On these dreary winter days I start to feel that restlessness in my spirit that can only be satisfied by… getting creative. Some people call it mischief, but I like to think of it as my creativity exceeding conventional uses. What I’ve decided to do for my current fix (to expel the creative demons) you will have to find out at a later date… I don’t want to spoil it. But to satiate your piqued curiosity, I will gaze out into the bleak hazy cold and recount for you a tail of mischief in times past. For you this Monday… I give you this Mayhem Memory.
In days past (by that I mean 2002) I found myself at college living in a dorm that was “unique” to say the least: seventy rooms of one dorm that functioned like a fraternity of likeminded misfits. Was this where my love for misfits began? No, but that fire was definitely stoked in this environment, particularly in this year when I was nominated as their leader. And so I gathered my retinue of four or five advisors together, and after watching Fight Club for the tenth or twentieth time we decided to embark on our own Project Mayhem.
The rules were simple. We would conduct ourselves under the cover of night, which on a college campus the only hours people are actually asleep are usually between four and six o’clock. We would never admit to or speak of these undertakings until the end of the year. The goal being that we would cause and inspire good-natured mischief in complete anonymity. The only question left was, “What would our first project be?” and “Who would be our victim?”
Now this was at a time before online dating or Facebook had been rolled out to the masses. And on the Christian College Campus we resided, dating was a big deal. Girls flocked to the college to not only pursue a degree, but also with the goal of not leaving the campus without the promise of a young man to make her a bride. So for a handful of young men this seemed like an opportunity for good sport. So we picked a girl, a girl that one of us happened to have a rather random photo of. It was a photo in which she was featured in the background, and she wouldn’t suspect who the photographer was. So we enhanced it to feature her only and now, the nature of the thing we would do started to take shape.
We created a poster on standard 8 by 11 pieces of paper that feature this picture of our victim asleep on a couch. The headline read, “I Could Be Dreaming of You!” The picture was centered and surrounded by a fabricated dating profile, an analog Craig’s list ad, a personal ad of epic form. We created a fantastic fiction of her likes and dislikes, favorite past times, hopes and dreams. The only truth on the flyer was her name and her phone number. The profile let it be known that she was desperately trying to find Mr. Right before she graduated next year, but would settle for any Freshman boy willing to take up the task. Every application would be considered.
Once our masterpiece was completed and the finishing touches approved, we stole away from campus with every ounce of spare change we could collect. The copy machine at Kroger had never been honored with such an ambitious task. We make 250 copies of the flyer and returned to campus and while the whole school slept, we crept from wall to wall, pole to pole, window to window. We may have had help from security guards to gain access to class rooms, lecture halls, the cafeteria and the chapel. The desperate pleas of a lonely girl littered the entire campus.
We even managed to place one behind her regular seat on a chapel pew so as she sat during service she appeared to be wearing the ad on her back. We stood on shoulders to place flyers so that no one could bring them down without ladders. When dawn was starting to break in the east we surveyed our work. There was no a place you could stand on campus and not be greeted by the hopeful headline of “I Could Be Dreaming of You!” We snuck back into the dorm and no one was the wiser. We only needed to wait.
The first glimpse I had of the fruits of our labor is when I went to my 8 AM class that this young woman happened to also attend. She came in to class on the border of hysterics. She was hyperventilating with a stack of the posters in her hands… four or five that she had taken down on her way from the cafeteria not suspecting that it was just the tip of the iceberg. Her friends were surrounding her trying to calm her down while simultaneously making vows that they were not apart of the prank. They all wondered and speculated who could be at the bottom of this. Who had motive? Who could do such a thing and why?
All she could say was, “I have a boyfriend! I don’t understand. I have a boyfriend!” The broken record was interrupted when she noticed one of the posters hung right next to the clock in the lecture hall just out of reach. Chivalrous boys eager to please her made attempts to get it down and the spectacle was more comical than any we had expected. In fact, that whole day the way the campus reacted was the actual miracle we had worked. For some people it was inspiration. Students called her number all day long professing their love. One of the administrators called to tease her that she had not procured the necessary stamp need to be placed on all flyers on campus. One of her professors actually discovered we had taped the ad to the podium and read it out for the whole class. All morning and afternoon you could hear muted laughter and the frantic words of “I have a boyfriend!” echoing across campus.
Theories arose as to who was responsible: boys that crushes on her, her close friends, a rival on campus, etc. However, not a word was spoken between those responsible. We just took it all in, savored it, maybe allowed ourselves a quick nod or a wink and after the inspired turmoil subsided we quietly met late at night to plan our next venture.
Then… the day before school was finished and everyone left for the summer, my friend knock on the door to my packed room and said, “I think it is time to tell her.” He didn’t have to say anymore than that. I assented and rose. We went to the cafeteria and found her at her usual spot. Quickly and quietly we slipped into chairs across the table from her and waited for her to look up from her book. She was no stranger to us, but our sudden appearance piqued her curiosity. She didn’t say a word, just cocked her head to the side slightly. I looked her in the eye and said, “We want you to know… it was us.” Nothing more needed to be said. The look of shock on her face had been worth the entire year of secrecy. There was disbelief, awe, relief, the breaking of long awaited understanding, admiration and finally a good hearted laugh. She looked from my friend to me and back again, shook her head and said, “I should have known you two would be behind this. It has been a strange year. What else were you behind?”