Man tricked into thinking he had died and gone to heaven, found humiliated, standing in bushes

Posted April 10

Every April I find myself thinking about the time a prank made me think I had died and gone to heaven.

Back when I was in college, and was still optimistic about the future, I helped a friend celebrate his birthday one year by passing around a sign-up sheet. Dozens of college women signed up to call him so that he would get at least one birthday phone call every 15 minutes for 24 hours — starting at midnight. If someone called and failed to get through to him, they agreed to keep phoning him until they connected, even if it took all night and all day.

I figured that he would catch on before 1 a.m. and pull the plug on his phone. (Back in those days you weren’t required by law to carry your phone with you everywhere you went.) For some strange reason, however, he just kept getting up and answering his phone every 15 minutes until about the time the sun came up. When he knocked on my door the next morning he was standing there holding a butcher knife with a very un-birthday-like look on his face.

He took his revenge on me on my next birthday. Believe it or not, I had an assignment once in church where I was to make sure that people in my college congregation were taught Sunday School properly. On that birthday, I was meeting with three other people talking about important church stuff in an apartment that had a front and back door. Suddenly, without warning, dozens of women burst through both doors, rushed at me and kissed me all over my face, sometimes two or three at a time, only to rush out of the door leaving me stunned and covered in lipstick before I could even say, “Hey …”

It was as if I had lived a thousand college lives in 20 seconds and before I could even begin to appreciate my sudden trip to church-meeting heaven, it was over. I was dopey happy and tried to return to the business at hand but could not focus as I struggled to make sense of what had just happened. What could I do to make it happen again?

I had to call the meeting to an end.

While I’ve been to thousands of church meetings since that time, I’ve not had a single woman suddenly rush me and kiss me as I talked. Now, that’s OK because I am married, but still. (By the way when my friend recruited the college women to be in on the prank, my wife-to-be who was not yet even my girlfriend, refused to participate. Even now, she is reluctant to kiss me in church for fear that it will make other people feel sorry for her.)

I don’t do many pranks anymore. They tend to backfire in my old age. I tried to pull a simple one recently and ended up with tire marks on my chest. I took a break to walk outside my building and decided to make my way to the darkened, reflective windows of a ground-level corner office that is shared by several of my co-workers. Just rapping on the window would startle them and prove quite funny, I thought.

I was concerned that they would scream and I would scream and — like that scene in E.T. — we would both stand there screaming at each other separated only by the window. With my luck, my boss would walk up just as that happened and he would wonder why I was standing in the bushes screaming at my reflection, but I decided to do it anyway.

Yes, I did say bushes. You see, as it turned out, there were trees and bushes and all manner of green things between me and the window. I was wearing my big-boy pants and my grown-up shirt but I figured I could weave in and out of the growth like a nimble 18-year-old, leaning backward while auditioning for "The Matrix." And that’s what I did, but somehow, and I still don’t know exactly how, my movements caused a low-hanging, wet, moss-covered tree limb the size of a fire hose to slam into my chest, leaving a very distinct muddy mark across my dress shirt that looked exactly like thick bicycle tire tracks.

It took some of the joy out of the stunt because I suddenly was not interested in calling attention to the fact that I was standing in the bushes with a splash of mud across my dress shirt. You’ll be pleased to know that I decided right there and then that any prank that involves me standing outside a window in the bushes is a very, very bad idea.

I did show my tire imprint to a co-worker, complaining that someone had just run me over on a bike and, at first, the splattered design brought me a measure of sympathy, but then she got that look that people seem to get around me sooner or later when I’m making up something.

She started in with the questioning.

“Hey, wait a minute, is that true? Are you making that up?”

I’m really not that good at sustained lying, so I went from being the victimized old man to the old guy in the bushes in a matter of seconds. It was not pleasant.

I had to go put on a coat and wear it to the last meeting of the day even though it was quite stuffy. I sat there, clutching my coat to my chest, hiding my tread marks and thought back on that day of a thousand rapid-fire kisses. The day I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Steve Eaton lives in Logan. He can be reached at


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