Help me prank my PI
November 28, 2012 5:20 AM   Subscribe

When I first started my current job as a graduate researcher at a nominally Catholic university as an American in Belgium, my boss played a quick prank on me where he came into my office, plopped down a copy of the New Testament in Flemish, and told me I needed to study up to pass some kind of religious test. The way he did it, it was pretty funny and I’m looking for ways to prank him back.

To be clear, I’m looking for pranks that are not based on a violation of space or that are especially nasty in some way, this is my boss after all. So far I have already emptied out a mayonnaise jar, filled it with yoghurt, and eaten it in front of him while yakking on about how it must be some kind of strange Belgian egg pudding however, while this got everyone else in the lunchroom, he was totally unfazed claiming that we was difficult to shock. This is of course a challenge that I’d like to meet but I am out of ideas.
posted by Blasdelb to Human Relations (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
None of these are perfect, and of course it's effectively impossible for anyone other than you to gauge what pranks are appropriate for the relationship between you and your boss. But maybe they'll give you the seed of a decent idea...

Buy some agar agar from a Japanese / asian grocery store, dye it with a bit of yellow/red food colouring, and pour yourself some edible agar plates. Ditto agarose gels, with a bit of blue added when it's almost set to be a band of loading dye. Produce and eat in the lunchroom. Gelatin would work instead of agar agar, but probably taste pretty horrifying.

Get some sheets of tinfoil, put some strips of autoclave tape along it, and autoclave to make the tape change colour. When it's cool and dry, wrap it around his laptop (or something he's less attached to) and explain that it had to be autoclaved after an accidental spill.

Make or buy some tiny model cakes (e.g. from a dolls' house supply shop), show him, and ask for permission to start a spin-off company selling cakes cooked in the wells of a PCR machine. (Bonus points: actually bake some tiny cakes in the PCR machine. I've always wanted to try it, but would never trust a PCR machine to actually be clean enough...)

Buy a handful of those plant watering gel ball thingies. Select the colourless ones and inject a tiny volume of black ink into the centre. Mention that you thought you heard a frog in the lab then, a few days later, let him find your home-made frogspawn floating in the water bath.

Use one of the automatic paper generators to come up with something that contains a few keywords tangentially related to your field, and pass it to your boss asking for his comments on its implications for your group's work.
posted by metaBugs at 6:43 AM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Get his boss to schedule his New Testament exam.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:57 AM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I know just the person to ask to cc him on an email demanding I urgently schedule an exam with the university seminary before the end of the year when a lot of weird deadlines happen!

I love these ideas and would love more.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:38 AM on November 28, 2012

Mock up some realistic looking invoices for large expenditures on historic religious tracts relevant to Catholicism in Belgium. Send the invoices to his boss, or the dept. head, or the dept. accountant, cc your boss, but... intentionally make a typo in the dept. head's email so that it bounces. Your boss won't see the bounce... hilarity ensues. Or maybe induct the dept. head into your hoax.

Some items to "buy" (from wikipedia: Catholic_University_of_Leuven Notable_alumni):

An 1876 edition of Erasmus' In Praise of Folly, with etchings by Hans Holbein

Leo Belgicus

some videos of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the world's first televangelist.

Vermes' Translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls

works of Jansen, Hurtado.
more science'y: de Duve, Vesalius (van Wesel), Lemaître, Mercator
more political: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Theo van Gogh.
posted by at at 11:27 AM on November 28, 2012

Print out some fake exam result cards for the said exam using his name then post it so he receives it in his mail. It could come as a fail with the option of resitting during the holiday break or as a poor pass with points on how improvement is needed. Or you get the idea, maybe a mark with flying colours.
posted by Under the Sea at 2:56 PM on November 28, 2012

A few foods that taste fine but really freaked out my Dutch room-mate for whatever reason: cold cereal (like, corn flakes) in orange juice instead of milk, hot oatmeal with cream cheese instead of butter, shredded canned tuna fish with peanut butter instead of mayonnaise, hot chocolate with half and half instead of milk, black pepper on a banana.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:51 PM on November 28, 2012

I just wanted to follow up with this thread and note that the PCR cakes I tried to make this weekend totally violently exploded... In hindsight inevitable results of baking in an enclosed container should have been entirely predictable, along with the couple hours of cleaning with Q tips. NOT RECOMMENDED.

I am still waiting for just the right moment to spring the religious test back on my boss.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:30 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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