Michael T. Dolan

Writings, Reflections, and Commentaries

An existential look at pranksterism

Posted on | April 1, 2011 | No Comments

“Dyed-in-the-wool fools don’t need a special day” in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

I love practical jokes. Even before I could tie my shoes, I was tying unsuspecting family members’ laces together.

So began my career as a prankster – a profession that can sometimes prove hazardous to one’s health and one’s relationships, depending on the extent of the prank and the recipient’s supply of goodwill at the time of its execution.

Take, for example, the case of the kitchen-sink spray hose. Wrapping a rubber band tightly around its trigger causes water to shoot directly at any unsuspecting target who turns on the faucet.

When the target is your mother, who is fighting a migraine while preparing dinner for seven sons who just tramped mud through the house, said prank is not such a good idea. On the other hand, if the rigged spray hose happens to soak a sibling or a friend at a party, it can prove highly entertaining.

Pranksterism is all about timing, which is why it’s advisable to keep a handful of rubber bands in your pocket at all times. One never knows when the opportunity to rig a kitchen-sink hose will arise. Having a rubber band at the ready ensures that you never have to leave someone’s home without leaving a surprise soaking waiting for him.

Even more important than timing is knowing where to draw the line – or, better yet, where other people draw the line. I do my best to come as close to the line as possible without crossing it, but I must admit that I haven’t always succeeded. Sometimes I’ve even long-jumped over it, causing my conscience to play Monday-morning quarterback.

Whether or not I cross the line, I tend to get the same questions: Why do you do this? Where do you find the time? And: I’ll get you back!

Asking the first question is like asking a mountain climber why he risks his life on the rocky face of El Capitan. Why sneak away with a guest’s keys and move his car halfway down the street, changing all the radio presets while doing so? Because it’s there.

Like other vocations, pranksterism is part of one’s makeup. The prankster sees the fun in life and considers it his calling to remind others to do the same. When people take life or themselves too seriously, the prankster is there to put things in perspective.

Too often, we go through this world worrying about matters that are of little importance in the grand scheme of things. The prankster says: “If it won’t matter when you’re dead and gone, it shouldn’t matter to you now. Here’s a water balloon to lighten the mood!”

Where do we find the time? We make the time – and that’s the difference between those who suffer practical jokes and those who execute them. The former always threaten to retaliate after you set their alarm clock for the middle of the night, but they never do. Though they may have every intention of returning the disfavor, they just won’t make the time for it.

And even if they do prank the pranksters, we tend to appreciate the effort, because it means they’re playing our game now.

It’s April Fools’ Day, by the way. Why not join in?

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