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Friday, June 21, 2013


Steve Cole reports on the Top Ten Pranks we played on Jean during the Origins 2013 road trip.

You have to understand two things. First, Jean is a naturally trusting person and believes anything told to her unless it's obviously wrong. Second, Steven Petrick and I have been together so long that one of us can make up an entirely new story and the other one can accurately describe the end of it, having only heard the first half. We never planned a prank in advance, but made them up as we went along.

Honorable Mention: DEATH OF THE FRALLI: This one happened in 2010 and was not part of Origins but the story deserves telling. When we got PD20M Federation ready, we printed a special copy in which the pages describing the Fralli species (who are legendarily ugly and I tease Jean about them all the time) were replaced (ah, the glories of print on demand) with specially rewritten pages describing how the ugly Fralli were hunted for sport and eventually made extinct when their planet was destroyed. Jean actually believed we had rewritten the original text and that thousands of books were in stores saying this.

10. DOUBLE OCCUPANCY: When we got to the motel at Joplin the first night, I went inside to get the two rooms. I came out with keys and Steven Petrick asked me if the room cost was reasonable. I said "We saved half of the cost of Jean's room. I booked it double occupancy so she'll be sharing with some other lady." I said this knowing that my head was beyond Jean's reach, but not knowing that she had picked up an empty Coke bottle to throw away after we got out of the car. The bottle made a resounding "thunk" on my head. It was never clear if Jean had believed what I said or if she was just expressing that she didn't think it was all that funny. After that point, Jean used "the whanger" any time we acted up, which was a lot.

Honorable Mention: DO-DAH: Not really a prank, but it was pretty funny. I was driving east on Tuesday and wandered a bit to the side and hit the rumble strips. Jean got upset about my bad driving. I then began to sing "Camptown ladies sing this song" and hit the rumble strips for the "do-dah" part at the end of each line. Jean quickly employed "the whanger" to stop this from continuing.

9. SAINT LOUIS BY MORNING: The biggest city on the route is Saint Louis and traffic there is legendarily bad. During the first trip (in 1999) we took a very long bypass to avoid the city on the way there, but on the way back missed the exit and went straight through town (at 2am) and it was all but deserted. In 2000 we determined we'd get there at 2pm on the way east and decided that we would try going straight through. While there is a lot of traffic, it's not THAT bad, and we now do that every time. We reach the city on the return trip (going west) at midnight so that's not an issue either. Anyway, we told Jean on the way up that she had to ride in the front (navigator) seat through Saint Louis because she was scheduled to drive the 11pm to 1am shift (through Saint Louis, to the hotel we stay at in Missouri). She was terrified but agreed to do it so long as I rode in the navigator seat to guide her (as I had in Nashville, Memphis, and Oklahoma City during her move to Texas six weeks earlier). I said that I planned to be asleep, and Steven Petrick said he also planned to be asleep. Jean said she would hit me to wake me up any time she wanted company, which would be every mile. Jean was not told until Sunday night that Steven Petrick always drove that shift and planned to do so again.

8. GOING COMMANDO: The very first prank began before we were even a block from the office. I told Jean that it was an Origins tradition to not wear underwear on the drive (to avoid bad luck) and that we hoped she had understood this and would participate. Jean questioned Steven Petrick, who refused to confirm or deny what he was wearing. Jean clearly believed the story but said she refused to participate. At the first rest stop (still in Texas) we told her it was the last chance to avoid bad luck, and again she refused. At Origins, we mentioned the "tradition" to the guys in the next booth, who instantly confirmed it. "Everybody knows that" said one of them and "we never do" said the other. Jean was outraged that "you're all in on it!"
7. COUNTING COUP: On the road home on Monday (the last day), I invented a "traditional game we always play" of "counting coup on trucks." Steven Petrick instantly played along. I told Jean I would maneuver close to the truck we were approaching while Steven Petrick leaned out the window to hit it with something. Jean apparently believed this as she loudly and firmly prohibited the game from being played.

6. THE BEAR THAT WASN'T THERE: At one point, in a conversation about something, I said "Jean wasn't paying attention; she didn't even see the bear." Jean of course asked "what bear?" and was upset we had not pointed it out. Steven Petrick confirmed that a bear cub had indeed been in a pen by the side of the road, and that the bear cub was the pet of an Indian tribal chief on one of the Oklahoma reservations. Jean fully believed this until (a few pranks later) she suddenly asked "Was there really a bear?" and we had to confess. Later attempts to convince Jean we had seen a buffalo and a mountain lion were not successful (other than attracting the attention of "the whanger.")

