A Folder Called Nathan

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In the spirit of April Fools’ Day, and sharing a bit or our not-always-corporate culture here in the Austin & Williams art department, I’d like to share the contents of “A Folder Called Nathan.”

What is “A Folder Called Nathan,” you ask? First, let me introduce Nathan, in case you haven’t been lucky enough to meet him yet. Nathan is a Senior Art Director who joined the A&W team a few years back. He is quite the interesting fellow, with his fair share of quirks. If I needed to describe Nathan, I’d have to say: social media, very unique design, thoughtful, Groundhog Day and (most important to “A Folder Called Nathan”) world traveler.

You see, Nathan and his wife go on many trips throughout the year all over the world, whether it be Pennsylvania for Groundhog Day or Spain for no particular day. Nathan loves to travel. With traveling inevitably comes time off from work; and with time off from work comes a lack of presence in your office.

Historically, when you left your office unattended at A&W, you were always at risk of the guys in the Art Department pranking you. Well, Nathan has been “lucky enough” to travel pretty often during his time as a member of the A&W Art Dept. I say “lucky enough” because it is great to travel and experience the world, but debatable just how enjoyable it must be to wonder, “What the heck are the guys doing to my office right now?” (Knowing that the guys ARE most likely doing something to your office at that very moment—depending on the time zone).

We have pranked Nathan so often that it has become expected of us to do so in his absence. I would even bet that if we, for whatever reason, miss the chance to prank him while he’s away (perhaps due to a shorter trip during a busier time here at the agency) that he is slightly and oddly disappointed. In fact, there have been so many pranks pulled on Nathan that we began documenting them with photos and storing them in “A Folder Called Nathan.” Here are just a few of the “prank documentaries” that we have on file.

“There’s Definitely Been Cuppage”

Team*: Jay Eckert & Tim Eschenauer
Preface: This was the first really big prank undertaking. Nathan was off to Mexico, and before he left he shared with us his concern that he wouldn’t be able to properly hydrate in fear of Montezuma’s Revenge. Knowing he might not have enough water to drink south of the border, we made sure he had more than enough upon his return.
Setup: Our original plan was to staple 800 some-odd cups together (making it impossible to transport one at a time) and lay them out across his entire desk. However we soon discovered the plastic cups would not sit flat when stapled together, so we had to settle for leaving them separate. We then spent a full lunch hour [Editor’s Note: it was an awfully long lunch hour!] to tediously place and fill more than 800 cups to the brim with water.
Result: It was well worth it. Nathan returned to what equated to roughly 30 gallons of water on his desk, and about 500 feet away from the nearest sink. After about an hour of walking a handful of cups from his desk to the sink, and only clearing away half of his desk, he figured out to empty the cups into a garbage can first and use the contents to water the plants outside, making the process go MUCH faster.

“Can You Get That?”
Team*: Jay Eckert, Neil Esposito, Ron Dylnicki & Tim Eschenauer
Preface: Nathan was leaving for St. Croix and we wanted to make sure that he was comfortable when he returned to work more than a week later.
Setup: Our original plan was to fill his desk area entirely with packing peanuts. We had the staff from our lettershop and warehouse save ALL of the shipping peanuts that they would normally throw away for months. We had collected about two cubic yards of peanuts, but ultimately it was not nearly enough to fill Nathan’s entire area, so we filled his overhead storage cabinet with the peanuts instead. We taped paper to the mouth of the storage cabinet and filled them with the packing peanuts. It might be important to point out that we first took Nathan’s phone off his desk and placed it inside said storage cabinet. Once the cabinet was filled to the top, we closed the doors and pulled the paper out from behind them.
Result: When Nathan returned to work and got settled at his desk, we called his phone. He quickly realized it had been relocated to the cabinet and proceeded to open the cabinet doors, at which point 10 cubic feet of styrofoam packing peanuts spilled all over him and his floor. He is still to this day finding peanuts in his area, more than a year later.

