Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jim Halperting Gone Fairly Well

It all started last Tuesday. I kept missing calls on my work phone and getting voicemails of a mysterious beeping quality. I quickly realized that someone was sending faxes to my phone. I asked my team if anyone had accidentally faxed to my phone, but no one admitted to it. This continued throughout the day, until the culprit finally admitted their misdeeds (this co-worker shall rename nameless in order to protect the identity of the not-so innocent). I swore revenge...

That evening, after some brainstorming, I had the answer: Jello. I decided to draw inspiration from The Office and put something of my team member's in Jello. Since we don't really use staplers, I went for the nameplate. I read a tutorial on the art of office supply Jello imprisonment and made my plans.

The instructions called for 16 (that's right, 16) boxes of Jello in order to create the higher density needed to hold the name plate in place (handy note if you ever do this: it works out to roughly half the water you would normally use. You basically just don't add the cold water (unless you're in a hurry; then go ahead and do the math)). The tutorial also described how to create a hammock of floss and duct tape in order to keep the object in place while the Jello was setting. I went to the store the next day after work to procure the necessary tools (I needed duct tape for my Halloween costume anyway - more on that next month). My original plan was to mix lime and lemon to get that yellow-green color seen on the show, but the only lemon in stock was sugar free, and I was concerned that the lack of sugar would compromise the integrity of the gelatin.

I arrived home with more Jello than I had ever seen together outside of the store.

I had planned to make the Jello in a large bowl to achieve the look in the show, but I quickly realized that the nameplate I had borrowed from my co-worker would not fit into any of my bowls. It was much longer than I had imagined it being. It also wouldn't fit into any of my pots. I ended up using a large pitcher. I decided that the hammock would be pointless, partially because it would be difficult to create it long enough to droop into the pitcher and catch the narrow side of the nameplate, and partially because the nameplate leaned nicely against the side of the pitcher and that seemed good enough for me.

I filled up the pitcher with water, continuing to follow directions, and then set that water to start boiling. As the water reached boiling, it suddenly occurred to me that my pitcher might not be designed to withstand boiling water. I had a vision of the pitcher melting and destroying my whole plan. If this failed, I was going to have to either go buy something, or show up at my parents' house to borrow a giant metal bowl. Luckily, the pitcher fared well (Tupperware is legit, guys).

I then began the exciting task of emptying 16 envelopes of Jello into the pitcher. Having limited counter space, (especially since I hadn't thought to tidy up beforehand to create more space), I had to place the boxes in various places around the kitchen. After I emptied an envelope, I placed the envelope in the garbage, but threw the box over my shoulder with the intention of recycling later. I soon had a rather impressive collection of tiny boxes on my floor. I wish I had taken a picture of it.

One thing I quickly discovered was that I hadn't taken the volume of the actual Jello powder into my water measuring. The more Jello I poured into the pitcher, the higher the water level got, until it was threatening to pour out the spout. Eventually, I had to remove a few cups of water to avoid an overflow (Captain America, pictured below, facilitated the evacuation). I hoped that enough of the powder had made it to the bottom so I wasn't wasting too much.

After the adding and stirring of the Jello powder, I was ready to place the nameplate in the pitcher. My next concern, though, was that the still hot water could cause damage to the nameplate, which was mostly plastic. I had this terrible vision of the plate warping, and then of me being pulled into the department head's office so he could demote me due to damaging company property. I decided to wait until the water had cooled down a bit to put it in. I put the plate in just before I went to bed, at which point I discovered that the plate would not, in fact, nicely sit on the bottom and lean against the side. Instead, it was determined to float! And I swear it hadn't floated before (see earlier picture). So I guess the Jello made the difference. Dang science.

I went to bed, concerned that this whole thing was going to bomb and be a general failure. I ended up waking up at 3:30 and, unable to get back to sleep, got up to see if I could push the nameplate down into semi-solid Jello. Of course, the Jello had already set up. In fact, it was so solid that I couldn't push the plate down (I mean, I didn't push that hard, but still). So at least I knew that the Jello wouldn't completely spread out into a pull when it would be released the next day.

I went into work a few minutes early the next day, hoping to deposit the Jello before my co-worker arrived at work. I had worn my Crocs, sensing the possibility of ending up with Jello on my shoes.  Unfortunately, they arrived early that day! I was forced to walk quickly past their desk with the pitcher at my side, hoping not to be detected. I tucked the pitcher under my desk and starting to think of a way to get this person away from their desk long enough to return the borrowed nameplate (which I'm fairly certain they hadn't noticed was gone).

Assistance came in the form of one of our department trainers, who lured the co-worker away to get feedback on a recent training. Once out of sight, I leapt into action with the assistance of others on my team. I had thought out the procedure ahead of time. I had brought a platter with me for the Jello to sit on, but I also grabbed a plate from the breakroom so we could remove the Jello somewhat vertically and then let it sit sideways on the platter.

This technique worked fairly well. It was a three person operation, one on plate, one on platter, one on pitcher. I had loosened the top edges of the Jello before I left work that morning in order to coax it out more easily. I slowly, but firmly, began to shake the Jello out of the pitcher and onto the plate. It was all going quite nicely until we got to the end. It turned out that there was more Jello than there was platter, and so a large amount of Jello fell off the platter, down the side of the desk, and onto the floor. Swinging between panic and hysterical laughter, we quickly picked the errant Jello up off the floor and into the pitcher (FYI, picking up Jello is not an easy task). We wiped down the specks of Jello from the desk. As predicted, I did have Jello all over my shoes (thank you, Crocs!).

We took a moment to admire the Jello. It really didn't look so bad, apart from splitting a bit (well, a lot) in the middle. It probably would have been perfect in a bowl. It looked a lot like the removed contents of a can of cranberry jelly, down to the slight lines from the top rim of the pitcher. The biggest problem, however, was that the nameplate was barely distinguishable from the Jello. Not only was the double dense lime a dark green color, but I had emptied the pitcher on the wrong side, so only the black back of the plate was visible.

We returned to our desks and awaited the co-worker's return. At first, they were confused since it looked like there was just a pile of Jello on the desk. Soon, however, they realized the nameplate was in the Jello and had a good laugh. News spread throughout the office, and people stopped by to see the Jello. Others walked by with curious looks on their faces. One odd gentleman randomly grabbed a handful and ate it. He later returned and said "I've been wanting to do this all day", at which point he pulled out a pocket knife, sliced the Jello, then folded up his knife and walked away. So that was weird.

All in all, it was a success. It had been a long time since I'd pulled off such a good prank, so it was a lot of fun. And, bonus, my sister called me later to ask for tips on how much Jello to use for a mold of her own. So that was fun. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it.

Thanks for reading.

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