5. HOT PURSUIT IN INDIANAPOLIS: Jean hates areas with lots of traffic and spaghetti highways since her home area has neither. When we set up the three-driver shift system, I kept my traditional cities (Indianapolis and Oklahoma City) and Steven Petrick kept his (Saint Louis and Columbus). Approaching Indianapolis, Jean (checking the maps on her Xoom) remarked that we would surely take the loop around the city. Knowing from experience that there was a lot more traffic on the loop than in the center of the city, I said I was going "right through the middle of town like a wildcat with a fire under his tail." Jean remarked that there was no reason to drive in that manner. I did in fact drive right through the middle, but periodically remarked that we were being followed by police cars (which Jean could not see because "they are hanging back, waiting for us to do something.") Without missing a beat, Steven Petrick pointed out the "unmarked police car" that was just ahead of us. Jean asked how we knew it was an unmarked police car, and I mentioned that the tailpipe was non-standard and obviously meant that the car had a larger police engine. At one point I did a double-take in the rear-view mirror and said "Crap! I didn't mean for THAT to happen" and convinced Jean that some maneuver I had just done had caused an accident. She later required convincing that no such accident had happened.

4. THE RADAR DETECTOR APP: At one point during the "hot pursuit," Jean asked how I knew I had evaded the police car that was chasing us. I remarked that the radar detector was no longer going off. Jean said that the rental car had no such detector. Steven Petrick then picked up my smart phone from the console between the front seats and said "Right here." I said that I had a radar detector app for my smart phone. Jean furiously tapped on her Xoom and declared that there was no such thing. I said, "My smart phone is a G5, Jean" and she said, "There is no such thing." Steven Petrick and I then burst out laughing, saying "We didn't work in military intelligence for two decades without making friends in the right places." Jean acted like she believed us (and we're certain that she did), but later insisted that as she had never seen the phone light up or heard it vibrate so she had not really been fooled.

3. THE CHICAGO SEVEN: We passed several intersections with highways leading to Chicago. Jean asked if we could "run by Chicago" to see a friend. Steven Petrick and I said no because it would be five or six hours out of the way. When Jean pursued the matter, Steven Petrick said "We cannot go to Chicago. We agreed in court to leave town and never come back." Jean demanded an explanation, so we hinted broadly at some "incident" which had been "covered up" on the condition that we never set foot in Chicago again. As we passed a prison in Illinois (where, as I did every year, I pretended to "wave to my (imaginary) homies" who are incarcerated there) and Jean became convinced that this was all too true.
 2. MUNICIPAL COURT: It was Wednesday morning and we were having breakfast and discussing the plans to set up the booth and get the events started. Jean asked what the schedule was, and I asked Steven Petrick, "What time do we have to be at municipal court?" Jean responded, "WHAT?!" but Steven Petrick responded, "Three-thirty," without missing a beat. Prompted by Jean, we explained that we had gone for a walk at 2am that morning, helped two gamer girls unload their car, gotten involved in "an incident", were questioned by the police, and that a traffic ticket one of us got in Columbus five years ago and surfaced but was (incorrectly) not marked "paid." We said we had to go to court and straighten out the "complication." Jean kept asking about the incident with the girls until it was past 3:30 and obviously a prank.

1. FLAMING ARROWS: The greatest prank of all happened in later afternoon on the first day as we were headed east out of Oklahoma City. I know the road well (it's my usual driving shift) and I knew I was approaching the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation. I warned Jean that we'd be going through it at 95mph (when the normal speed limit is 75mph). She demanded to know why. I said that because of a lawsuit between the tribe and the state, the state would not enforce the traffic laws on the reservation and the Indians were prohibited by treaty from doing so. Jean pointed out that just because there were no police to give tickets was no excuse to go 95mph. Steven Petrick and I then both gave the same reply "We have to go that fast to avoid the flaming arrows." I explained that the Indians were upset over the fast cars and launched flaming arrows over the highway to scare drivers into slowing down, but that this had the opposite effect. At that moment, we passed an area of a recent grass fire and Steven Petrick said "See?" Jean questioned us closely about the flaming arrows and I insisted that the Indians really did aim to miss the cars but occasionally hit one. Steven Petrick said one had broken his window seven years earlier, with the flaming warhead landing in his lap and burning him. Jean demanded to see the scar but Steven Petrick insisted that it was in "a non-public area" and Jean began to believe that it might be all too real. I had (over a few minutes) bumped the cruise control down from 75mph to 70mph and when we passed the Sac and Fox sign I "gunned" the engine up to 75mph and announced we were going 95mph. Steven Petrick leaned over as if to look at the speedometer and said "95mph confirmed!" and Jean started screaming (and praying). We were at dinner an hour later when we told Jean we had in fact never exceeded the speed limit of 75mph and that there were never any flaming arrows. She Gibbs-smacked us both.