Informant: Well… So, my coworkers and I like to prank each other, and there was a time when there was this really stink––I can’t remember who started it––but one of us got this stinkiest cheese from the store and hid it in the other one’s desk. And then he hid it in my desk. And then I hid it in his car. Like, I found a spot under the driver seat where I stuffed it up there and he couldn’t ever find it. So I mean, there’s stuff like that. One of the guys also covered my phone in Vaseline and called me and I answered it and freaking shoved a glob of Vaseline in my ear hole… One time I heard that someone was running late for a meeting so I went and parked both of our moving vans on both sides of his car within like three inches. He couldn’t open his doors so I saw him out in the parking lot––he had to open the trunk––it was a station wagon… So he crawled in through the trunk to get to his car. Um… The other thing we’d do is if like the other guy left his door open, we’d like recline the seat…? Because a lot of times when you get in your car you just automatically lean back without looking and so you see him like disappear. It was so funny. Like I did it to him one time, and you know, I saw him like go out to his car and he like went to lean back and he just disappeared. So, I don’t know, just stupid stuff… And we do it to our boss too. Like sometimes when we know he’s going skiing, we pack his boots filled with like popcorn… Uh… Styrofoam popcorn, or uh… We’ll turn his bindings backwards. Or, yeah.
INFORMANT’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE PIECE:
Interviewer: Why do you think you guys do these pranks in the workplace?
Informant: ‘Cause our job’s boring, and this makes being at work fun… There’s no real reason other than to have fun, you know? We’re all stressed out, we’re all… You know, working hard, and then… All of the sudden you start laughing ‘cause you find a block of stinky cheese under your desk… You know, or someone shrink wraps my entire desk with like computer and everything, like… With this like moving tape… It’s just part of the culture of the office to have fun together… Everyone’s like, you know, we’ll let air out of our boss’ tire when he’s going biking, just… There’s always stuff.
Pranking coworkers is often associated with rites of passage, as the pranks are often geared towards new employees who have yet to be “initiated” into the in-group. Pranks are often associated with thresholds, as demonstrated by trickster characters who are neither entirely good nor entirely bad; they are unstable, liminal figures. This piece, however, demonstrates that pranks are not limited to transitional periods of time. They can also be ongoing components of a work culture, and may continue amongst the in-group. It appears here that pranks are used to make a very stable, predictable environment slightly more unstable. It reduces the formality of the workplace, blurring the divide between employer and employee, and between professional and casual relationships and conduct.