There was a time in my life, a time that I look back at with genuine pride, when the majority of my 9-5 working hours were spent either dreaming up and executing on elaborate practical jokes, or being the victim of similarly elaborate practical jokes that were played on me by others. This is the story of one such joke where I was very much the victim. In hindsight, it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to have seen this type of prank pulled on some unsuspecting sad sack as part of a well-funded affair for some lurid television show. 15 years later I still haven’t lived this one down, and I am most definitely aware that putting this story into print isn’t exactly serving my cause. But alas, all good stories need to be told.
This practical joke was one of pure revenge, revenge on the part of my good friend Harry who was my most recent victim, and had just been made an epic fool of in front of all his friends and family. At the time Harry began to put his rebuttal into action, I was still very much basking in the glow of such a crowning achievement. Harry had patiently waited 18 months, just long enough to scheme, plot, and devise the perfect plan – and, importantly, for it to be the middle of winter in the cold Canadian prairies. I had spent much of those 18 months sleeping with both eyes open, I truly left nothing to chance . . . or so I thought. It was at some point in the 17th month, as I was conducting my scientific like inspection of my food and drink order as I had done every time I had eaten out since landing my KO punch on Harry, that I decided enough was enough. Time to live my life, Harry had clearly moved on and my impenetrable fortress of defense had seemingly served its purpose.
Before it becomes painfully obvious just how flawed my logic above was, lets rewind a bit. Within that 18-month period, I became the proud owner of my first ever brand new automobile. Up until that point I had cruised around town in a variety of different autos, more specifically, any vehicle belonging to my parents that they would allow me drive. When the time finally came for me to purchase my own vehicle, my discerning taste resulted in the selection of a 20-year old Nissan Maxima, the first vehicle I ever drove that had my actual name on the registration documents. Incidentally, it was also the first vehicle I ever drove with the better part of a million kilometers on it as well. I had purchased said Maxima from a friend for $1,500. At $0.0015 per kilometer driven, I figured it had to be a good deal. It was in great shape my buddy said, and hey, with 1,000,000 Km’s in the record books this little baby was clearly built like a rock. Realizing this was a deal I could not pass up, yet unable to scrounge together the $1,500 necessary to complete the transaction, I prudently decided to take a $1,500 cash advance on my credit card that came complete with a $1,600 limit and a 21% interest rate. My forthcoming book on financial planning is due out in the Spring. My friend and I exchanged cash for car, shook hands, and I proudly drove away in my own personal grand old jalopy.
7 days later, while on its 1,000,050th kilometer, my not so grand old jalopy broke down in the middle of a busy intersection like a horse carriage that had lost it wheels. The ensuing bill came in at $4,000. Thank you friend. Though my friend attempted to redeem himself by helping me get my broken down Maxima listed at an “insiders” auction where auto Dealers from across the land would come to “snap up” vehicles. At the time, I figured I was in for a nice little payday having been granted access to such an exclusive club. But in hindsight, the $215 I netted after auctioneer commissions for a broken down 20-year old vehicle with 1 million Km’s on was probably a fair price. Borrow money at 21% to buy a depreciating asset for $1,500 and sell 7 days later for $215, again, my financial planning book will be out soon. Prior to the Maxima, my vehicle of choice was my parent’s hot pink 1993 Chrysler Neon – base model, 4-door. Sadly, the Neon met its untimely demise when a streetlamp jumped out of nowhere as I was backing it out of our driveway.
Thus, my history with vehicles was not an illustrious one. But given my burgeoning entry-level career at a large Canadian bank, my lack of vehicle and my grand total bank balance of $215 was simply not acceptable. It was time I showed the world just how damn successful and important I was. What would be a suitable choice of vehicle for someone like myself? There are many cars that simply ooze with self-importance, cars that tell the whole world that you have made it. Would a Mercedes suffice? Maybe a BMW M3, I had always wanted one of those. Those new Land Rovers looked pretty sharp too. I needed something like that, I deserved something like that. So shortly after reviewing my finances in greater detail, I made a trip to the local Honda dealership. I wasn’t interested in any old run of the mill Honda, after much deliberation and performing an in depth review of the entire Honda line-up, I decided to invest in the Civic line. The ultimate in self-indulgence. Compact hatchback, 4 cylinder. Leased. Standard transmission. No air conditioning. No power windows. No sunroof. These items were of course not included in the “G” model. G of course stood for Good, not Great. I am not entirely sure what was included in the G model, but I do know that my new Civic did have a CD player upgrade, which cost an extra $500. Leased over 5 years, that little add-on only cost me an extra $8/month. Score.
