As we edge from Spring into Summer, it’s graduation/commencement season, and therefore the season for senior pranks. I was reminded of this when a friend of mine mentioned that some group of miscreants had filled the grassy area in front of her son’s high school with plastic forks, which they had thrust into the soil, creating a small forest of fork handles. I admired the absurdity and relative harmlessness of the act. Had they broken off the handles, it would have been a much greater hassle to clean up. To paraphrase Mr. Zimmermann, the prank won’t work if the vandals took the handles.
This put me in mind of my own senior prank. One of the (many) things that got on my nerves at the end of my high school career was the disjunction between our status as students and our status as quasi-adults. Military recruiters were a frequent presence, and at least one of the guidance counselors was keen on steering kids that way, with all the responsibilities and risks attendant on the choice. At the same time, the principal’s announcements each morning began with “Boys and Girls.” As graduation neared, we heard frequent threats that various misbehaviors could get us barred from participating in the ceremony, or that things like cap-tossing could result in notes on that old standby, the Permanent Record. Senior pranks, we were told, would be met with serious reprisals.
Challenge accepted. I created a list of “Graduation Behavior Guidelines” (probably lifted from National Lampoon — I was a big fan.), along the lines of “Be sure to wear something under your gowns; we don’t need the police involved like last year,” and “It is strictly forbidden to throw mortarboards, football helmets, and Molotov Cocktails during the ceremony.” It concluded with something like, “Thank you for your cooperation, you spoiled, lazy, selfish suburban brats.”
Then I enlisted my dad, who was as much an iconoclast as I was. He was a computer professional, and had access to a high-quality printer (unusual in 1983). He also was a talented artist, and he created letterhead for the (nonexistent) “Boone County High School Office of Student Services.” He printed out a bunch of these very official-looking letters, and one morning, I (with a couple of friends) slapped them up all over the school building.
Official consternation ensued. At least one of my teachers declared in class that the perpetrators of this horror should be, if not flayed alive, at least barred from participation in the graduation exercises. (In a way, that would have been amusing — one of my fellow paperhangers was a class officer, and I was one of two people in my class to get a full ride to college.)
As it stood, though, I graduated without incident, and I saw a few of the “guidelines” escaped being pulled down for a couple of days. I attempt to maintain that spirit.