My friends over at Culture Geeks just pointed me to what may, in fact, be my favorite example of how the internet and snail mail can work together to make pranks a regular part of your daily intake. I speak of this ebay auction item (excerpt):
DRIVE SOMEONE INSANE WITH POSTCARDS
You are bidding on a rare chance to traumatize a treasured friend or relative with baffling, mind-numbing, mystery correspondence from abroad. I will be spending the Christmas holiday in Poland in a tiny village that has one church with no bell because angry Germans stole it. Aside from vodka, there is not a lot for me to do. During the course of my holiday I will send three postcards to one person of your choosing.
These postcards will be rant-ravingly insane, yet they will be peppered with unmistakable personal details about the addressee. Details you will provide me. The postcards will not be coherently signed, leaving your mark confused, guessing wildly, crying out in anguish. "How do I know this person? And how does he know I had a ferret named Goliath?"
Your beloved friend or relative will try in vain to figure out who it is. Best of all, it can't possibly be you because you'll have the perfect alibi: you're not in Poland. You're home, wherever that is, doing whatever it is you do when not driving your friends loopy with international prankery. Your target will rack their brains in the shower. At dinner. During long drives. At work. On the golf course. "Who did I tell about the time I got fired by a note on my chair?" they'll ponder, "And where the hell is Szczecinek?"
To add to the sheer confusion and genuine discomfort, one missive will be on an original promotional postcard announcing the 1995 television premiere of Central Park West on CBS. Another will be a postcard celebrating Atlanta's disastrous hosting of the 1996 summer Olympic games.
And the winning bid: $415.00!
You can thank comedy writer Brian Sack for the original prank (and for a hilarious Facebook Hitler profile also on his site), which may evolve into a "trend", because now there are seven "drive someone insane" offers on ebay. But none of them even remotely have the panache or innocence of the original, and they reek of opportunism (Sack wasn't really trying to make money, just have some silly fun).
But that doesn't mean it isn't a prank worth playing. So what are you waiting for? You are certainly more clever than some lame Glen Beck fan. If you live or are traveling somewhere a little bit odd (sorry Florida and NY copycats - that just does not cut the mustard for an "insane" postmark), jump on the bandwagon and offer to give the gift that keeps on giving. And you don't even have to ebay it. Offer to do it for free just for the love of the game.
Pictured above: Szczecinek Coat of Arms