To Prank Or Not To Prank

Image courtesy / Francesco Rollandin

Open your Facebook and you’ll see tons of videos gracing your news feed. With the recently introduces auto-play feature, you can’t help but preview each video before moving on; i.e. until you find one that catches your fancy. You must’ve noticed that the number of prank videos doing the rounds has significantly increased over the past few years. These are primarily meant to make people laugh, but also to inspire others to pull similar stunts on unsuspecting friends/strangers. Whereas some of these videos are harmless fun, others are downright mean.

Take a few examples of harmless pranks, like the kid-winking-and-blowing-kisses-at-older-ladies prank or Coke’s viral man-laughing-on-the-subway prank. Such pranks are characterized by the subjects (i.e. people who are pranked) being moderately surprised and often amused by the actions of the pranksters, and no one feels jeopardized at any point in time. Such pranksters aim to:

  • make others smile/laugh at their own expense
  • bring positivity into someone’s day/life
  • spread the joy when the prank is shared with others (either by word-of-mouth or through social media)
  • reinforce the belief that there are still good people out there

On the other hand, we have the malicious pranks, the ones that are intended to incite panic and mayhem. Take the pie-in-the-face, the bees-in-an-elevator or the bomb-in-your-hand pranks for instance. These pranksters do not discriminate between friends and family and are totally inconsiderate and insensitive to the feelings of others. Such pranksters are exactly the people your mother told you not to hang out with. Their motive is to:

  • terrorize/shock victim(s)
  • find perverse amusement in the shock, discomfort or embarrassment of others
  • have a negative impact on someone’s day/life
  • entice others to follow in their footsteps
  • reinforce the belief that there are people out there who’d do anything for a bunch of (virtual) likes

Let’s take a sample scenario; imagine an unemployed man sitting at the bus stop wearing his best Sunday suit with just enough cash to make it to his job interview. As this guy waits for the next bus heading downtown, mentally going through his interview responses, someone sneaks up behind him and smashes a cream pie into his face. Some people may find this man’s whipped-cream-smeared face and his ruined suit hilarious, but I do not. Maybe the pie-in-the-face is the last straw, triggering a mental breakdown, or worse, suicidal thoughts. Suffice to say; when pranksters pull off stunts like these, they do not consider what baggage their victims might be carrying.

Just to make my point absolutely, and I mean ABSOLUTELY, clear, I’ll take you through another hypothetical situation. Imagine an old man with a weak heart standing at a car wash, when out of nowhere, a guy dressed as an Arab hands him an ignited stick of fake dynamite and runs off in the opposite direction. The prank videographer also makes a run for it, leaving the old man in a state of utter panic; what the pranksters fail to see is the victim clutching his chest as he feels the onset of a fatal heart attack. If you’re one of those people who think this is funny, you are mentally sick and in dire need of a psychiatrist; I can refer you to a good one in London, in case you’re interested.

After coming up with these scenarios, I thought of doing some research on the internet to understand if there is some truth behind the idiom ‘scared to death’. Well, guess what? YOU CAN ACTUALLY SCARE A PERSON TO DEATH (full SciAm article available here). When someone’s put in a stressful situation, their mental fight-or-flight response kicks in, causing irregular heartbeats, a spike in blood pressure and  an increase in adrenaline production, all of which can be fatal. Even if these don’t result in deaths, these incidents can trigger deep-rooted fears and phobias, causing IRREPAIRABLE MENTAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE (full article on available here). What sane person would knowingly put someone in such danger?

For all you wannabe pranksters out there; wouldn’t it be nice if there were a checklist to see which category your intended prank would fall into? Well, here’s a list that should be a good starting point; please make sure you go through this before pulling a fast one on someone.

  • Will it physically harm someone?
  • Will it play on people’s fears or phobias?
  • Does it have even a remote chance of someone dying?
  • Will it traumatize someone (possibly for life)?
  • Is it intended to turn someone into a laughing stock?
  • Will it cause damage to someone else’s property?
  • Can it trigger self-doubt and low self-esteem in someone?

If the answer to any of the questions above is ‘Yes’, you should postpone the execution of your prank, quote, INDEFINITELY, unquote. A video I saw showed a prank gone horribly wrong, where a panic-stricken girl, after being terrorized by friends in disguise, dashes out of her house, only to be run over by an oncoming vehicle on her street. Let my words be a public service message; fame isn’t worth it when it is at someone’s expense.

A mean prank isn’t fun when you’re on the receiving end of it and can leave emotional/psychological scars for life. I request all my friends to neither attempt such shenanigans nor propagate such videos; every like/share helps motivate these pranksters to come up with more sinister ideas to terrorize, traumatize and humiliate innocent folk. Is this really a society we want our kids to grow up in?

NOTE: Please share this post as much as you can; it may stop somebody from doing something stupid that they would regret for the rest of their lives. 

Backstabber Alert!!!