I was now the proud owner of a leased model G 2002 Honda Civic Hatchback. As for the colour, I predictably went with bright shiny red – the colour of success and power. Now known however as the colour of irresponsible youth. Irresponsible Youth Red, that is what they should call it in the brochures. My colour choice aside, everything went just swimmingly for the first few months, I cruised around town as if I owned the place. Waving and whistling at any pedestrian that would look at me, and even those that wouldn’t. Unfortunately though, my honeymoon period was short lived. Before you could say “0 to 60 in 13.5 seconds”, everything went straight to shit.
My shiny new red Honda Civic got broken into on 3 separate occasions within the span of 3 months. For those keeping track and who are mathematically inclined, that amounts to, on average, approximately one break-in per month. How could this be happening and how bad could my luck possibly be? At the time of course, I was too fucking stupid to realize that bad luck had absolutely nothing to do with it. The Honda Civic is the most broken into car on the planet and as far as bright red shiny Honda Civics go, well they might as well have a sign on them that says “my owner’s a half-wit who just bought his first new car, take what you want”. To take bad luck completely out of the equation, I should also mention that my car escaped all 3 of these break-ins completely unscathed – with no visible signs of any sort of forced entry whatsoever. Thus, someone or something had likely left the manual door lock unlocked in each instance. Not sure who. Fortunately for me though, I didn’t carry a lot of possessions in my car anyway, but I did have the typical things such as a small, yet rocking CD collection; gloves; aluminum travel coffee mug; and a series of scrunched up McDonalds drive-thru bags in the back seat. After the 3rd break-in I was reduced to exactly 1 CD (not exactly a choice cut, it was Right Said Fred, thus explaining the reason it was still in my possession). Good thing I upgraded to the CD player. The McDonalds bags also survived.
I was perplexed, I was angry, I was confused, I was an idiot. And being the kind of guy I am, I made damn sure the whole world knew of the pain and suffering I was going through. I mean who gets their car broken into 3 times in the same year, let alone the same season? This was serious stuff and I wanted to make sure everyone knew how difficult I had things. With his ear cupped and raised downwind in search of his next opportunity, Harry of course was taking it all in like a Jedi Knight.
It was at this time that an idea came to Harry and a plan sprung to life in his head. Like I said, it was now the middle of winter, and Harry dreamt up an idea to stage a 4th break-in. His plan involved getting access to my car while it was parked at work, rolling down the front passenger window, throwing down some shards of broken glass, removing/”stealing” my Right Said Fred CD and travel coffee mug, and then watch me drive aimlessly in the frigid winter temperatures with a rolled down window in search of an auto-body shop. The payoff would of course come when I’d visit said auto body shop only to have the window rolled up in front me, called a dumb fuck and sent on my way. That at least was the plan. How all the events actually unfolded however would exceed even Harry’ lofty expectations.
So Harry waited for a sufficiently brutal cold winter day. As luck would have it, it was probably the coldest day in many years, below -30 degrees Celsius. The kind of weather where you yearn for whale blubber and begin to wonder if you will ever feel heat again. But more importantly, it’s the kind of weather where you want all your car windows securely rolled up. In the weeks leading up, Harry had made the requisite arrangements with all the key players. He needed access to my car while I was distracted for a sufficient period of time and he needed to ensure he wouldn’t get reported to the police for suspicious looking activity while doing so. Where my car was parked at work was in plain view of a good number of offices, all belonging to my trusty middle aged co-workers who just loved a good bit of daytime drama and would absolutely jump at the opportunity to call 911 and get the police out if they saw some good for nothing kid in the parking lot causing trouble. Finally, Harry wanted witnesses, folks to share in my stupidity. When it all went down, Harry wanted me surrounded by as many of my close, personal friends as possible – thereby maximizing the subsequent fallout factor. Fortunately for Harry, he didn’t have to wrangle a whole lot of people to make this a reality. All 3 of them would enjoy the look of horror and disbelief on my face at my 4th break-in and see me drive off into the arctic air with my front passenger window rolled down cursing my never-ending bad luck. That way the story would surely spread like wild fire.
