Saturday, November 12, 2005

Operation Alpha

The following post details the events of Operation Alpha that are no longer classified (with certain details and identities omitted to protect those involved):

Alpha was conceived a couple of months ago as a part of a larger operation that went unrealized and was the first con to benefit from the new phonetic alphabet designator system (hence the ‘Alpha’ name). As you can tell from the fact that I’m already past ‘Foxtrot’ from an earlier post; I’ve been busy. I originally heard about the idea of wrapping all of someone’s stuff in aluminum foil on the internet a few years ago, but concluded that it’d be too expensive and too time consuming for me to do. Then the idea for a prank against Shane and Chip came along and I figured it just might be time for something like that. After some initial planning, we put Alpha on the back-burner until we could resolve some of the last few problems with the plot and waited for the right opportunity to come along.

The two largest obstacles (strictly relating to Alpha and not to the larger operation) were those of Chip and the spare key. When I went to visit Shane this July, he showed me where they kept the spare key to the apartment. When I took a moment during a recent stop at his apartment to confirm it was in the same place for Alpha, it wasn’t there. Turns out the “spare” was actually Chip’s key before he moved in at the end of the summer. The other obstacle was my apprehensions about pranking Chip. You see, if nothing else, I’m an “honorable villain;” I won’t do overly mean pranks (like tossing someone in the cold lake during Fall Retreat as I was accused of planning, although the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind and I wouldn’t do it if it had). Chip is more like the Big House guys, while he’s not quite as ruthless as them, he certainly doesn’t have the moral qualms I do about cruel pranks. So basically I was hesitant to pull Alpha against him for fear of opening a can of worms without the willingness to stoop to his level for the ensuing prank war.

Both obstacles resolved themselves at the same time that my opportunity presented itself a couple of weeks ago. I learned about a week before Fall Retreat that Shane’s birthday was the Saturday of Retreat, so none of us would be around to celebrate with him. So instead of getting their living room as originally planned, we changed the plan to just get Shane’s bedroom and call it a birthday “encouragement.” That also took care of those obstacles because now I could bring Chip in as an accomplice instead of a victim and he could conveniently arrange for the back door to be left unlocked to let us in. I talked to Chip the week before retreat and he reluctantly agreed (although concerned about retribution because his birthday is in another month).

Because Shane’s birthday was while we were gone on retreat, we decided to postpone Alpha for a couple of days and conduct it on Monday. Sunday night, to keep in character of what I’d normally do if we weren’t planning anything and to alleviate his fears that anything was up, I arranged for everyone at Prayer and Praise to sing Happy Birthday to him after the meeting (yes Shane, even that was premeditated). Monday afternoon Chip announced to Shane that Bob and Jeanette Manning would be coming over and all of them were going out for ice cream to celebrate his birthday later in the evening (I’d called them earlier in the week and after agreeing to let Bob spend the night in my room and arranging for Jeanette to stay with her sister Kathy, they enthusiastically agreed to help). Now, I think it best to just give you a running timeline of the night:

I left dinner to head to WalMart to buy a dozen rolls of 75 sq.ft aluminum foil and Sharpies to write on it with (my trunk was already loaded up with masking tape, saran-wrap, and as always, duct tape) so that we’d have the supplies needed. As I was coordinating the last minute details over the phone, one of the main members of the team had to drop out because of an unanticipated set of homework to be done that night, so I had to search for a couple of replacements (that one individual had been trained well enough to be worth a couple untrained accomplices).

I picked up Chris Lindsay from her tango lesson and took her back to Windsor so she could change and so that we could go to Mer’dith to pick up Tiffany (one of the last minute recruits). I’d tried to call Tiffany to tell her about what was going on, but she wasn’t in her room and I don’t have her cell number, so we were only able to find her on a tip from Bekah as to where she was studying. We found her in one of the little side-rooms lining the Mer’dith lobby studying for an exam the next day, talking on the phone with her Mom, and blissfully unaware anything was going on. I promptly grabbed the phone out of her hand and announced “Hi Tiffany’s Mom, this is Shawn (we’d met once before), I’m going to kidnap your daughter for a few hours this evening.” After explaining I needed her to help with a prank and promising I wouldn’t charge ransom (because they “didn’t have any money”), she endorsed the kidnapping and wished us luck. We then promptly left to meet “the others” (identities withheld) at the “Rendezvous Point” near Shane’s apartment.

We met with “the others” and after parking a ways away from Shane’s apartment, we hiked through the light rain around the back of his complex to approach his back door without being spotted. Then, after identifying their apartment and glancing in the window (trying not to be seen) to see if they were still around, we hid around the corner of their shed and waited for them to leave.

Shane, Chip, and the Mannings all left for ice cream in Chip’s truck. We gave them a few minutes to get out of the neighborhood (and turn back in case they forgot something), and then attempted to open the back door. As it turns out, Chip had left the back door unlocked as planned, but accidentally forgotten to unlock the screen door! After a minute or so of pulling gently (in hopes of it being loose) and examining the lock to see if I could pick it (I couldn’t without damaging the screen), we were afraid the plan had failed. I decided to give the door one last pull (harder than before, but not enough to break it) and it decided to come open for us (turns out the latch that holds it closed on the doorframe is just a cheap metal piece that snapped in half rather easily). After mutually agreeing with the team that we’d replace it later, we entered and got to work.

