Several years ago while attending college at UC Davis I had an opportunity to live with someone who I feel is the funniest person I have ever known. While I was living with him, Greg was a medical student at UC Davis. While our schedules kept each of us busy, we made certain to allow time for our interactions: stories, games and especially practical jokes.
Greg is a master of practical jokes. Often I would find myself spending hours late at night awake dreaming of ways to seek my revenge for his last caper, only to discover the next morning that he had struck again. Although some of his pranks and mine as well were noteworthy enough to deserve writing about, nothing would ever compare to the outrageous practical joke Greg unleashed on one of his previous roommates.
One year Greg lived with a slob named John. While Greg and John got
along well personally, John was difficult to live with because he didn’t do
his share of housecleaning. In fact, John managed to make it through
the entire year without ever having to take out the trash, a chore shared by
all the members of the house. John would pay a price for his choices.
The general rule of the house was that the last person to attempt to throw something away that would not fit in the trashcan was the person who was designated to take out the trash. If you managed to make extra space by further compacting the trash, you would be spared the duty of taking it out. If your contribution made the can overflow, or made the balanced pile in danger of toppling over, it was generally accepted that it was simply your turn, and you would take out the trash. Not so for John.
John would find every way imaginable to keep himself from trash duty. If the can was full, John would carefully build towers of trash that would reach high into the air above the full can. Sometimes John would untuck the trash can liner from around the garbage can and fill the now wider brim of the trash bag to its limits, creating what might look like an umbrella or a tree of trash, with its narrow trunk and wide reaching branches and leaves. Even worse, if the trash in the kitchen was nearing capacity, John would sneak his trash into trashcans in other roommates’ rooms, or even the bathroom, rather than risk having to take out the trash. It seemed there was no possible way to get John to take out the trash.
One day after an afternoon of studying, Greg felt compelled to once again take out the trash when it was obviously not his turn. John had spent his afternoon opening an entire case of trading cards, which were stacked in organized piles on the coffee table. To make room for his next activity, John had thrown away a large mound of card wrappers, some of which had not managed to stay on the domed mound of trash, and fallen to the ground, a clear violation of the house trash rules. John had more important things on his mind as his TV show was coming on, his dinner was nearing completion and he was engrossed in a telephone conversation on the cordless phone. It was the final straw for Greg when John poured the hot grease from his bacon cooking directly on the mountain of trash and card wrappers, making it likely that the floor would be covered with greasy debris.
Unable to stand it, Greg made exasperated sighs and hard looks aimed at the oblivious John who was preparing to stake his claim in front of the TV with his bacon cheeseburger and potato chips. Greg steeled himself, and went about the unfortunate task of pulling out the trash can liner. To Greg’s surprise and horror, the can liner had sprung a leak and now at the bottom of the plastic trash can, was a small black puddle of liquid goo. John ignored Greg’s complaints over the discovery, and even retreated into another room so that his telephone conversation would continue undisturbed.
Something inside Greg snapped, and the prankster in him found an outlet for his pent up rage. Greg took a clean glass from the cupboard and filled it with the evil black sludge from the trashcan. It was dark, and mostly opaque with a few frothy bubbles, but flowed easily into the cup. It looked almost like a tall glass of black coffee, or maybe a Cola soda, but smelled like partially digested dead fish. Greg placed the glass in its rightful place next to the cheeseburger on the coffee table and waited for John’s return.
John eventually came back and plopped himself down in front of his meal. Still on the phone, John picked up the glass, completely unaware of the danger, and overlooking the fact that he had not poured himself a drink. With one hand on the phone and the other holding the glass, John continued his heated discussion, pointing his glass round the room to emphasize his points as he made them. As one of his points was finally acknowledged John tilted the glass of goop to his lips for a celebratory swig. Time slowed to a crawl for Greg in anticipation of the horrible inevitable. With the glass to John’s mouth the sludge slowly rolled towards his pursed lips. With less than a millimeter to go before finally tasting his revenge, John paused. With his nose inches from the concoction he took a snout full of the aroma deep into his lungs. Involuntarily, John’s body rejected the idea of having anything at all to do with Greg’s scheme, and though he still held the glass to his lips, John’s digestive system reversed with great force. The amplitude of John’s projectile vomit was so strong it instantaneously filled the glass, splashing the mixture of sludge and stomach contents into his face, and down his shirt. John shot up from the couch and made for the sink where he retched a second time. Gasping for breath and dripping with yuck, John whispered to Greg between coughs, “I think the Coke is bad.”
Greg took out the trash.