With temperatures cold enough to constipate a polar bear, Harry gave his troops their marching orders. The day had arrived. As I was going through my 60-minute morning routine before work – which typically involved a 5 minute shower and 55 minutes worth of alarm “snoozing” – Jerilyn, my girlfriend, called. Not alarming, but certainly not the norm. She knows I’m not a morning person, call me before 9am at your own risk. Turned out Jerilyn needed a ride to work that day, and fortunately for her, we worked at the same branch. She said it was something about needing to let her roommate borrow her car for the day.
“Why the fuck would you give your car to your roommate?” I didn’t say.
“She has a perfectly good car of her own,” I also didn’t say.
So I obliviously picked up Jerilyn, slotted in some Right Said Fred into the CD player and burned my little red rocket along the 30-minute commute to work.
Mr. Fred was hitting the chorus of “I’m too sexy for this car” when we pulled up in my base model 4-door Honda Civic. I should say when “I” pulled up, not we. Jerilyn was stumbling in her heels in the bitterly cold air and heavy snow a couple hundred feet behind me with a token cup of Starbucks in her hand. You see, we were keeping our budding little inter-office romance on the down-low at the time. So I thought best to drop her off at the Starbucks on the other side of the road to thereby avoid the watchful eyes any co-workers. She was lucky to have me. By the time I had shut the music off, got out and made my 2 step walk to the branch, Jerilyn and I were basically walking in together. Good thing I let her nearly freeze to death.
Despite having no feeling in her extremities, and being barely able to get a word out from all her shivering, she had a job to do here that I had not made any easier, “I th-th-th-th-think I left my hand l-l-l-lotion in your c-c-c-c-car” she said, “can I have the k-k-k-k-keys?”.
“Shit, you need more than hand lotion.” I said, and tossed her my flashy Honda ignition key (remote lock opener not included) and my jacket for good measure. I promptly went to my little cubicle, turned on my computer, and called Harry to shoot the shit and begin wasting my day away. As I was talking to Harry on the phone, Jerilyn walked by my office and tossed the car keys and jacket back at me.
“Moisturized and thawing!” she said. Car unlocked. Mission accomplished.
By now all the Parking Lot Facing Employees (the official term used within Harry’ mission schematics) had been given sufficient warning by Harry not to report him to the police if they saw someone messing with my car. The interesting thing about this is that none of the PLFEs would’ve even known who the hell Harry was before he started giving them all their assignments. Yes, Harry and I worked for the same bank, but we were out of different branches. Harry would have been about as foreign to this middle-aged chain smoking crew as I was to the financial services industry recruiters operating thoughout Canada. Thus, I found it equal parts perplexing and impressive that they were so quickly willing to play ball with our main man. Did they not have any loyalty to me whatsoever? I’d spent the last 5 years of my life working at this salt mine, were we not friends and colleagues? When some stranger calls up each and every one of them and says:
“You know Mark has that bright red 2002 model G Honda Civic that he’s so proud of right? Well listen, you may or may not see a dashing young dude in his mid-20s sneakily approach his car, open the passenger door and roll down the window. This dashing young male will likely be carrying a large box of jagged shards of broken glass which he will proceed to throw all over the place. Inside of the car, outside of the car, it’ll be like he’s throwing confetti at a wedding. Anyway, you also may or may not see this individual walk away with whatever of Mark’s personal belongings happen to be in the car at the time. Just want to make sure you’re cool with that?”
The answer he got was clearly a resounding “Yes”. I’d hate to think what Harry offered them all in return for their unwavering loyalty.
