Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ben The Jokester

One recent morning found my oldest son and me sitting at the breakfast table together and chatting about this and that. Out of the blue, he begins explaining to me the mechanics behind building a dry-ice bomb. I believe he garnered this little nugget of newfound “wisdom” from a kid at school – we seriously need to screen his friends better – and the intimacy of our conversation naturally coaxed it out of him. For an eleven-year-old boy, you can’t find a better bonding moment.

Nevertheless, as he finished his explanation of this phenomenon of fun, I pointed out that he had a couple of holes in his understanding of this matter and filled them in for him. This didn’t produce the “thanks, Dad” I was expecting; instead, he looked at me squarely with an eager look of curiosity and asked, “Dad, have you ever built a dry-ice bomb?” At the very moment the last syllable came out of his mouth, the world stopped spinning on its axis – you might have sensed it, too – and everything froze in mid air. It felt as if I was in the middle of The Matrix, and I wasn’t sure how long this was going to last. (The only other time this happened was when the last syllable came out of MY mouth when I was explaining the facts of life to my son, and what seemed like an eternity was really only a nanosecond.) So I did what any normal approaching-middle-age dad would do: I grabbed a Sharpie, drew an Abe Lincoln beard on my son, got back in my chair, and waited for time to start up again. And when it did, I screwed up my courage, looked my son right in the eye, and got up from the table without answering the question. Never lie to your children, people.

Many of you are probably wondering how old I am and when am I going to grow out of pranks. Granted, the ALLEGED dry-ice incident was over twenty years ago back in college, but the Abe Lincoln beard was recent. (I’ll admit that the beard was a bit immature, but you have to know your audience.) At any rate, I’m not that old, and I don’t believe there is an age limit. I’m willing to bet the whole thing with Benjamin Franklin with the key on the kite string had absolutely nothing to do with electricity experiments – one of his buddies was probably locked in his bedroom on the second floor of a neighboring building because they had been caught mooning the town pastor. Obviously, they didn’t adhere to the maxim of “know your audience”. I digress – but that’s probably why most of you are reading this in the first place.

In that vein, I recently changed jobs, and in the process of moving on, I needed to return some equipment including a cell phone. The company acknowledged receipt of the equipment, and about a week later I was curious if they had disconnected the service for my old cell phone. Alas, they hadn’t, and I still have the password to access the outgoing voicemail greeting. When the great gods of pranks smile upon you and hand you an opportunity like this, you don’t pass it up. As of the writing of this column, if you call my old cell number, this is what you’ll hear:

“Hi, you’ve reached the now-defunct cell phone voicemail of Grant Greene with the XYZ Corporation. While rumors that I am a member of a cult or that I joined a cabaret troop under the name of Lydia Johnson are totally untrue, I am no longer with the XYZ Corporation. If you’re calling about a matter related to the XYZ Corporation, you’re going to want to hang up and . . . actually, you’re going to want to listen to this part first and then hang up and call XXX-XXX-XXXX and ask for customer service. If you’re just now learning that I’m no longer with the XYZ Corporation, rest assured I’m not a member of a cult or traveling with a cabaret troop under the name of Lydia Johnson, but you’ll need to call me at . . .”
Whether I’m an approaching-middle-age dad or a feral teenager, some of you may find no humor at all in the idea of having a little fun with corporate America. As for myself, I have to admit to some degree of satisfaction knowing people are either laughing or scratching their heads when they call my old cell number. However, if campus security from my old college starts calling around about some dry-ice bombs twenty years ago, Grant Greene is dead and Lydia Johnson is in Brazil on an extended engagement with the cast of “Moulin Rouge”.

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