Continuing a failing tradition

As a newly minted senior, I have many traditions to savor this year. Just last week we lunched with our teachers at a senior/faculty barbecue, and next month promises ring ceremony. The distant future holds prom, and even beyond that lies senior retreat.

But none of these are my favorite senior tradition. No—that honor belongs to the failed senior prank.

I admit, I’m a convert. For the past two years, like any good underclassman, I rolled my eyes when rumor spread of a brewing scheme and groaned at the sight of water balloons.

My friends and I would agree angrily with one another: They’re not even funny! They’re not even original! If you’re going to prank us, think of something better than yet another water balloon flung down from the Seaver courtyard!

All that changed with the creation of the senior Facebook group (I’m not sure if its existence is supposed to be a secret, but I doubt I’m revealing anything unprecedented here). Aside from the first post, in which Head Prefect Henry Hahn ’14 had the gall to post a calm and sensible reminder about the senior/faculty barbecue, every post has proposed a prank.

Initially, I was as annoyed as ever, judgmental of every Facebook notification I received.

However, as the notifications continued pouring into my inbox, I began to regard them with an avuncular fondness.

Oh, you meddling kids, I thought as I read the latest silly proposal. What will you think of next? And when will you give up on this latest plan?

For that, I realized, is the joy of the senior prank. Hiding under each bright-eyed and bushy-tailed proposal is a weary, cynical self-awareness: like those of our forebears, these pranks will not come true, and in due time we will resort to the time-honored tradition of haphazard water balloons flung down onto the quad from the courtyard of Seaver Hall.

True, not every senior class ended up only toting water balloons. Still, none of these have boasted any great success, from the class of 2013, whose food fight weaponry was confiscated, to the class of 2007, who performed an inconsequential, easily fixed license plate prank. (Reading the Chronicle story, I’m still not sure why the ’07 seniors thought taping fake plates over the juniors’ cars’ license plates was clever.)

What would happen if the class of 2014 pulled off that most mythical creature, the successful prank? What even constitutes a successful prank?

These aren’t the philosophical questions I typically wrestle with, but as far as I’m concerned, we would betray history if we succeeded. What makes the senior prank traditional is its inevitable failure.

As the playwright Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” If anything, I’m just hoping for a better, funnier failure this year.

One senior, with something rather Beckettian in mind, posted in our Facebook group, “Prank: Board games in the lounge. Maybe Prefect Council can help set this up.”

The proposal is, of course, utterly ridiculous. Since it’s a complete anti-prank, it’s a perfect failure. Now that’s the kind of success I can get behind.

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