by Michelle Lum
From oddly artistic mayonnaise sightings to enigmatic Hoch fortunes, it’s safe to say that pranks have been rampant across the 5Cs this year. To the consternation of some and the relief of others, prank culture has come back in full force, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The Muddraker sat down with a few of the Mudders behind this year’s pranks to get the inside scoop about how they were executed. Photos courtesy of the respective pranksters.
THE MAYO MYSTERY
THE PRANKSTERS: THOSE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED
Unsuspecting visitors to CMC’s Cube on the night of Jan. 29 would have been greeted with hundreds of jars of mayonnaise, arranged in a geometric pattern in the waters surrounding the Cube.
To explain that bizarre sight, we must turn the dial back to December, when a fateful Craigslist post offering free mayo was sent to the West dorm mailing list during Hochmas. Atwood — which was having its annual Hochmas dorm dinner in the Aviation room — picked up on the email, and immediately knew they had to get some of the mayo for themselves.
“[The free mayo] just seemed so odd and ridiculous to us. We knew we had to do it,” one prankster said. “We knew that mayonnaise is a pretty polarizing condiment, so if we did something with mayo, a lot of people would dislike it. That’s the chaos we were going for.”
When North decided to join in on the fun, securing the mayo became a cross-dorm collaboration. To pick up the mayo, Atwood and North dorm residents rented a U-Haul and drove to a warehouse in Riverside.
One prankster kindly recounted the scene upon arrival to The Muddraker: “The warehouse is full of random stuff. Couches, flat-screen TVs everywhere. But not any brands that you’ve heard of, either. The [warehouse manager] tells us that we can have all the mayo we want, if we can get to it. We spend an hour clearing a path through old sofas and broken TVs to the mayo, and eventually, we’re able to forklift the pallets of mayo out. There was so much mayo. It was pallets and pallets and pallets. We took maybe 5% of the mayo that was there. And we already took a lot.”
Curious about why there was $10,000 worth of expired mayo in the warehouse, the Mudders asked the warehouse manager where it came from. They learned that the warehouse had been paid to store the mayo, which was never picked up by its rightful owner. The Mudders also learned that they were the first ones to answer the call of the Craigslist mayo.
“The warehouse manager told us that we were the first ones to get there,” one prankster said. “Who would want pallets of free mayo? Only Mudders, legitimately only Mudders.”
With six pallets of mayo loaded into their U-Haul, the pranksters returned to Mudd, triumphant. But upon arriving back on campus, they discovered that, over the course of the half-hour drive, the mayo had spilled all over the back of the U-Haul.
So, the pranksters cleaned up the U-Haul and recruited some North frosh to help them bring the mayo, jar by jar, down to North dorm storage, where a thousand jars of mayo remained over winter break. In the meantime, Atwood and North brainstormed ideas on what to do with the mayo. Throwing a mayo party called Cinco de Mayo was one vetoed idea.
Then, at the beginning of second semester, Facilities and Maintenance (F&M) informed North that they had to get the mayo out of dorm storage, or F&M would throw it out. So, Atwood and North decided that it was only proper to gather about 30 dorm residents, load shopping carts full of mayo, and send subteams out and about the 5Cs to leave jars of mayo, uncapped, around the colleges. The night culminated in a “glorious” congregation at the Cube, as one prankster described it.
“Eventually, everyone came to the Cube. It wasn’t planned. And that’s why it was beautiful,” one prankster said. “Everyone had the same idea of mayo-ing the Cube.”
That’s when Campus Security caught them in the act, and managed to stop two of the Mudders.
“Camp Sec was extremely confused,” one prankster said, based on the reports of the pair that was caught. “They were extremely curious as to how we got the shopping carts and the mayo, and what we were doing with the mayo.”
The rest of the Mudders, acting on natural instinct, abandoned their shopping carts and ran.
One prankster remarked, “It was either ditch the carts or get caught. So, we ditched the carts.”