“Working With The Web”
Team*: Andrea Regruto, Jay Eckert, John Leary, Neil Esposito, Ron Dylnicki & Tim Eschenauer
Preface: Nathan was off to Italy… we had a new intern… and a new intern initiation tradition was born.
Setup: We approached new intern Andrea with the task of coming up with a prank to play on Nathan while he was away. She came up with the idea of “webbing” his entire office and suspending some of his belongings in the web. The execution was a team effort, since pulling artificial spider webs over a 30-square-foot area is nearly impossible for one girl to do on her own. We are always very careful to make sure that our target’s personal property is never damaged, after all, this is a friendly gesture of camaraderie, NOT a malicious attack. Unfortunately, this was the first time that we had a casualty in our pranking process. In an attempt to suspend Nathan’s personal coffee mug in the webbing, it came crashing to the floor and broke into pieces. I felt so bad—it was such a cool looking mug—that I left him $20 to replace it. From that point forward, we have vowed to never attempt to suspend personal property in artificial spider webs again.
Result: Nathan got a new coffee mug, and had enough money to buy a LOT of coffee.

“Dead Man’s Desk”
Team*: Jay Eckert, John Leary & Tim Eschenauer
Preface: Some of you out there may read this one and think poorly of us, but we assure you… it was really, REALLY funny. Nathan fell ill one day, suffering from severe vertigo. It was so bad that another art director, John Leary, had to wheel Nathan in his chair down to the bathroom. Eventually, an ambulance arrived to take Nathan to the hospital. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “How the heck could you guys prank a person while he’s in the hospital?!” Easy, pranking in Nathan’s absence has become such a tradition that he expects it, and we would never want to disappoint him while he’s already feeling bad.
Setup: This was definitely the most visually appealing prank that we’ve ever pulled off. After finding out that Nathan was okay, and he wasn’t in any danger, we began to joke about how he had been practically dead at his desk. To play on the whole “dead” thing, we decided to treat his office as a crime scene. Before Nathan was wheeled away from his office, he had his head down on his desk so we taped out his outline—his head on the desk, his hand on his mug, his butt in his chair, and his feet on the floor – similarly to how a victim of a deadly crime would be handled. Along with the “chalk” outline we also tagged various knickknacks around his office as evidence.
Result: Nathan returned two days later, feeling much better. As they say, laughter is the best medicine, and we were all doctors that day.

“Snowman Stare Down”
Team*: Jay Eckert, Ron Dylnicki (co-conspirator only)
Preface: This prank actually wasn’t played on Nathan, but instead on our boss, Rick Chiorando. Rick took a long-overdue vacation to St. Maarten in February, and while back here in New York, we were shoveling out from under two-plus feet of snow, he was tanning and sipping cocktails on a warm and sunny beach. Upon his return, we didn’t want him to come back without a proper welcome, or feeling like he missed out on the wintery fun.
Setup: After discussing with Ron how we couldn’t let all of this snow go to waste, I decided to build a “peeping Frosty.” I trudged out through the snow to the front of our building and built a snowman just outside of Rick’s window. He was built leaning forward, face pushed up against the glass, hands cupped around his eyes—or, where his eyes and nose should be. Being at the office, we didn’t have any coal, let alone a nice carrot, so I made “coal” out of crumpled paper, wrapped in black masking tape, and a nose out of laminated orange paper (laminated because I couldn’t risk the snow melting and wetting the paper). For a touch of color, I even tied together our A&W bright red softball tee-shirts to make a scarf for my new friend. After a full lunch hour, the peeping Frosty was complete. I closed Rick’s blinds leaving the office in darkness, knowing well that he would open them as soon as he returned.
Result: Rick needed a change of pants and perhaps another cocktail after unexpectedly coming face to face with his frozen friend through the window.

*Note: Team members have been listed in alphabetical order. Sequence of names has no bearing upon level of guilt involved in the particular prank.

Do you have any favorite pranks? Any funny office traditions or April Fools’ Day doozies? Please share them with us! We’d love to hear about them and perhaps borrow one the next time Nathan is in Tai Pai! You and your prank could make it into a follow-up article on “A Folder Called Nathan.”

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