Author: Daniel, Bert

Practical Jokes

Every now and then I hear an amusing anecdote about a ruse that somebody pulled off as a practical joke. Some of these tales are very elaborate and it can take years of preparation and or waiting to get to the punchline denouement. I've heard some good ones from this welcome column over the years. Probably some are true and others are either untrue or gross exaggerations. Various people have tried to claim credit for the time Rick was spooked by a bloody rabbit that turned out to be a plastic grocery bag. But JD Rhynes has to take the cake among our writing staff for the most amusing practical joke set ups and follow ups in CBA lore.

I'm not much of a practical jokester myself. You have no need to fear me nor reason to provoke me. But years ago, with a coconspirator, I did perpetrate a pretty good practical joke. The statute of limitations has no doubt passed so let me tell you about it now.

The year was 1977. I had a summer job doing lab research in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. My friend Jim and I had gotten a grant to sequence a particular protein hormone from a shark. The idea was to compare the sequence of the shark hormone to the human sequence. I won't bore you with the details but the bottom line was we had to go out and find some shark ovaries as a first step.

Fortunately Charleston is home to one of the most active shark fishing clubs on the eastern seaboard. We showed up at a couple of their tournaments and the fisherman were more than happy to let us dissect their trophy monsters to obtain our samples. We walked away with a couple of twenty pound ovaries from two female sharks weighing close to 300 pounds each.

A shark ovary is pretty interesting to look at. It's basically a bloody pulp filled with little cream colored balls. The cream colored balls are the corpus luteum, where the egg follicles are formed.

Now we had to purify our hormone. First we took the shark ovary, which had been frozen solid in liquid nitrogen. We'd chip off chunks until we had four plastic bottles, each containing 250 grams of shark ovary. As the ovary thawed, we would blenderize the bloody ovary into a slush that assumed a pinkish color because of the creamy corpus luteum.

Imagine the worst fish smell your nose has ever been assaulted by and multiply that by a factor of a thousand. Now you know what our lab smelled like whenever Jim and I started to purify a new batch of shark ovaries. We were not very popular on those days with the other lab workers. They all had nice clean gels and columns to work with and Jim and I had this bloody, stinky mess of amines on steroids. The whole floor just absolutely reeked.

Jim and I would joke around a lot, just to ease the tension. Our smelly pink slush looked exactly like a strawberry milkshake so we'd say stuff like: "Isn't that beautiful?" "Looks just like a strawberry milkshake, yum, yum." Boomer and Brenda would just roll their eyes and try to concentrate on what they were doing. If they could, they'd take frequent breaks for fresh air while threatening to call in sick the next day.

The summer of '77 was the year that the the original Star Wars movie came out and Jim and I really wanted to see it. We decided to take a little time off and we left the lab around noon to go to the theatre. We'd come back mid afternoon and start another batch of ovaries for purification. Before leaving, I took a brand new Nalgene purification bottle and stuck it in my bag with a roll of colored tape.

We had a grand time watching Han Solo destroy the evil empire. In no particular hurry to get back to the lab, we stopped off at Burger King for a bite to eat on the way back. We finished our french fries and bought a strawberry milkshake to go. I carefully poured milkshake into the brand new Nalgene bottle and filled it to exactly the spot our ovary slush would come to, marking the bottle with a small piece of colored tape.

Back at the lab, I carefully placed the milkshake bottle into an ice bucket in the cold room. It was next to three identical bottles which we filled with frozen shark ovary. This time we would purify 750 grams of shark ovary, rather than the usual kilogram. But nobody in the lab knew that except for me and my buddy Jim.

Even with only 3/4 of the usual batch the stench was plenty overpowering, and the usual moans started coming from Boomer and Brenda. Jim and I just plowed on along with the usual comments: "I don't see how you guys can't appreciate this stuff. It looks just like a yummy milkshake."

"Yeah, I LOVE strawberry milkshakes. That looks good enough to drink. I believe I could drink that right now!"

To make this the perfect set up, in retrospect, Jim and I probably should have enlisted another coconspirator to supply the necessary response here. But as luck would have it, Brenda just happened to say right then, as if on cue: "Well why DON'T you?"

Jim looks at me and I look at Jim, both of us grinning. "Why not!" I take a swig from the milkshake bottle and hand it to Jim who takes a swig. Brenda accuses us of palming the bottle so we drool pink slush out of our mouths just to convince her.

At this point Brenda screams and leaves the lab in a big hurry, retching the whole way. We have to run after her and apologize. She happened to be with child at the time and we feared that our shenanigans would cause a miscarriage. We explained the whole joke over and over and showed her the left over Burger King cup we fished out of the trash. It was only much later that we were all able to get a good laugh in the telling and retelling of the one and only great milkshake caper.

Posted:  12/9/2012

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