Back to my industrious morning at the Branch, it was on this day in history that the “Two Girls, One Cup” email was making the rounds, having been the only email I’d actually received that morning, I watched it in my office while chowing down on a granola bar.
Wonder what this could be? I said to myself.
After spending the following 2 hours in the men’s room dry heaving at what I had just seen and futilely attempting to rid my mind of such wrongness, my friend Danielle came by asking what I was up to after work. Aside from bathing every square inch of my body in holy water while asking the lord savior Jesus Christ to cleanse my soul?
“Nothing” I said.
“Fantastic”, was the enthusiastic response, “It’s time you and I got together for a couple beers, I’ll buy, no excuses”
All I had to do now was kill the rest of the day, confirm my stomach was on the mend, and before I’d know it I’d be enjoying a much needed beer with good company.
Quitting time came early, as it always did. Danielle and I made the short stroll from the Bank to Montana’s. Danielle’s job of course was to keep me pre-occupied while the real work went down outside. Harry would be en-route soon enough, box of broken glass in hand, and all he needed to do was roll my window down, steal my shit, throw the glass everywhere and take-off. He would be in careful communication with Danielle throughout the proceedings to ensure he had the green light.
Montana’s was dead, surprising given it was typically a popular place among the local working crowd. Must be something to do with the external temperatures hovering around Absolute Zero. With the pick of tables at our disposal, I began walking to a comfy booth near a window just like where we always sat. A window with a nice view of the surrounding parking lot. Danielle wasn’t following me and she had that awkward look of someone who had just accidentally shit their pants.
“What’s up?” I said, “we sitting down?”
“I want to sit by the bathroom” was the delayed response.
When I was a kid, it was fairly common for my parents to have to confront me about some stunt that I had pulled. It happened on a somewhat regular basis as I my “truthful” gene was a little late in developing. As I write this, it is still not properly formed and doctors question whether it will ever do so. My parents would know damn well that I was guilty and all they ever wanted was for me to own up to what I had done and tell the truth so we could all move on. But my preferred way of backing myself out of these uncomfortable situations typically involved freezing in terror, staring blankly, uttering a few guttural noises, and then finally just blurting out the first nonsensical lie that I could think of. Well that is what Danielle had just done, she of course couldn’t have us in plain view of my car and was evidently ill-equipped to deal with the adversity she was facing.
“Huh? You want to sit next to the bathroom?”
She proceeded to ramble on over a series of disjointed thoughts, surely feeling that she was killing Harry’s hopes and dreams on the spot with her nonsense. Something about some gastrointestinal issues she was dealing with that day. Yes, that was the best she could come up with. After demanding that we must sit next to the bathroom in a completely empty restaurant, away from all light, she had backed herself into a corner where her only out was to proclaim she had the shits. I have never known any woman to sacrifice herself in such a way. More unwavering loyalty within Camp Harry it seemed. But on that particular day, at that particular moment, Danielle had just lucked out. Thanks to my new friends, the “2 Girls”, I could relate. Perhaps she had seen the video that day too, but I wasn’t going to go there. But still, it is one thing to have an upset stomach, it is an entirely different thing to be so unsure of your stomach that you feel the need to sit only feet away from a dirty public bathroom in a deserted restaurant. Despite the situation feeling completely unnatural, I conceded. The waiters must’ve thought we had a bathroom fetish.
So there we sat, in the empty bar, immediately adjacent to the public bathrooms. Danielle’s phone wouldn’t stop vibrating, the text messages were coming through fast and furious. Something to do with her ex-boyfriend who was feebly attempting a reconciliation she said. At least she covered that little lie slightly better than the first one. We continued to chat, drink beers, and comment on our beautiful surroundings while Harry got to work outside. Danielle even made a few token trips to the bathroom in order to substantiate her upset stomach. Nice touch. Eventually, Danielle received the confirmation message from Harry that his work was done and it was time for us to depart.
