Memories with Richard Bleil
My regular readers probably remember that my first real “teaching gig” was at a very conservative SDA college. My friend, Tom, had his office just down the hallway from mine. Not only was he a professor there, but he was also the head of the Respiratory Care department and had a couple of faculty members who reported to him as their supervisor. I was friends with both of these faculty, and especially close to one that I’ll mention in a bit. It was not uncommon for faculty, including Tom and myself, to leave our office doors open if we were stepping out briefly.
One day, in the bookstore (where I would go when I needed to stretch my legs for a few minutes), I noticed, in the Christmas season, that they were selling sound-activated “rapping Santa”. It was cute and only played one song. I’m not a fan of rap music, so no, I didn’t buy one when I saw it, but it was fun to see.
Now you have the set-up, but there was a trigger for this particularly cruel and very effective practical joke. See, Tom had brought in a string of “Little Drummer Boys”. They were meant to be used like Christmas tree lights (and I believe they may have been sound activated as well), but instead of twinkling, when activated, they drummed out Christmas songs. Plural. Many of them. For an hour (or so). And my office was just down the hall.
I don’t want to speak cruelly here, but I am not a fan of Christmas songs. When he plugged the stand in, I heard these songs for a very long and annoying time. I would close my door and turn up my music in the hopes of drowning it out (which was moderately successful). Then God gave me an idea. An evil, cruel, hilarious idea. Buy the wrapping Santa. So, I did. And I waited.
One day, walking back to my office, I noticed that Tom’s door was open, but he wasn’t in his office. I rushed to my office, and grabbed the Rapping Santa, and I hid it in his office, but not just anywhere. I hid the Santa behind the books on the shelf that were behind the Little Drummer Boys. Fortunately, Tom is the kind of guy who likes to move his books up so they’re straight and even on the shelf, so there was plenty of space. So, he had the Little Drummer Boys in front of the books in front of Rapping Santa. Do you see what’s coming?
And I waited. Fortunately, he was out of his office long enough for me not to get caught setting it up, but I figured that the first time Rapping Santa was triggered, he would find it and we’d have a good laugh. But it didn’t happen. On occasion I would hear him restart his Little Drummer Boys, and although it didn’t play very long, he never came to me about the joke.
I was friends with many of the faculty there, one of whom was a professor in the department that Tom headed up. Chatting with her one day, she mentioned an upcoming meeting with Tom and the department, and I explained the practical joke to her, and how I’ve never heard from him. I asked him to see if she could subtly figure out what had happened, and she agreed.
After the meeting, she came into my office laughing hysterically. She said that when she was in there, she asked about the Little Drummer Boys, and he offered to demonstrate them. Once started, a few moments later, the Rapping Santa kicked in filling the room of the sounds of very traditional drummed songs and horrible rap. He then unplugged the Little Drummer Boys, saying that he doesn’t understand where the rap was coming from. As near as he could figure it, he explained, the strand must be picking up the radio station from the rap channel just down the road, “and they must play that song a LOT!”
She lost it. She confessed that she couldn’t hold it in and spilled the beans about the joke there in the meeting. So, Tom did get his traditional Little Drummer Boys back, and he did return the Rapping Santa (sadly) to me. And yes, we’re still friends. But because of his erroneous assumption, this practical joke lasted and repeated for weeks. I’m not a great fan of most practical jokes but this has got to be one of my favorites.