“We didn’t even think for a second — we just took off. Didn’t leave our names, our numbers, or anything like that,” another prankster said. “And the funny thing is, I heard that [Camp Sec] wasn’t even mad, and that they actually thought the pattern was kind of pretty. So, I think we overreacted there, and we could have handled it better.”
Camp Sec officers weren’t the only ones who fell victim to the mayo. After the pranksters spread a rumor on Yik Yak that one jar of mayo contained $1,000, a gullible CMCer reportedly ended up sticking their hand into one too many mayo jars. And at an Atwood bar opening in first semester, a poor soul consumed a shot of expired mayo. The Muddraker sends sincere condolences to all.
“We had a bar opening the day we got the mayo. So, we decided to serve mayo shots, not expecting anyone to actually take one,” one prankster said. “But someone did take a mayo shot, and it was nasty. It was just mayo and vodka. I don’t recommend that drink.”
And although the mischievous mayo-ers could have dealt with the Camp Sec situation better, at least no Cubes were harmed in the process. The most damage done was probably to the perpetrators’ perception of mayo.
“The smell was just horrendous. It took a lot of nasal willpower to open that many jars of mayo and put them all around the other campuses,” one prankster said. “Mayo smells so bad now. ”
Mudd’s mayo supply has been pretty much depleted by now, dashing the hopes of anyone who had their fingers crossed for future 5C mayo sightings outside the dining halls. But you never know — there may still be a few jars of mayo in hiding.
THE POMONA BANNER
THE PRANKSTERS: ATWOOD DORM
This school year, the 5Cs have seen unprecedented levels of sign-stealing. Perhaps the most conspicuous of these thefts was that of a large blue banner from Pomona’s Bridges Auditorium in early October, when the banner was carried off by a group of enterprising Mudders participating in Atwood’s annual dorm scavenger hunt.
“When we were frosh, our upperclassmen would take us around the 5Cs with tools, and we’d just go around and pick signs up,” Atwood dorm president John Hearn ‘23 said. “We were walking by Big Bridges one day, and we noticed the big banner. And I thought, ‘Hm, what if we took that?’”
His inspiration sparked, John decided to add “steal Pomona’s Big Bridges banner” to Atwood’s scavenger hunt list, and gave it the highest value of any item on the list — 500 points — not expecting anyone to actually follow through with it.
Yet as things tend to go, John’s scavenger hunt team decided to go for the banner themselves.
“My group was eyeing it, and we decided we could at least go down and try, because we were on that route anyway,” John said.
But the task in front of them was far from simple. “But how? How do we steal [the banner]?” John’s conspirator Justin Jiang ‘23 said, in describing the challenges the banner posed. “It’s elevated, it’s a huge banner, and it’s on Pomona’s campus. How do we get it back to Mudd without getting caught?”
Fortunately, they had the advantage of height on their side: by hoisting a teammate up, the team was able to unhook the lower two carabiners securing the banner to Big Bridges. Then, they pulled until the banner fell completely loose, rolled the banner up, and ran with it back to Mudd.
Thanks to the 500-point banner in their possession, John and Justin’s team ended up winning the scavenger hunt. The word is that they were even egged on by some Pomona students who spotted them taking down the banner.
It wasn’t all fun and games, however. Those involved ended up self-reporting. And Pomona was, understandably, upset at them for stealing the banner.
Consequences aside, Atwood’s scavenger hunt is an important tradition when it comes to dorm culture.
“During my frosh year, [the scavenger hunt] was really hyped up. There was a lot of talk about what happened in previous years, and the dorm presidents just did a really good job of making it something we all looked forward to,” John said. “I wanted to make it the same thing for the dorm this year.”
Typically, Atwood’s scavenger hunt list consists of items such as “steal a Pitzer chicken,” “set sail on pHake Lake,” “steal a shopping cart,” and “steal the inflatable hamburger from the top of the Carl’s Jr. on Foothill Blvd.” With the need to be COVID-safe, and the disappearance of the restaurant’s inflatable hamburger, the dorm had to be creative with this year’s scavenger hunt list.
