Title: Shaving Cream Pranks

Category: Fiction

Date Occurred (if it had occurred): Various times from August 1981 through August 1982

Date Written: March 22, 2019

Copyright (c) March 22, 2019

Written By: Joel T. Kant


Moving into the dorms of Cornfield University in late August of 1981, every student including me was given a box of goodies about the size of a shoebox at the start of the school year. It had a certain brand of toothpaste, a big metal can of shaving cream that would come out as a foam, a bar of soap, a small amount of laundry detergent, the kind of small bottles of shampoo given in hotel rooms, and so forth. The point was obviously to get the students started using one brand over the others. The amount of laundry detergent would get used up with just one wash, but the large can of shaving cream was generous enough to last a semester if simply used for shaving.

On a morning just a few days into the semester, my roommate named Jason, got out of bed first. He gave an angry shout as he stood. Hearing him, I jumped up to see what had startled him. As had happened to him first, my bare feet hit a wet mess on the carpeted floor. It was shaving cream. We had been pranked.

Although carpeted, the carpet was finely woven and I believe waterproof. The walls of the dorm room were painted cement block. It had the ambiance and indestructability of a prison cell. This kind of carpet and construction aided in using soap, water, and a towel to clean up the mess. The shaving cream was the type that came in the box of goodies. However, both of us were confused how so much shaving cream could possibly be put under the small crack under the locked door in a way that spread around the room so thoroughly. The shaving cream had gone about two feet up and then nearly filled the room for how far it had flown. It had even gotten on the sheets of the bed, but I had not felt it during the night.

After we had cleaned up, Jason asked around the wing about how this had been done. He acted like he had been highly amused and very happy about the cleaning we had to do. He acted like he enjoyed the prank. Doing this, Jason found out the method from Ronald. Jason later told me Ronald seemed eager to brag about the method.

The method was a large manila envelope would be opened wide. The foam of the shaving cream was sprayed in generously. Then, the open end of the envelope was tucked under the locked dorm room door. There were then two different approaches. One approach was simply to jump down hard on the envelope, so the force from the soles of the feet propelled the shaving cream far and wide into the targeted room. The other approach dropped or slammed heavy textbooks onto the envelope. Ronald had told Jason that the textbook method did a more thorough job of shoving in the shaving cream.

This became a very popular pastime on my wing of the dorm for many rooms. Hardly a room was missed. Then, despite it being a weeknight with classes for both of us in the morning, my roommate and I were still up at around one am. Jason looked at the door. He leapt most impressively. He moved so fast I had no time to ask for an explanation as he got to the door. What he had noticed but I had not was about an inch and a half of tan manila envelope poking through. He put all his weight on the small part of the envelope.

Just outside the door was a loud WHOOMP sound, immediately followed by screams and anger outside the door.

My roommate then proudly opened the door. Ronald, Fred, and Bill stood there, drenched in shaving cream around their legs. On the floor outside the door was a manila envelope that had split open. On top of it were about four heavy textbooks, those also covered in shaving cream.

I looked around our room. As far as I could tell, none of the shaving cream had gotten in. Jason's countermeasure had been successful.

In the hallway, Ronald and Bill standing with shaving cream on their legs joined in Jason's laughter. They were good-humored about how he had turned the tables on them.

In contrast, Fred bent down and picked up a shaving cream soaked textbook, and shouted, "Joel and Jason, you ruined my textbooks!"

Jason explained, "I'm not the one who tossed your textbooks onto an envelope filled with shaving cream!"

Fred lunged at Jason, but Bill quickly grabbed him and pulled him back. Ronald helped too, just not being as quick thinking in doing it as Bill had been. Jason had gotten into a fighting stance. He looked ready and able to defend himself.

Leaving out the swear words that he actually used, I am reporting that Fred shouted, "I'm going to get charged for these ruined books! I'm gonna get you for that! It's all your fault!"

Fred's movements and slurred words indicated he was far from sober. Ronald and Bill tried to calm Fred down. They seemed far from sober themselves, but were sober enough to realize the insanity of Fred's claim of Jason being responsible for the shaving-cream spattered books.

Jason thought fast, then apologized, "I'm sorry for ruining your books, Fred. Look, let's wipe and dry them. It might not be as bad as it looks."

While I certainly felt Jason had done nothing that deserved an apology for stopping the prank, I also realized somebody as drunk as Fred clearly was could not be reasoned with logically. Jason seemed to be trying to defuse the situation without a fight, even though he was larger than Fred, the way he had moved had suggested some martial arts training, and likely to win.

Unlike every other university I have been at, the textbooks were not purchased by students at Cornfield University back when I attended it. They were checked out for the semester as if this were a public high school. At the end of the semester, they were checked back in. I was told a rudimentary examination was done, also similar to a public high school, for damage beyond normal wear and tear. If observed damage seemed normal wear and tear, then there was no charge. Thus, if the textbooks could be wiped down and the pages not too soaked, then there might be no charge.

