In general, I admire ingenuity and creativity, but such attributes strike an even greater chord with me when demonstrated in the context of mischief. That said, I thought it only appropriate (and fair?) to tip my hat to the clever batch of co-ops we had at work this past summer, despite the fact their fun came primarily at my expense. Hey, I’m man enough to (reluctantly) admit it.

All three college students who worked in my deparment for the summer were women, which itself is odd in a place of engineering (first time in my four years we’ve had such an instance). Also unusual about this crew was the outright temerity they exhibited in planning, mobilizing, and executing a strategy to abscond with a cherised piece of my OU memorabilia: a 32 oz. aquarium glass from “The Pub,” which finds intermittent use as a candy bowl in my office. Things immediately became personal when I walked into my office that fateful morning to find this note on my desk:

I can’t say if it’s a “guy thing” or what, but my psyche instinctively perceives such effrontery as a direct challenge, in response to which I immediately enter combat mode. My senses become heightened; I find myself able to discern what brand shampoo or facial cleanser a nearby colleague may have used that morning. My reflexes become sharpened; I have the ability to move at-will with stealth and purpose throughout the cubicle environment that is my workplace. My mind becomes focused; I am bereft of all thoughts but those having to do with when, and how, and in what form the retaliatory strike will take place. Occasional flashbacks to house wars of the college days serve as cold, stark reminders that this is no game. There seems to be a remote, seldom-accessed part of me that lives only for these moments. Besides, I think you will agree with me when I say that no one enjoys being bested by the opposite sex (come on…admit it!).

That’s what these seemingly rough-shodden, wet-behind-the-ears co-ops were up against, though they may not have known it. As I sat at my desk that day, my brain actively parsed through idea after idea, weighing the cost/benefit ratio of each and trying to ascertain any risks of collateral damage. But then something occurred to me. I began to take into account the fact that this WAS work, after all, and reminded myself that these things have a way of spiraling out-of-control (again: flashbacks to the college days). I decided that perhaps I should pursue an alternative course to my planned “shock and awe” response; in fact, quite the opposite: I would concede defeat and meet their demands. I know, it was hard for me believe at first, too, but the sheer audacity of their scheme made it a little easier; people should be rewarded for such daring deeds. This line of thinking was of marginal comfort. In concession, however, I would act with such speedy precision as to leave them baffled. And so it was that that very day I began to assemble those items set forth in the letter. I took special care in removing the yellow Starbursts; the point of extraction was hardly detectable.

I did fire one half-hearted return volley just to ensure the perpetrators were aware of the fact that I knew WHO they were (they have yet to admit guilt), and perhaps also to salvage a bit of pride. I sent them an email and spoofed the return address to look as though it came from the attorney general’s office (we do, after all, work for a state agency). I made it look as if it had been sent to the entire department and commented on the unsettling reports of horseplay in the workplace. The light, satrical tone was meant to convey to the reader that the email was not in fact genuine (wouldn’t want anyone panicking to the administration now, would we?), but from what my sources tell me I had them a bit nervous, if only for a bit. Heading out to my car that day after work, I was presented with yet another note.

I had to hand it these girls, I liked their style.

As it turned out, they remained true to their word; honest thieves, as it were. Upon meeting their demands the very next day, I was reunited with my Pub glass, which I found waiting in my office, whole and intact, full of the treats I had acquired to pay the ransom in the first place, and topped with a symoblic three parasols.