Harry was just about to leave the parking lot, but before doing so he had given the thumbs up to Danielle and as well he had asked a few bank colleagues of mine to stay behind a little late that evening – Jerilyn of course included. That way he could ensure everyone was going to get in on the fun. Danielle was also to provide Harry regular updates as the evening went on, he didn’t want to miss a single detail. As Danielle and I were walking towards our cars, so too were the 4-5 stragglers from the branch. Had to stay late they said, there were some cash balancing issues that took forever to figure out apparently. Who knew that being a bank teller required overtime? Everything was going perfectly according to plan, but that was quickly about to change.
The parking lot was basically deserted aside from the cars belonging to our little cohort. Everyone’s car was grouped together in the designated staff parking section, directly under a bright street lamp. As I approached my car, clutching my doggie bag of now frozen solid nachos, I couldn’t help but notice a slight shimmer on the ground near my car. Had I taken the time to look at Danielle, I would’ve seen a grown adult barely able to contain herself , but luckily for this story I did not. Not being good liars, Danielle and the rest of the group were all desperately trying to keep a straight face. I, on the other, hand was focused intently on my car and this pile of reflective…what was that, it looked like… BROKEN GLASS!
“WHAT THE FUCK, MY WINDOW’S BEEN SMASHED, ANOTHER FUCKING BREAK-IN. THIS IS UN-FUCKING-BELIEVEABLE!!!”
I have never been one to filter my foul mouth in times of distress. I threw my frozen nachos across the parking lot and my hands in the air in utter disbelief. How in God’s name had this happened to me again? Everyone came running up to play their part and have a closer look, sure enough the window was smashed and the old red rocket had been violated yet again. Poor girl I thought to myself, you deserved so much better. After somewhat composing myself, I peered inside the passenger window, Right Said Fred was gone, as was my coffee mug.
I believe Danielle was just about to type “He bought it!!!!” via text message to Harry, when I began examining the window a little closer. The group collectively held its breath, what the hell was he doing?? Harry hadn’t simply thrown the broken shards of glass in a random toss. Yes, he had thrown a pile on the ground and pile inside my car, but he had also taken the time to insert some of the larger shards directly into the cavity that the window rolls down into. This way he could create the look that the window had truly been blasted in by a baseball bat or the like with some of the window still remaining in place. These shards of glass sat neatly atop the actual window that Harry had rolled down.
“Mark, it’s freezing out here. You need to find a body shop or something. Just get in and get your heater started!” Danielle said in an effort to ensure the joke didn’t flop. But all I wanted to do was remove this jagged glass, it was dangerous don’t you know. So I did the unthinkable, I opened the door, got inside and started rolling the window up. My goal was to roll up whatever was left of my window in order to push all the shards out, I didn’t want to risk cutting myself by just grabbing and attempting to remove them. The joke was about to flop flat on its ass. I was going to roll up the window and know it was all a scam. The entire group had stayed late at work, Danielle had bought me beers and nachos, and now they all stood freezing their asses off in a dark, deserted parking lot for nothing. Or maybe not.
So I rolled . . . .and rolled, the jagged shards had now been completely pushed out, yet so much of the window remained intact. It was an absolute blessing from above that no one simply decided to let out a dejected breath and let me in on a joke that had so clearly gone wrong. Perhaps because it had happened so fast, or perhaps simply because everyone was too damn cold, they all just stood there in silence as I went about my merry business of unearthing the prank that had just been played on me. So much effort, so much time. Harry would be gutted to know what was going on. But I continued rolling, amazed myself at how much of the window still remained, eventually I had rolled it all the way up. I couldn’t believe it, my draw dropped to the ground and I just stared in shock at everyone. They too stared in shock, but for an entirely different reason.
“My car has 2 windows!” I proclaimed.
It is hard to appreciate just how moronic that statement is. The group, who had a split second earlier accepted that the joke had bombed, had now heard one of the most ridiculous statements ever uttered by a human being in the history of mankind. Did he just say what we thought he said?
Yes I did!
“Can you believe it, my little Honda Civic has 2 windows! If one gets smashed, you just roll another one up right behind it!”
