Long the playground of the cheeky and frivolous, of grown adults with a childlike twinkle in their eye, the office is the professional breeding ground of the prankster: their currency, practical jokes and dares. So, spare a thought for these purveyors of puerility, now their specialist arenas have been closed.
But fear not! For (to misappropriate the wise words that Spiderman pinched) with great Zoom, comes great opportunity. You may not be able to tape over the sensor of someone’s mouse to make it appear broken, or encase a stapler in jelly a-la Gareth’s from The Office (well, you can but it will be your own mouse you fake-break and your own stapler you puddingify), but with the sudden and ubiquitous use of Zoom, there are still opportunities for the diehard pranking purist.
For example, try pre-recording a voice-message in WhatsApp, loudly calling your boss something inappropriate, then send it to one of your colleagues when on in a Zoom meeting with the message “Important – Open now!” If they look quizzically at you when they receive your message, give them a subtle but reassuring nod so they go ahead, perhaps thinking it’s something of relevance for the call. At which point they’ll hopefully hit play, and everyone will not only hear “Dave’s a cock!” (or something equally urbane and witty), but with Zoom’s facility of highlighting who’s speaking, everyone will look to your unwitting colleague for answers. Top tip: don’t pick someone who enjoys seeking ten-fold retribution.
Or pretend your screen has frozen, cutting off half way through a sentence, whilst pulling an idiotic face and holding it for as long possible. You could extend this if the meeting is tedious, and keep “freezing” and stuttering your speech to affect a bad internet connection before then ending your attendance. For that added touch of authenticity, if you live with someone, get them to stand behind the screen and at a given signal, unnoticed by your colleagues, reach over and cover the webcam. Check. Mate. (Just make sure you then end the call, before you start laughing or congratulating yourselves on executing the perfect plan, and realising you can still be heard.)
An oldie but a goodie, arrange ahead of time with one or more of your colleagues a list of words to try and squeeze into the conversation unnoticed. These can be random, stupid words, or you could refine the game into a league format: pick a category of words each week, and see how many you can each shoehorn in. Each week someone else picks the category and keeps score. Perhaps fruit and veg one week (it’s amazing how many business opportunities can be described as a potential banana skin, or hot potato), sports and hobbies the next week (“oh, it’s a marathon project,” and “we can discus – ahem – I mean, discuss this later…”), and TV shows the next (The Office and The Apprentice are a couple of bankers to get you going).
Alternatively, excuse yourself a number of times throughout the meeting and come back with a different outfit on every time: see how many outfit-changes it takes for anyone to say anything. Or, better still, nip off for a minute or so and take your clippers to your beard or hair, and see if anyone notices when you get back.
Or, taking the clothing option in a different direction, set yourself a dual with one of your colleagues. Both start with as many layers of clothing on as you can, without arousing suspicion. Then take it in turns to peal one item of clothing off, again without your other colleagues noticing. The first to either get called out by one of the non-players on the call, or run out of items to take off, loses. If you have a very tolerant (or unobservant) workforce, and you end up sitting in front of your laptop in just a pair of underpants, a) don’t blame me, and b) kudos on your commitment to win!
So, fear not pranksters and (very mild) daredevils, you can still get your clerical kicks, you just have to be more imaginative than before. And you’ll just have to wait to photocopy your arse again, just like the rest of us.