Jason ordered me, "Joel, give me that towel"

I retrieved the towel that he had pointed at, and handed it over. Jason wiped the shaving cream from the four heavy textbooks. Most of it came off easily. The pages only seemed slightly wet at the edges.

Fred looked over his textbooks, then showed them to his two pranking buddies of Ronald and Bill.

Bill declared, "These textbooks are saved."

Ronald looked more closely and said, "There might be a little warping on the edges."

With deliberate emphasis, Bill repeated very strongly, "These textbooks are saved!"

Ronald looked puzzled by the way this was put, looked back at the textbooks, back at Bill, over at the still fuming Fred, and said, "Oh! Bill's right! The textbooks are saved!"

Hearing that, Fred who had minutes before tried to fight Jason now was acting like Jason was his best friend in the world for the quick action with the towels!

Fred demanded, "You two come have a beer with us!"

I replied, "I can't. I'm not eighteen yet."

This was true. I was seventeen for about two weeks after starting at college.

The group started arguing about how stupid it was to follow the drinking age law as none of them would snitch. They all agreed snitches were the scum of the Earth. Even if I had been legal age, I certainly wouldn't want beer at past one in the morning when I had class the next morning at nine am!

Jason was some months older than I so of legal age and said, "I'll come have a beer."

It seemed not a good idea to me because like me, Jason had a nine am class the next morning. However, I kept my mouth shut.

Jason was gone only about ten minutes, then came back to our room. He carefully locked the door.

I asked, "I thought you were joining them for a beer."

Jason replied, "I did. Just one. It didn't take long. I think I have them calmed down. Still, we'd better be careful."

Jason took out more towels. He carefully put them by the crack under the door.

In the morning, the towels under the door were dry. We had not been pranked again that night.

The next night, Jason took the same precaution with the towel. It was good he had because there was shaving cream into the towels. It had not spread into the room. The towels were easily cleaned in a washing machine.

From then on throughout the semester, every night without fail, the towels had to be put under the door at night. Around once every two weeks or so, they would have once again have successfully stopped shaving cream from coming in.

Others on my wing were not doing the same precaution with towels. Shaving cream was successfully and thoroughly sprayed into many other rooms. Once a room was successfully sprayed, it was generally targeted again and again.

Others figured out to do was the same thing with towels that Jason and I were doing. Unfortunately for some of these students, after a week or two went by with no repeat incident, they would stop using the towels. Then, the room would be sprayed yet again, once more successfully.

The prankers gradually eased off on doing room 304 that I shared with Jason because we never neglected placing the towels after the first incident. It was not nearly as funny if the towels under the door stopped it all.

As it got into November, the practice of spraying the shaving cream under the door faded away. My guess was the free cans from the box of goodies were now gone. To pay actual money for cans just for a prank seemed like it wasn't being done. Despite this tapering away of the prank, Jason and I still put down the towels every night.

At last, Finals Week arrived. The free cans from goodie box from the start of the semester were long gone, but jokers for sake of the end-of-the-semester fun loosened their wallets actually bought their own cans at Dick's supermarket. There was a slew of more attempts to shove shaving cream under doors. It seemed nearly everybody but Jason and I had stopped the precautions with the towels after about four weeks without an incident.

Students upset about their room thoroughly sprayed with shaving cream when they got up to go to a final exam was treated as the height of humor by those of Third West Morrow Hall. Fortunately for Jason and myself, we had still retained the habit of towels down under the door every night without fail. A couple times during Finals Week, the towels were wet, but had done their job. We could go take out finals without having to worry about a whole room spattered with shaving cream.

For the spring semester, I had a surprise. Down the hall, a friend of Jason's from his hometown had his roommate drop out after one semester. Jason moved into that room with his hometown friend.

I had then been assigned a new roommate. His named was also Jason, which is also a real name. I explained to the new Jason the importance of never, ever, ever, ever not putting the towels under the door at night.

With the new semester, we had a repeat of the shoebox-sized box of goodies just like in late August. The kits looked identical.

While not that common, some students do start college in January rather than in late August. The new Jason was not one of these who started in January, but had merely lived in a different dorm building his first semester at Cornfield University. His first roommate had dropped out after one semester. Rather than leaving the new Jason where he had been, he was re-assigned to Room 304 of Morrow Hall as my new roommate.

It seemed a fair number of Freshmen had not returned to Cornfield University for the Spring semester.

With a fresh supply of shaving cream cans in early January from the goodies, the foam under the door started up in earnest once again. Following the practice I had developed with the previous Jason, the towels under the door once more did their job. Once the new Jason saw what was going on and especially heard bitter complaints from the students next door who had not taken this precaution, he from then on was conscientious about putting down the towels himself.

Around mid-January, I was getting the mail from the mailbox. These were on the first floor, every one locked with a key. There was a small glass window so one could see if any mail inside. I could see every single mailbox had a folded up bright orange sheet inside. I unlocked the box for my room. The orange sheet was a memo, apparently in that bright color to get attention. It stated that a shaving cream can had been tossed into the incinerator chute.