I told you I was stupid. Unsure how to respond, everyone simply erupted into laughter. I did too. I thought we were all laughing at this obvious genius that none of us had been able to discover before today. What a marvelous piece of design. How did none of us ever think of this before? Gotta love those folks at Honda hey guys?
“Oh my God” Danielle finally said ,”this is amazing”.
“isn’t it?” I immediately responded.
“No, it’s absolutely amazing” she said.
I was just too impressed with the engineering marvel that is Honda. Thank fuck I hadn’t bought one of those shitty BMWs or Mercedes, pretty sure they only come with one window per door. We all finally got in our cars and went home, everyone else of course was eager to communicate with Harry about the radical 180 degree turn his joke had taken. And all I could think about was starting to call everyone I knew about what I had just discovered.
So I carefully removed whatever remaining glass I could, got in the car and began driving home. Sadly for Harry, I was not freezing my ass off with a passenger window needlessly rolled all the way down. But what I was doing would more than make up for it. I was making phone calls, phone calls that still haunt me to this day. First up was my loving father. He lived in Toronto, a late PM weeknight phone call usually meant I needed money. Imagine this conversation:
“Dad, you’re not going to believe it?”
“What, what is it? Are you OK??”
“Oh I am fine, but you’re not going to believe it. My car was broken into again!”
“Again? Jesus, you need to get something different. Why the hell did you get that thing painted red anyway? Bright red no less, the colour of irresponsible youth.”
“No no no, listen, it’s all good. My civic has two windows!”
“Two windows? It should have four.”
“No, two windows in each slot! Like 8 windows in total, vous comprendez?”
“What in God’s name are you talking about? Have you been drinking? Are you drinking and driving?”
“Listen, my car was broken into this afternoon. Everything was stolen again. The passenger window was completely smashed in. But I just rolled another window right up to replace it! Someone breaks your window, and you just roll another one right up. It’s genius when you think about it, why do no other cars have this feature?”
“Dad? You there?”
“Um, yeah, sorry, did you say that you think your Honda Civic has replaceable windows built in?”
“Yes, yes I did.”
“That’s what I thought you said. Listen, your car does not have replaceable windows. I don’t know what’s going on, but I would think you’ve been pranked. Either that, or you’re drunk. And I hope you’re not drunk, it’s a goddamned work night. Might be that Harry guy you always talk about.”
I will spare you the rest of the gory conversation. Suffice to say that my Dad probably didn’t sleep well, worrying about all the sorts of drugs I may be on. He must’ve told me 10 times that there was no way in hell that my car had 2 windows. But all I heard was “Wow Mark, that is unbelievable that you have discovered such a technological marvel!” No voice of reason could be loud enough, the engineers at Honda were fucking geniuses and that was all there was to it. After hanging up the phone with my Dad, the real calling marathon began. I called my brother, I called any friend that was home, hell, I called people I hadn’t spoken to in months – what better way to reconnect with someone? The world needed to hear about this fantastic automobile feature, how many millions of Honda Civic owners were out there that were needlessly getting their car windows replaced? I remember one call in particular that night. He was an ex-colleague of mine who I was quite good friends with. He was a sensible sort of guy, wore khakis and a turtle neck when he wanted to really go crazy. He was my age, but already had 2 kids and a mini-van. Keith Richards he was not. But the key fact to know here is that in addition to his coveted mini-van, he also he owned none other than a Honda Civic. So I couldn’t wait to call him to let him know what he had so clearly failed to recognize during his ownership tenure. He’d be kicking himself for sure.
“Steve, it’s Mark”
“Yeah, what’s going on? Kind of late isn’t it?” (It was 7:30pm, he was likely just taking his turtle neck off to retire into his 1950’s suit-style pajama set).
“I know, I’ll be quick. Here’s the thing, my car just got broken into again and you will never believe this, but it has replaceable windows! The passenger window got smashed, but I just rolled another one right up behind it! It’s amazing isn’t it? You have a Civic too, I’ll bet you had no idea.”
“Sorry, replaceable windows? Um listen, the kids are getting ready for bed here. Civics don’t have two windows and frankly neither does any car on the planet. You’re out of your mind, I’ll chat with you tomorrow”.
