In the waning days of the last century, I worked a copy shop called Kinko’s. It was right in the sweet spot of my “adult” youth, what is now referred to as “your twenties,” but back then we called it the “swahballa years.” (Look it up.) Anyway, not the point.
What I am thinking about tonight is the amount of pranks we used to pull on fellow computer services coworkers. Since I am a particularly cruel man, I enjoyed setting these up. One of the finest was, at first, subtle. We worked on a computer that made it very easy to customize system beeps, when the computer played a short noise to notify you of something. Yes, well, I recorded the sound of the phone ringing in our department. So when the computer wanted your attention, it would play that ring, and for a couple of days, it had almost everyone in the office laughing when they fell for it, hearing the computer ring, but no one was actually calling.
Yes, until, on an overnight shift, my pal and yours, John Dervin, was working on a customer’s QuarkXPress file. So what you don’t know about Quark is what the heck it is. It’s a computer program where one can create documents to print. These documents were often flyers or business cards or something else a customer wanted to print out using our printers and copiers at Kinko’s. What you also don’t know is, when you added artwork to Quark, it didn’t move the artwork into the document—it created links to the artwork. This meant if you had two dozen different pieces of artwork in your document, there would be two dozen links to the individual files. There was a reason for this, but it’s all obsolete now, so just know, when you brought your Quark file to Kinko’s, you also had to bring all your images and artwork as separate files along with you, but now they were on a differently-named removable medium, which meant that the Kinko’s employee had to update all these links. Know, too, that the computer would beep every single time you updated one of these links. In a file with two dozen links, the computer would beep two dozen times.
Remember, please, that I replaced the default computer beep with something that sounded like the office telephone ringing. So poor John Dervin, on his overnight shift, opening a customer’s Quark document with two dozen links, would hear the telephone ring two dozen times. John, and this is true, picked up the phone almost two dozen times. Of course, by the third time or so, he became suspicious, but not of the computer. Instead, he was livid at the thought of the kids working the overnight shift in the copy side of Kinko’s, pranking him by calling and hanging up. Sometimes, he let the “phone” ring twice before answering again, but, alas, no one was on the phone, because the phone was never actually ringing.
I am a cruel man, as I said earlier, so this story brings me nothing but delight. John cursed me out the next morning when he learned what was happening, but the ring stayed on as the system beep for some time afterwards, because we were all gluttons for punishment—I’d forget too—and it was funny when someone who knew better answered the non-ringing phone anyway. Is there a lesson here? Yes—do not trust me. Also, have fun before you cannot. And if you have fun early enough in life, time and memory make the good times even gooder. John Dervin, cheers, mate, where ever you are.