“You have the right to remain silent; anything you say or do will be used against you in the court of law” – too bad the Miranda Rights don’t apply to our average everyday ordinary backstabbers. If it were up to me, I would sentence such people to jail without bail for at least a year and a 20,000 word apology for the victim, plus a mandatory sewer-cleaning duty for their entire two-year parole period.

You strive and struggle, trying to find your way in the dark alleys of your life, but there will always be someone, somewhere, lurking in the shadows to stab you, once, twice, even thrice, to make sure that you don’t get to see the light of day (i.e. your reputation is tarnished beyond repair). Be it your work place or your social hangout, a family dinner or a friend’s party, you are always surrounded by one or more such individuals bad-mouthing you or highlighting little mistakes of yours and turning them into life-threatening situations (especially when the time for a pay-raise or a promotion is just around the corner). Instead of doing something constructive, these conniving people spend days at a stretch scheming and planning your downfall, just waiting for you to slip so that they can lend a hand pulling you down the ladder (they don’t stop until they are absolutely certain you have fallen face-first in a deep pile of rubbish). They know no gender, religion, caste or creed; that’s what makes it difficult to identify them. They infiltrate your friends, invade your privacy, gain your confidence (con-men or grifters is what they are) and are not beneath lying. Enemies are better than such friends as you are at least aware of your foes; these so-called friends and well-wishers play the role of termites, slowly eating away at the foundations of your being, not resting until they bring the whole house down.

Most, if not all, of my readers will agree to have crossed paths with such scumbags at least once in their lives – I came across one yesterday (ergo this blog). As with all my articles, there is a personal story/message associated with it and this one’s no exception. Today, I’ll share with you a story so sinister, it’ll make your skin crawl (apologize for being so melodramatic but hey, that’s what’s keeping you reading this blog now, ain’t it?).

He-who-must-not-be-named (the backstabber – let’s call him He-who) runs a mid-sized business in the country I reside in. I Thank God everyday for not having to work for/with him; he belongs to the service industry and vends some of his goods/ideas (at exorbitant prices) to my uncle’s firm. He-who knows what I am capable of so he once offered me a critical position in his company with stock-options. The offer sounded pretty lucrative at that time but due to some personal reservations, I had the good sense to turn him down.

My uncle and I have an extremely friendly relationship, so much that a 25+ year age-gap doesn’t hinder it in the least. So he calls me in from time to time if he requires some help or advise in matters/areas I am more familiar with. As with most 50+ aged men, my uncle is not well-aware of the intricacies of He-who’s business; as I have some experience with this work area, my uncle pulled me in for help.

After we outlined the scope of work for He-who, we asked him for a price quote. My uncle, being the generous guy he is, gave him a lot less than what He-who asked for but a lot more than what I told him it should cost us (your money, your rules – burn it up for all I care). After a few initial meetings, the work went under way. In a phone conversation with my uncle, He-who commented that I had a childish nature, since I questioned his every his move (I let the remark pass as I am big on second chances); the backstabber was unable to hide his dissatisfaction that he would not be able to make a fool out of my uncle this time around (like he did during his last assignment for my uncle – I wasn’t around back then).  We had just started off when my uncle dropped out of the scene for a three-week family vacation. Before going, he asked me if I could follow-up with He-who from time to time and I gladly said yes.

A few days after my uncle left, I tried calling He-who’s phone; he did not pick it up. So I sent him an email instead, asking for an update. Having worked in a professional capacity for a long time now, I make sure that I mind my P’s and Q’s and send out a courteous vibe even in my emails (all my past colleagues can vouch for that).  His responses were ambiguous, impersonal and extremely cold, to say the least (Bbbrrrrrrrrrrr). I tried calling him numerous times to no avail, and the email responses always came back with one excuse or the other; evidently, he was lagging behind in his work and couldn’t produce any finished work product.

Upon my uncle’s return, I told him all that had gone behind his back. He immediately called He-who and asked him for clarifications. This is what He-who said: “Yousuf has some severe attitude problems”. Little did the wretched soul know that my uncle had turned on his speaker-phone so I could hear the other end of the conversation. I turned red with rage but didn’t say anything (I was about to but my uncle told me not to). I stormed out of my uncle’s office, printed out the whole email exchange that had taken place between He-who and me, and placed it in front of him. God knows I did not need to prove my innocence to my uncle, as he has watched me grow into what I am now, but I had to have an unblemished reputation. He read through the entire exchange and said (these are his exact words), “Unfortunately, people like He-who suffer from an inferiority complex. They feel jealous and threatened by someone who will easily call their bluff”.

I know the whole story may sound meaningless and trivial to some people, but I just wanted to highlight the extent others might go to to satisfy their ulterior motives. Little do they know that God is watching, following their every move, and he will eventually make it clear who the real culprit is. I feel nothing but pity for the pathetic existence of people like He-who, who are hell-bent on ruining other people’s lives to reach their worldly goals. You are not immortal and no matter how fast your run, you will one day have to face God’s wrath!