Barely 11 years old, me and my best friend found a pack of paper on the street. The paper was government paper, with logo and micro print. It even had a watermark.
And when you are 11, things you never come across, seem to be very valuable. So we sat down and started thinking what to do with that paper. We couldn’t let it go to waste. It must be something special and of course…. Funny.
So we decided to send a letter to everybody who lived in the same street as my friend.
And the letter said (shortened):
“Starting 1st November, so in two weeks, the city will start construction of a new MRT (train) line that follows the street you are living on. For that reason, the street, including pave walks, will be broken open and will become unusable for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
To reduce the work period, work will commence on November 1st and continue for 6 months, 7 days a week and 24 hours per day.
Additionally, to reduce cost, the whole MRT extension in your street, approximately 1km long, will be carried out by a team of 3 people, what is inclusive of one manager.
We point out that during this period, you will not be able to reach your front door. For that reason, we supply a government grand of 10$ to move your front door to the back of your house. For those not living on the ground floor, ladders will be made available for rent at a discounted rate of 99$ per day.
If you have any concerns, or questions or would like to read the project plan and design drawings, please don’t hesitate to visit your town council on Friday, September 28th, 5pm. Please ask for Jan (Jan is a very common name in the Netherlands)”.
After writing the letter, it was printed 200 times and delivered to everybody living on that street.
One week later, with some pride, we’ve read in the newspaper that “hordes of people” came to city hall on September 28th, asking about the new MRT line. Even a protest group was formed, including banners, to try to stop these construction works.
We of course could not stop laughing. This was the biggest prank we ever pulled.
Shortly after, we did have to come clean, but luckily the mayor made a clear statement: boys will be boys and they will pull pranks. Clearly, in those days, now 40 years ago, these things were not escalated and there was a sense of understanding. He pulled rank and made sure we were not punished too harshly.
In fact, one month later, we got a letter from the mayor office stating (shortened):
“At the location of your house, the new town hall will be build. As we understand the inconvenience, we will secure one parking space where your son can live in a tent”.
It also included a gift certificate to learn how to program in Basic, a popular computer language at that time.
Till today, I still have contact with this mayor, who after his political career, became a priest, is now of course retired and to be honest, is at this moment of his last legs. Once a year, an email goes out, sharing only the good experiences of the last year, making him, proud that all ended up well. And he every year replies: I’m proud of you son, very proud”.