“Steve, my car has two windows and so does yours. How about this, how about I come over there right now. We’ll smash one of your windows in and I’ll just roll another right up before your eyes?”
“You will do nothing of the kind. Think about what you’re saying, someone played a joke on you. Go home, get some rest. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
That was pretty much how all the conversations went. I was slowly but surely embarrassing myself in front of everyone I knew. But I was oblivious at the same time. I was just so damn impressed at my car’s replaceable windows that I was deaf to reason.
In fairness, (and I appreciate that there is nothing I can write here to make you actually believe that I was anything other than a board-certified retard) all my possessions had been removed from my car, there was broken glass everywhere and my car had been broken into 3 legitimate times in the previous 3 months. OK, that was my feeble attempt at justifying my stupidity, let’s move on. Amazingly, the one person I did not call that night was Harry. I have no idea why, perhaps in the back of my mind I knew I’d have the entire following day at work to share with him my incredible car picking prowess. And that I would. At any rate, I worked the rolodex pretty hard that night, cementing my legacy as public idiot #1.
Suffice to say that everyone was abuzz at work the following morning, thanks in no small part to yours truly. God knows I had given CNN a run for their money in terms of spreading late-breaking news to the masses. But in addition to my efforts, Harry and his posse had been holding their own in terms of making sure that large sums of Bank employees knew exactly what had transpired the previous night. So when I showed up the following morning, eager to waste the day away and chat endlessly with everyone who’d listen about my car with 2 windows, everyone already knew. But they all listened, they wanted nothing more than to hear the stupidity come first-hand out of my own mouth. None of them let me in on the joke, it was just too damn entertaining to hear me tell my rendition of events. Eventually I called Harry, he played it cool on the phone. Not letting anything out about what had really happened. Instead he just listened and quietly urinated in his pants at the drivel I was spouting. It was at that moment, that he made the decision not to let me in on the joke. He’d hold on to my Right Said Fred CD and coffee mug for a little while longer and see just how many people I would tell. He had made the calculated risk that I was not going to be calling the police department to file an official police report in order to recover those two precious items. Safe bet I’d say.
As luck would have it, the following day was our monthly staff meeting, these meetings were the bane of my existence. To put it delicately, they were nothing more than a giant circle jerk where all my colleagues pretended to be so unbelievably busy and so unbelievably happy and so unbelievably proud of their amazing achievements since the last time we all got together a month earlier. That fact that our boss was in the room during this unnatural outpouring of job satisfaction and peak performance was of course a complete coincidence. Importantly, these were not the same people I worked with at my local branch where all the shenanigans had gone down the night prior, these were my fellow team members, we all just happened to work throughout random branches all over the city. And to the point, these were folks who hadn’t necessarily been wise to the previous night’s festivities. Despite Harry’s best efforts, the news wouldn’t necessarily have travelled across the city overnight – particularly not during the era when a tweet was nothing more than the sound a bird made. These were people, many of whom my senior, who very possibly hadn’t yet heard a peep about the 2 windows story…yet who would undoubtedly find it amusing.
If I may add some background on these monthly meetings, they, along with the non-stop drinking and lack of any real world obligations, made me want to run back to university. If this was how the real world operated then I wanted none of it. We used to sit around a boardroom table and take turns talking about what we’d been doing during the month, how many sales we had booked, and which prospects we were talking to. It was like kindergarten for grown-ups. Part of the agenda was always the sharing of a “Success Story” from each of us. This was the Bank’s way of getting us to feel proud of what we had accomplished and to share it with our peers thereby motivating and illuminating every last, lifeless one of them. Once the whole team had delivered their equally riveting story of success, our boss would nominate the winner for the month and that success story would then move up to compete with other team’s monthly winners and so on and so forth. It was like the Stanley Cup of success stories each and every miserable month. The amazing coincidence was that each month the success stories that always seemed to get nominated were exclusively the ones that best demonstrated whatever activities and behaviours the Bank was flogging at that particular time. Strange, I know. The equally ridiculous aspect was that there was no option to one’s participation in this tournament of stupidity. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that each of my success stories, month after month, year after year, were entirely a figment of my imagination. If the Bank wanted to play this juvenile game, then I was more than happy to oblige.
