Friday, April 2, 2010

Best Joke I've been a part of: AromaCard

First a little disclaimer: I was not the mastermind behind this joke. I was only barely involved.

After graduating from college I worked for a consulting company ("sweat shop") and I was placed on a project at large electronics retail company. This was several years ago and a lot of people were not as computer literate as they are today.

I can't actually remember the name of the person that came up with the joke. (I do remember what he looked like. Does that count?) I think his name was Steve and he was a practical joke genius. Steve was surfing the web one day. He found a picture of one of those tree shaped air fresheners and hatched a brilliant plan.

The joke:
Step 1: Buy several car air fresheners (pine scented) and hide them in someone's cubicle.
Step 2: Change the victim's computer background to be the picture of the air freshener.
Step 3: Leave a note on the victim's desk that he or she had been selected by the IT department to participate in a trial of a new computer technology called an AromaCard. The IT staff would return in a couple weeks and interview the victim about his or her experience with the AromaCard.

Keep in mind, these car air fresheners come with instructions to only open a small amount of the package covering the air freshener each week. They are very strong. So, imagine a handful of these things fully opened in an standard cubical. The place absolutely reeked.

As far as I know, this joke was only played on two people. The first person was immediately angry. She called the IT help desk and DEMANDED they come and remove the AromaCard from her computer. I can't even imagine what the guy at the help desk was thinking. So, the first attempt ended quickly.

The second person was a different story. He was proud to have been selected for this trial. He was proud to the point that he might have been bragging about it a little bit. After a couple days everyone knew about the joke but him.

The joke went on for several weeks. One day the victim left work early and Steve decided to up the ante a little bit. They swapped all the pine air fresheners in his cubicle with lemon scented ones and changed the picture on his desktop to a yellow air freshener. They left him a note that he had been upgraded to the new lemon scent.

Several more weeks passed and it was time to let the guy in on the joke. This is where I came in. Because I had an IT email address I was in charge of communicating with this guy. After several unsuccessful attempts to schedule an appointment to "uninstall" his AromaCard, the plan evolved a little more.

An urgent note from the IT department was left at his desk. He had to immediately uninstall the AromaCard or the cost would be deducted from his pay. The memo then had a bunch of steps, like turning his computer around and unplugging all the wires, etc. For a non-computer person this can be pretty scary. The very last step was to look under his chair.

This is the voice mail he left me. I've muted out his name and phone number.

AromaCard Voice Mail

So, that is the best joke I've ever been remotely involved in. (Very remotely.) I remember writing a little application that would sit in the system tray and allow the victim to adjust the scent volume of the aroma card. However, I don't remember if we ever put it on his computer.