to plant the key in the darkest orifice of a sex doll and to send the rubber seductress to John through the post.
He'd discover the key, but finding it would raise questions about which appendage did the bulk of the searching.
There was no rush, I was still waiting for John's revenge. I waited.
I probably would have waited forever if Paul didn't have the bike propped up in his den.
With some jostling from Paul, I made a decision. I'd hide the key inside a fire extinguisher, and then send the extinguisher to John, with no indication of the tampering. He'd never look in there, right? He'd have to ruin the extinguisher to check his suspicion, a tragic decision if a sack fire was forthcoming.
I went to Target to make my purchases, A new U lock and a rechargable fire extinguisher. But next to the bike locks I found something else: The Wordlock. A lock unlocked with a four-letter combination. Perfect!
It would be much easier to sneak a word into John's hands than to sneak a key in.
The options were endless. What word could I use? How can I condense "Rob is Awesome" into four letters?
There was no time to ponder. The prank had already simmered for too long, it was time to take action. In the parking lot it hit me. I'd still send the fire extinguisher, but instead of needing it to put out an actual fire on his porch, he'd need it to get rid of a blue problem on that porch. The bike was the fire. The combination would be FIRE.
That evening, I ordered a fire extinguisher on Amazon. The fire extinguisher went to John's house, the Wordlock went to Paul.
The wheels were back in motion.
I asked Paul to wait at least a week before he locked up the bike. I wanted the mysterious fire extinguisher to dissolve a bit into John's memory.
The next day, the fire extinguisher arrived at John's house without explanation.
A few weeks later, Paul and his accomplice struck, locking the dropframe eyesore to the lamppost in front of John's house. I never advise doing anything sneaky at night, but we had no intel on John's daily routine, and reconnoitering the house was too creepy.
Here's the result. How long would the bike sit there before John figured out the combo? John's neighborhood association was rooting for him.
The bike would probably be there forever.
Or for a minute. I wasn't sure. There was nothing to do but wait.
After four long days I recieved the following note from John:
I'm hoping you can help me. I've been stuck on this crossword puzzle clue for days.
What's a four letter word for "unlock"?
He was stuck! I nudged him in the right direction.
Hmm. Ah, I think I know this one, but I'm drawing a blank.
Usually the puzzlemaster will set up the board based on recent events. Also, you don't have to try crazy spellings. It's gotta be a real, english word.
And that was the last I heard from him, until he posted the results on his own website, Zug.com.
Here's what happened:
- He didn't figure out the fire extinguisher connection.
- After a day or two, he lifted the bike over the top of the light fixture on the top of the pole, sparing his neighborhood from an extended period of unsightly bike pollution.
- His kids cracked the Wordlock in about 7 minutes, not by choosing common english words, but by using the barrel lock "constant pressure" method.
- He tried to actually ride the blue monster, crashing in a dramatic fashion in the street.
Despite the long timeline and the near-disaster of the first key being discovered prematurely, I think this was a very successful prank. John suffered with a hideous bike in his front yard for two weeks, but he managed to escape from a Kryptonite lock, so he should consider himself lucky.