“We had to change the objectives to adhere to safety guidelines. There were a bunch that used to be along the lines of ‘make out with a stranger’ or ‘hold a stranger’s hand,’” John said.
On the flip side, the pandemic also afforded Atwood residents with new scavenger hunt opportunities. For instance, one of the items this year was “move a Scripps classroom.” That was achieved by a team who successfully resettled one of Scripps’ outdoor classrooms, which were set up to provide safe learning environments during the pandemic.
And so — if Atwood’s scavenger hunt is anything to go by — it seems that despite our year and a half away from Mudd, neither dorm culture nor prank culture will be going away anytime soon.
THE FORTUNE COOKIES
THE PRANKSTERS: PRANK CLUB
They say that once a prankster, always a prankster. The idea for Prank Club’s first prank of the school year came not from a current Prank Club member, but actually from former Prank Club president and HMC Class of 2021 graduate Aely Aronoff.
On Feb. 3, Mudders who braved the Hoch’s Exhibition line at lunch were rewarded with some surprisingly Mudd-specific fortune cookies. A few spelled impending doom and déjà vu (e.g., “Spring break may be longer than you expected.”), while others were more benign (e.g., “Give a man a poptart, feed him for a day. Introduce a man to Dodds, feed him for life.”).
You can blame Prank Club for not getting that spring break prediction right. After Aely pitched the idea for a fortune cookie prank, Prank Club members — led by presidents Howard Deshong ‘22, Marcos Acosta ‘23, Anshul Kamath ‘23, and Jonathan Lo ‘23 — put their heads together to come up with 15 snarky fortune cookie messages that would get a laugh out of a maximal number of Mudders.
Given the numerous parties involved with the fortune cookies, as well as the ongoing pandemic, Prank Club has faced its fair share of challenges when it comes to executing pranks this school year. The club had originally hoped to unleash their all-telling fortunes on the school in the fall. But between running the fortune cookie messages by the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) and coordinating a food-safe distribution method with the Hoch, their timeline was pushed back to the spring.
Navigating pandemic-era pranking hasn’t been easy either. “In the past, a lot of the stuff we rallied behind involved hitting Caltech, which we haven’t been able to do this year, due to COVID,” Howard said. “So, we’ve had to be more creative, and be willing to do smaller-scale things.”
Nevertheless, it’s probably safe to say that Prank Club would call the fortune cookies a success.
“It was fun to look across the tables [at the Hoch] and see people with their fortune cookies,” Marcos said. “Thanks to my favorite fortune, I’ve gotten multiple calls, voicemails, and texts either giving hints to or very strongly alluding to the answers to question three on the frosh chem homework.” (One fortune included Marcos’ phone number and a request for help with frosh chem.)
The best part of it all? Even the Prank Club presidents didn’t know exactly when to expect the fortunes at the Hoch. They had arranged it with the Hoch so that the fortune cookies would be a surprise for everyone, including themselves.
“The day the fortune cookies came out, Marcos and I had class late. We went to the Hoch, and everyone was talking about the fortune cookies, so we rushed to the Exhibition line. And they were all gone,” Anshul said. “At first, we were worried that we had come too late. But it turned out that the Hoch was just portioning the fortune cookies out throughout lunch.”
Anshul and Marcos are new to the Prank Club presidency this year, and seem to be enjoying their new gig. “[Being in Prank Club] makes you see things in a slightly different way,” Marcos said. “You look at something and you think, ‘Okay, but how do I prank it?’ It’s a slightly different frame of mind.”
When asked about pranks in the planning, the Prank Club presidents were pretty tight-lipped, but offered hints that future pranks, like the fortune cookie prank, may continue to be more focused on the 5Cs, rather than Caltech, Mudd’s favorite rival.
“In the past, there have been a lot of Caltech pranks, but we’re hoping to also bring some of the focus back to Mudd and the 5Cs and keep things local for a little bit — before exacting revenge for no reason,” Marcos said.
Because as Howard put it, when it comes to Caltech, at this point, “it’s just venge.”
If you’re interested in joining Prank Club in their future pranking adventures, email email@example.com to join their mailing list!