During my junior year at The King’s College (1991), I was a Resident Assistant and thus had a room to myself. One of the ways I took advantage of that situation was by launching a string of practical jokes, most of which were directed at Steve Everhart, my boss and the Resident Director of the dorm. The culmination of the series was what I’ve come to call “The Heist.”
At that time, my college was in the process of planning a move to a new campus. As part of this process, they had commissioned one of those nifty models that shows what a building site will look like once the buildings are constructed and the site is landscaped. This particular one was about 3’x5′, had rolling Styrofoam hills, several structures, roads, a lake, and a number of little automobiles on it. It was also surrounded by a Plexiglas case screwed on to the base so that passers-by wouldn’t poke it or pilfer the little automobiles.
One day I decided that the model, which was displayed in the library, needed to disappear. So that night, Glenn Gonzalez and I snuck into the library through an adjacent office to which I had a key. Since walking through the halls of the school with this large model in tow would of course attract attention, we instead snuck it out of the building through the door that falsely claimed that it was a fire door and an alarm would sound if you opened it. (We had previously verified this in reconnaissance missions.)
We then brought the model around the school to the back stairwell, which another friend had opened for us, and up to the second floor of the dormitory. Waiting until the coast was clear, we finally got it to my room without having been seen. Since I had two beds in my room, I simply replaced the mattress on the top bunk with the model, put sheets and a bedspread on it, and made it up to look just like another mattress. Stage one was complete!
Over the next few days, I showed it to several friends, including Ross Prinzo, who had given me the idea originally. Among the select individuals who got to see it was a certain David Granniss, who laughed hysterically for a full minute, and then stopped abruptly with a look of inspiration on his face. “What is it, Dave?” I asked. “There ought to be army men in it!”
Well, of course he was right. I leaped into Oslo the Land Shark, my trusty Italian-manufactured steed of the time, and made a beeline to the toy store. Unfortunately, upon examining the army men available there for purchase, I determined that given the difference in scale, they would tower over the buildings in a Godzilla-like fashion. Rather than army men, I ended up purchasing a selection of Micro-Machines, which were more suited to this application. Among them were tanks, missile launchers, and helicopters.
After unscrewing and removing the Plexiglas case, we deployed the missile launchers across one of the higher ridges overlooking the campus. The tanks rolled among the buildings, and we used cotton to create smoke both at the muzzles of their weapons, and at the married student housing, which they were bombarding. (I was bitter about not having a girlfriend at the time, a circumstance whose reasons are perhaps, in retrospect, rather obvious.) The Apache-style helicopters were suspended from the Plexiglas case with fishing line, swooping into the site in formation from one of the corners of the display. By the time we finished, we had an impressive looking war diorama, set in the beautifully landscaped Silver Lake campus.
Upon completing our improvements to the model and reinstalling its case, we determined to sneak it back into the library and replace it where it had previously been. This took a bit more planning, as some of the doors we had used had crash-bars, and would only open from one side. We eventually sent an operative into the library before we retraced our previous steps. The model made it back to its display table without further incident.
The next day, we kept our distance from the library to avoid drawing suspicion to ourselves, and thus only heard secondhand about the discovery of our modifications. Apparently the president of the college, fulfilling some of his fundraising duties, had VIPs from off-campus on a tour. As he described in glowing detail the plans the college had for its new location and showed the model off, he suddenly noticed that all was not as he expected. Needless to say, maintenance was soon there restoring the display to its former, mundane state.
Our triumph lasted only a day, but still causes me to stop every once in a while and laugh to myself. And then to go cause more mischief.
(Note: if this story is familiar, it’s because it’s a repost from an old version of the website. One of my friends requested that I get it back online, so here it is again.)