This week was a good week. I engineered a prank at work that brought much fun and entertainment, and made the week even better. A prank in 3 acts.

Act 1

We use Zoom for our meetings and when I noticed, just as I was leaving at the end of a meeting, that a colleague of mine wasn’t at his desk, I thought I just had missed an opportunity to take a screenshot of his room without him, and later use it as my own background image and see his face as he realized!

So I went back, found his room still empty and quickly took a screenshot. I was in the process of making my window bigger to take a better screenshot when he showed up. Uh oh! “Oh, you were waiting for me to return?,” he asked. I couldn’t quickly enough come up with a good excuse for the probably guilty look on my face, so I just fessed up. Good laugh was had. And see you next time, wink wink!

The next thing I did was to quickly edit out his name from the bottom left part of the screenshot. I saved the photo somewhere I could open it on my iPhone and used the “healing” tool of Snapseed (my favourite —and free— image edition software on smartphone), which basically redraws an area of your choice using its surrounding. Then I adjusted a bit the sharpness and reduced the noise to get the best out of that pretty small screenshot.

Then I tested it as my own Zoom virtual background 👌and gave him a preview.

Screenshot of an instant message conversation where I showed a picture of my zoom using as background the image I stole of a colleague's background. That colleague liked the result and gave a star-eyed emoji as response
a glimpse of what it looked like when I use this picture as my Zoom background

Act 2

I wrote to everyone-but-him in the team who usually attends our weekly all-hands meeting (which was the next day) and shared my “work” and the context, offering them to join me in escalating the prank, since I had been made.

And it turned out so so much better this way.

Response was high. But then, who isn’t in for a bit of harmless fun? Especially when it’s so easy to set up.

Someone had suggested some particular timing: our colleague usually gets to speak early in the meeting and that was going to be our cue to all switch to our virtual background of his soon-worldwide-office.

Act 3

The meeting started as usual and people, who were a bit more numerous than habitual, kept a very straight face. Our colleague was called to speak and that’s when most of the tiles in the gallery instantly changed!

Screenshot of our zoom meeting where everyone (but one person) in the 4 x 5 grid of video feeds uses the same background image. Everyone's face but mine has been replaced by a smiley.
Screenshot of our zoom meeting where everyone (but one person) in the 4 x 5 grid of video feeds uses the same background image. Everyone’s face but mine has been replaced by a smiley.

Everyone yielded to the smiles that had been suppressed and for a few moments none of us heard him. We were too focused on awaiting his reaction. And yet, he continued to talk, unaware, for a few seconds until wrapping up. At the exact moment he briefly paused, hesitated, apparently lost track of his thought and then finished his word, we knew he was finally looking at his screen and he was confused.

Mischief managed!

He was not expecting that, to our delight! Hearing his heartfelt laugh was such a reward. Another bonus was seeing live a number of colleagues who usually don’t share their video in meetings.

I enjoyed immensely seeing a whole room of smiling people.

The prank

The title is pompous, it sounds like it’s the prank of the year. It’s the last prank of the year, rather.

My brother asked to borrow my car from Sunday to Tuesday to drive to visit friends someplace. I wasn’t so keen on the idea. My car insurance covers me only and besides, this car is getting old and it makes a strange noise when I decelerate. It’s OK to use it for local errands. After insisting heavily that he would have to be careful and make sure to not end up in trouble, I told him he could have it.

That’s when he said he was off to spend New Year’s eve with his girlfriend. Aha! I was the only one in the family privvy to that bit of information. Also, she happens to live maybe 100 km away from where he said he’d drive. Tsk… He’s so devious!

Yesterday my mum asked me why I was not interested in going with him and I said he hadn’t offered me to join him. She had asked him if I was going with him and he had said “Nah, she said she wouldn’t like it.” Devious, I tell you.

So today he came over for lunch and I told him “you know, we think it’s better if I go with you. We can take turns driving and if there’s an incident with the car I’ll be around. And oh well, I don’t know your friends, but it’s gonna be all right”.

The look on his face was priceless. It was in between looking trapped and cornered. He eventually said, quite casually “In fact, I’ll have a nice romantic New Year’s eve dinner”.