Every floor of the building had what looked like a laundry chute on the wall. The chute was not for the laundry, but went to an incinerator. Burning certain types of trash cut down the volume of waste coming from each dorm building.

The memo explained that when the incinerator had been fired up, a pressured shaving cream can that had been tossed in had exploded. A fragment of metal had cut one of the maintenance men, fortunately not too badly. The memo when on to explain what was and was not to go in the incinerator chute. We were reminded in the memo how to dispose of garbage not suitable for the incinerator. A strong emphasis was placed on never tossing a pressurized can into the incinerator chute.

Up in the room, I showed the memo to my new roommate.

Jason remembered, "We were told this information back in late August at my other dorm."

I suggested, "We were too. Maybe somebody just forgot about the shaving cream can."

Some days later, I came to the room. The new Jason was there already, and told me, "We've got to be extra careful with putting down the towels."

I asked, "Why?"

Jason said, "Fred, Ronald, and Bill were by earlier pleading for shaving cans."

I replied, "I hope you didn't give them any."

"No, mine's right there. I've been using it to shave with. Your can is still over there. Fred was insistent, demanding I give them your can even if I wouldn't give them mine, but I wouldn't do it."

I answered, "Thanks for not giving in to Fred."

Jason said, "I think they'll get cans from others. I expect a lot more shaving cream under the doors in the next few days."

To my surprise and to the new Jason's surprise, the towels under the door were dry the next day, the next, and the next.

I came back from class one afternoon to find Jason at his desk looking very thoughtful.

I asked, "What's up?"

Jason explained, "The Resident Assistant was by earlier. He's really upset. I found out what probably happened to all those shaving cream cans that Fred, Bill, and Ronald were trying to get. It wasn't to put shaving cream under the doors after all."

Puzzled, I asked, "What was it for?"

Jason elaborated, "With a phone call, somebody warned the Resident Director of the building that about two dozen shaving cream cans had been tossed into the incinerator."

I expressed with concern, "Was anybody injured?"

"No, the warning was given before it was fired up. All the cans were fished out. The Resident Director thinks all these cans came from our wing. She thinks it was done on purpose to hurt the maintenance man."

"Given the attitude around here, that would not surprise me one bit," I said.

Jason continued, "The Resident Assistant for our wing claimed the cans could have come from any floor, so it was wrong to blame this wing."

"I don't think the Resident Director got it wrong no matter what the Resident Assistant claims. Did you tell the R.A. about Fred, Ronald, and Bill asking for the cans?"

Jason said, "Yes, but I don't think he'll do anything about that. It would make him look bad for not supervising us properly."

I was then suspicious and asked, "Where you the one who warned the Resident Director about all those cans?"

"Not at all. With a risk of somebody being injured, I would have told if I had known. I really thought Fred, Ronald, and Bill wanted the cans for more spraying under the doors. This reminds me of a slogan I once saw, "It's only funny until somebody gets hurt, then it's hilarious!"

I responded, "I don't think the first maintenance man who got hurt by the exploding shaving cream found it funny or hilarious. Did you think of giving the names Fred, Ronald, and Bill to the Resident Director rather than just the Resident Assistant?"

Jason pointed at my wooden bookshelf, then at the closed room door. Scratched into the bookshelves was the words, "SPOKES DIES!" I had a nice bicycle, so some guys had started call me Spokes. As for pointing at our room door, what he meant by that was the door had been replaced, so was a different, darker wood stain than every other door on the wing. The Resident Director had decided that after I had been assaulted and my door pounded up with a hammer that the bill for the door replacement to the guy caught hammer in hand was sole and sufficient punishment because she said it had all been an "initiation." When the bill for the door had come, I had been getting serious death threats. Once when the new Jason had left the room unlocked when he went to the communal bathroom, the carved words had appeared. While I had gotten a lot of phone calls in the dorm room where a voice simply said, "Spokes Dies" and hung up, sometimes it had been Jason who had answered and heard that same message.

Jason said, "I wouldn't trust telling that lady anything! If Fred even wrongly suspects that you or I had anything to do with warning anybody about the two dozen shaving cream cans in the incinerator, those death threats might really be carried out!"

I thought about that, and decided I certainly wasn't going to tell the Resident Director either. I thought about how this might be time to go to the real police, but that seemed even more likely to lead to potential carrying out the death threats.

For late August of my sophomore year, the box of goodies instead of a big can of shaving foam had a very tiny can of shaving gel. I suspect that was done more to protect maintenance men who ran the incinerators than to stop the shaving-cream-under-the-door trick. Yet, I had moved to a different wing of Morrow, Ground West Morrow, for my sophomore year. My room in my sophomore year never had the shaving cream trick done to it. I did not hear of it happening ever to any room on Ground West Morrow for my entire sophomore year either. Neither did it happen for my junior year when I lived in Wilgus Hall, not even once.


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