Except for the ceiling, blank parts of walls (but including the closet door, hung pictures, windowsill, and light switch), and floor, we covered everything in his room:

The Bed (mattress, bed skirt, pillows, sheets, and we folded the blanket nicely and put foil in the folds to look like it was completely wrapped in foil):

Chris working on the bed:

The pictures on the wall (covered with new pictures drawn on the foil):

Tiffany working on the closet door (we wrote “Happy B-Day” on it in giant letters):

The bookshelf (every picture with a new picture drawn on it, every pill bottle, every knickknack, and every book individually wrapped (and hidden behind the sheet of foil you see so that at first he’d think we were lazy and then discover the truth):

The desk area (chair, desk, computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, cordless phone, speakers, joystick, every pen individually wrapped, every piece of mail, junk mail, discarded envelopes on the floor, everything. Funny side note: the computer mysteriously started playing classical music after it’d already been wrapped up, so we decided to leave it playing and turn up the volume when we left just for style points):

I answered a call from Bob Manning’s cell phone and the other end was silent. This was the pre-arranged signal that we had 10-15 minutes before their return. Obviously, it would have been a bit of a giveaway if he had said something because they were all in the same car together. We also had another pre-arranged signal “Abort!” which would have been a silent call from Chip’s phone (Shane’s grandfather wasn’t in the best of health and we didn’t want him to get bad news and then go home to find a no-longer-funny prank in his room, so we’d have cleaned up as much as we could as quickly as possible and cleared out). The good news was that Chip, Bob, and Jeanette had bought us almost exactly the 1.5 hours I’d asked for and my estimate was spot on; we were just putting the finishing touches on the room. We quickly cleaned up our discarded empty foil rolls (we ended up using 8.5-9.5 out of the dozen we’d brought), turned up the music on the computer, turned out the lights, closed his bedroom door, and left. I then immediately sent Chris, Tiffany, and ‘’the others” back to our rendezvous point to wait for my return.

I took up post around the side of their apartment building behind a garage structure that would block me from view of the parking lot but would allow me to see the apartment’s front door when I leaned around the corner. After waiting for about 10 minutes, I saw Chip’s pickup pull up and park. As I crouched in the mud I saw the four of them walk up to the apartment with Shane in the rear. Chip unlocked the door and went inside, followed by the Mannings and, I thought, Shane. Nope, no such luck. As I dashed around the corner of the building to try to make it the 25 yards to Shane’s window before they got to his room, I saw that Shane had paused outside the front door to look in the window to his dark room and wonder “why’s my bed so shiny?” The good news was he was fairly focused on what he was looking at and I spotted him in time to stop and duck back around the corner without being spotted. Then, I thought I saw him go in and the whole scene repeated again (he’d just moved a couple of feet closer to the building. He finally went inside and I started recording with my video camera as I made my dash towards the window.

The link below is to an MPEG4 AVI video file detailing what happened next. The video starts with me running along the side of the building (you can see the trimming on the wall) and then looking into Shane’s dark window. After a few seconds, the door opens and Shane, Chip, and the Mannings walk in and see what’s happened. Notice how even Chip is surprised at all that we did. You’ll also notice a small aluminum foil figure of a guy standing on the end of the bed; I later learned that after this was all over Shane and Chip took some pictures of him posing like that guy in front of the bed (I’d put them up, but Chip hasn’t given them to me yet). Chip makes a comment about the music playing and points towards the computer, so I duck the camera away from the window for a couple of seconds to avoid being spotted (the glare on the inside of the window should have protected me, but I didn’t want to risk it). A few seconds later Chip looks at the window, spots my camera, looks around another few seconds, announces “good job,” and turns to look directly into my lens. After looking at me for a second, he turns to Shane and tells him to “wave at the window” (the traitor). Shane looks; I panic (thinking I’ve been spotted, although he’d only have seen the camera because I was off to the side and aiming by looking at the LCD), turn off the camera, and RUN!

I dashed around the side of the building and ran for all I was worth to the other end of their line of buildings to avoid being spotted. At the same time that I started running, Shane “bolted” (according to Chip) for the front door, but was held back a couple of seconds by Chip’s sudden bear hug. I returned to the rendezvous point and showed the video to the others (much laughter ensued).

Then came the task of throwing Shane off the case. We had Chris call from her cell phone (a number he didn’t have):
Chris (in a very high-pitched girly voice sounding remarkably, if unintentionally, like Amy Schott): “Hi, is Shane there?”
Shane: “That’s me”
Chris holds out the phone and all the girls speak in unanimous girly tones: “Happy birthday Shane, Windsor loves you!”
Shane (very confused): “Hi, ladies…”
Chris (in girly voice): “Have a good night!” and hangs up.

