Indiana University Little 500 – #1 Greatest All-Time Memory by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

The Little 500 Weekend was always the time to turn it up a notch – go even nuttier and blow off steam before finals.  Ahh, who am I crappin’?  We blew off steam like it was our job, but there was no better place or time than in Bloomington, Indiana, on that beautiful Saturday when the bikes went around in circles 200 times.

Picking the greatest ten moments has been a fun trip down memory lane, but there are so many other moments that deserve some measure of recognition.

Each Little 500 Saturday, there were traditions as moronic and pointless as any surrounding a college event in America.  My two favorites were to walk from Walnut Knolls (and then the Hampton Inn after we graduated) across Walnut and College to the IGA to fill a grocery cart with steaks and unfiltered Lucky Strikes only to abandon it in the produce section.  The second was to call room 306 at the Hampton Inn and identifying myself to the guest as the manager of the hotel.  The occupants were told their stay would be comped if they accepted the request to switch rooms.  “You see, I promised a young couple room 306, and they have just registered for the room.  They had their first special experience in that room, and I made the mistake of promising them the room when they made their reservation.  If you would agree to switch to room 312, we would be happy to comp your stay.”  Invariably, the people agreed, went down to the front desk, and confused the actual manager with that tale of woe.

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April Fool’s Day Brings Back Memory of Favorite Practical Joke by kentsterling
April 2, 2010, 9:10 am
Filed under: Kent Sterling, Practical Jokes | Tags: , ,

by Kent Sterling

Laughing at the expense of others was a hobby of mine for many years, just as it was one of the joys of my Dad’s life.  Finding a way to place people in awkward situations was something at which I excelled.  Before advances in technology made videotaping everything cheap and easy, I was Ashton Kutcher with a mean streak and a less attractive, well, everything.  Instead of “punking” celebrities to get rich, I punked the ordinary to pass time and make myself laugh.

The best practical jokes are those that take on a life of their own and wind up somewhere never imagined when taking that first step toward making an ass of someone.  Toward the end of college, we were bored, and idle time is the practical joker’s workshop.  After a night in the bars, Pauly Balst and I came back to his apartment with nothing to do.  It was after 1 a.m., and everyone was either asleep our poor candidates for keeping up with our pace.  There was some mail on the table addressed to an old roommate of Pauly’s named Colin, who had graduated at the end of the Fall Semester.  I opened an envelope with a Boston return address.

Colin was originally from Boston, so I thought maybe the letter was from a friend who would reveal something embarrassing.  No such luck – the letter was from the mother of a friend and was filled with silly platitudes.   I thought it might be fun to give this adult a call (as Colin) and say some outrageous things that might worry her, and at least give the family some inkling that he had wandered down a troubling path.

It would be funnier (to Paulie and I) if I called collect and tried to keep them on the phone as long as possible.  Back then, collect calls billed at about $1 per minute, so a real phone call could run as much as a nice meal.  I called person-to-person collect from Colin, and she accepted the charges.  The first thing I said was that I was on my way – halfway through Pennsylvania – and had stopped for the night.  I told her to have some gin & tonics and ham sandwiches ready.  We spent another 30-minutes talking about nothing.  I had no idea what the hell she was saying and only responded to try to get her to talk more.  The less I said, the better.  The letter gave me a little bit of information, and I knew Colin well enough to fake my way through the talk.

It was good fun – fun enough that at the end of a similar night a week later, I called back. Again collect.  I let her know that I had some car trouble, but was ready to complete the last leg of the drive, and by God to have those gin & tonics and ham sandwiches ready.  All done.  Never though about the phone calls again for another year.

All of the people who had been friends at school were invited to a party in Wilmette, Illinois, by Rick Rafanello.  Rick is a great guy who’s always eager to share fun, so the turnout was excellent.  Colin was there too.  At one point, Paulie called me over and said, “You have to hear this.”  Colin was talking about déjà vu and psychologically strange occurrences.

He restarted the story for me about this time almost a year before that he dropped in unannounced on some old friends from Massachusetts.  They treated him like a leper.

Colin knocked at the door, and the lady of the house answered, “Nice of you to show up!” she snarled.  Everyone else in the house was equally upset and made comments to that effect.  Colin didn’t understand, and finally asked what people were talking about.  He was told about these two late night collect calls where we told the family he was coming but never showed.  They talked about the gin & tonics and ham sandwiches they had prepared for him at his insistence.  Colin thought that sounded like something he might say.

He went on and on with this story, and couldn’t figure out how he had forgotten or blacked-out that he had made these calls.  He was genuinely concerned for his own mental health.  He had no way to know or reason to expect that anyone would know those old friends in Massachusetts, and would call them as him.

To not admit making the call would have been cruel, plus the constant laughing during his story had to seem odd, so I told him it was me and what exactly had happened.  He promised retribution, but no one could set up such an elaborate and unexpected chain of events.  Serendipity is the best friend of the bored joker, and if you throw enough crap at a wall – eventually something sticks like this stuck to Colin.

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