Back to the proceedings, because at this meeting, on this day, I had an extra special success story to share. Today, I wasn’t going to make some bullshit story up about a customer I had helped out who had thanked me endlessly for up-selling the shit out of them, no, this time I was going to give this team a success story they could remember. They were all going to hear about the latest product innovation developed by the crazy mad scientists at Honda.
So without going into detail, I’m sure you can all easily imagine how that meeting went. As if having my own father thumb through the Yellow Pages in search of an affordable mental health professional wasn’t enough, I had now ensured that each and every one of my colleagues, and my own damn boss, were each doing the same. As ever, I told the story with excitement and no matter how many people told me I was out of my mind, I just brushed it aside as blissful ignorance on their part. How ironic. Harry of course sat in that meeting thinking he had won the lottery. He was going through underwear quicker than a toddler learning to potty train. No way in hell was he going to let me in on the joke anytime soon, and shit, that Right Said Fred CD was pretty good.
The weeks went by, the months went by. I was still talking about Honda’s engineering ingenuity to anyone that would listen and I was still being told that I was a raging lunatic in each and every instance. Harry was keeping his mouth shut, as was each and every single person involved in the joke. Everyone was wondering what Harry’s next move would be. Did he even have a next move or was it best to just let me keep working my own magic? My money would have been on the latter. I found out after the fact that Harry was actually considering doing the whole thing over again to see if I thought that my car had 3 windows. Thankfully he opted not to, but I promise you I would have had no problem at all with 3 windows – it was the logical extension of having a car with 2 windows, why stop at 2?
It wasn’t until later the following year that I was finally put out of my misery. Yes, that’s right, I had been left in the dark regarding the joke for damn near 9 months. The amount of damage I caused to my reputation in those 9 months was incalculable. At one point I went for a job interview outside of the Bank. It was an amazing opportunity, I made it through a few interviews only to be told that my fourth and final interview would be in front of some fairly senior folks and I was told that I had to give a presentation for them. A presentation on what you ask? Well they gave me free reign, they wanted to see me in action talking about a topic I was knowledgeable on, any topic. Well the list of topics I am “knowledgeable” on isn’t exactly reminiscent of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and those topics aren’t really suitable for a workplace environment. So I opted to present on my ownership of a car with 2 windows.
I didn’t get the job.
The day it all came to a head, I was at work in the lunchroom, the lunchroom at the same branch as where all the fun had gone down 9 months prior. We had a new hire, what a fantastic opportunity to share my story about my Honda Civic I thought. Yes, it was really that bad. As I was telling this poor young woman about the merits of Honda Civic ownership, a long-time co-worker in the branch who was sitting nearby finally piped up with a deadpan seriousness only a tired old lady who’s heard a story one too many times can deliver.
“Mark, I can’t hold out any longer, for shit’s sake, your car doesn’t have 2 windows”.
She was slower the 2nd time around. An added touch of pity did the trick.
“Mark . . . honey . . . your car does not have 2 windows.” Full stop.
Yes, those famous nine words, they will be with me forever. Despite hearing those words hundreds of times in the months prior, for whatever reason at that particular moment the light bulb finally went on. It was clearly an old light bulb with a wonky filament, but the thing finally fired up. Suddenly I saw visions of the broken glass from that fateful night 9 months earlier. It was completely clean and nowhere near as thick as my window glass. My car hadn’t been washed since I bought it, the windows were all a disgrace…but not the broken glass. And then the distractions, the free beers, it all came to me…and not mention the incredulous looks of pity on the face of every single person I had told over the last 9 months. Hmm?
I ran out of the lunchroom, called Harry and congratulated him. Well done sir! Immediately after that I called my Dad to let him know I did not need to be institutionalized, he breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, I called Jerilyn and asked her exactly how the hell she managed to keep it all from me. I can’t quite remember what she said, but I asked her to marry her a few years later so she must have come up with something good.
The first car we bought together was a Honda.