We spent the next 15 minutes or so debriefing over what went well and what didn’t (and generally just patting each other on the back) and then split ways. I took Chris back to Windsor and then walked Tiffany back into Meredith because she’d forgotten her key. This proved advantageous because I realized as we were standing in the Meredith lobby that she’d need some alibi to give to Bekah for why I needed to get a hold of her earlier. On a flash of inspiration (and to much laughter from Tiffany), I announced “DTR! Ok, you can tell Bekah that I needed to get a hold of you so we could DTR, because I was concerned you might read something into my earlier prank on your birthday (see the post on Operation Foxtrot) and wanted you to understand that I just see you as a friend.” Actually, this was a two-birds-with-one-stone moment, because I had been concerned I’d need to have that sort of conversation anyway, this just gave me a humorous context to have it in.

The next morning Shane called about 9:00am and demanded to know what part I had in what was going on. I did a beautiful job of playing dumb and when he asked what I’d done the night before “I went to work, dinner, then I met up with Chris at Windsor, we walked over to Meredith, saw Tiffany, and hung out for a while.” All true actually; I just left out the details of how long we hung out, that we didn’t stay at Meredith, and that there were others involved. Shane: “well, I guess that’s two names I can scratch off my list.” Hook, line, and sinker. He then spent the next 10 minutes telling me all about what had happened and how “they” had wrapped everything, expounding on how all the books were wrapped, the pens individually, and even spent several minutes talking about how a discarded envelope from his junk mail had been wrapped and put right back where it was on the floor!

Later that afternoon he cracked my alibi by calling Chris’s number back from the night before and asking “who is this?” when she answered. She said “Chris Lindsay” before she realized who was calling and that immediately set a lot of doubt on our collective alibis. She called me in a panic and I immediately set to work on “spin control,” modifying our alibi to account for the fact that Chris had left earlier (I did drop her off first, after all) and I’d then had my DTR with Tiffany (allowing her to leave and go join the Windsor girls for the prank while I was at Meredith unaware of what was going on). That modified alibi would have worked beautifully, except for the fact that while I was on Skype with Tiller (my main evil apprentice) working out the final details of the spin control, he showed up at my room and fed me some bluff about calling Tiffany’s roommate to ask what she’d been doing the night before. That’s why I’ve been able to use our three names throughout this post, because we’ve already been identified as part of this.

As of now, a week and a half later, Shane has officially given up on his investigation because he’s “run out of clues” and “has no idea” who “the others” are. He’s also promising no retribution, but I’m not convinced I can believe him on that. Eventually, and I’ve left it up to “the others” to decide when, we’ll reveal their identities to him.

Ok, one last picture to close out this massive account of Operation Alpha. While we were in Shane’s room, I “borrowed” Chip’s tripod and used my camera’s timer to take a group picture. To protect the identities of “the others,” I’ve used my editing software to mask them out of the picture. I hope you’ve enjoyed this unprecedented look into the plotting of one of my pranks (as I laugh when I think of all the stuff I left out or the fact that this wasn’t even one of my “Legend” level jobs)!


At 8:24 AM, Blogger Amy said...

By the way, Shawn, I did not post as a result of your snide comment on Ruth's blog. I'll blog when I feel like it, thank you very much and you can just nut pester me about it. Harrumph and Bah Humbug.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh how glorious (and shiney)! Wish I could have been there for the execution of such an awesome expedition! But I suppose my time is coming...
Be Seeing You!

At 10:22 PM, Blogger Ruthie said...

I must say you do your share of antagonizing to poor Amy as well (case in point, the rather verbose comment on her blog). "Time-displaced spirits of Christmas", really? However, on a random note, I am curious as to why you refer to Eddie as Lucky Eddie? You are the only person I have heard call him this.

At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Shawn's Mom said...

With a mind as imaginative and evil as yours, I'm relieved your schemes are within the parameters of being moral, legal, and not fattening. (In case you don't understand the context, my parents used to tell me I could do anything that wasn't immoral, illegal, or fattening.) Luv ya!

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. E,
Shawn and I would never even think of carrying out an expedition that was immoral, illegal, or fattening! That goes against, well everything!

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Shawn's Mom said...

TilleR, We really need to meet someday considering all I have heard about you through the years. It is scary to think you are Shawn's number one apprentice. Under no circumstances are you to give my phone number to your mom if she complains about your choice of friends. Shawn is legally an adult (who pretends to study at a high altitude) and I have no control over what he does, except to shut off the tuition spigot, which his father and I will only do if he breaks the illegal, immoral, or fattening rule :).

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shawn's Mom,"
I would like to meet you as well, the mother of my mentor... Next time I make it up Chicago way we'll have to get together and conspire against him! Bwahahahaa! Last time I was up there was April of 02, three months before I met Shawn and Scott! And except for the phone call to my house after midnight that one time, my parents like Shawn a great deal. If my mother had her way Shawn would marry my sister, in fact the only people objecting are, well Shawn and my sister! How was your trip?
See ya,


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