As long as there are interns and new hires, there will be pranks. Some pranks are timeless, and incredibly clever.
There's a famous prank to play on new audit hires/interns. A senior (or manager) sends the unsuspecting kid into the CFO's office asking for a "bag of tickmarks."
This inside joke is HILARIOUS.............assuming you were born in the 1920s and have the sense of humor of a dead hamster. This is not an example of a timeless and/or clever joke. If I wanted to laugh this hard, I would have crashed an eight-year old's birthday party and listened intently to the Knock-Knock jokes.
Interns will do whatever you tell them, as long as they believe it will get them a job offer. Wasting it on a bad joke that was out-of-date when the CFO was in high school is not the way to use this wonderful gift. The best jokes, in fact, are the ones that the intern never realizes are jokes.
Consider, for example, the following conversation.
"What's wrong, Anonymous Senior?"
"These idiots repaved the parking lot, and capitalized the whole damned thing. We didn't cover this in our fixed asset testing."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
(translation: Is there anything I can do to get a job offer?)
"Well, a parking space covers about 30 square feet, and they said they paved 5000 square feet. It would be great if you could go out and count the parking spaces so that we could figure out roughly how much was actually paved."
The result: Intern spends four hours counting 200 parking spaces, and often ends up thinking he did something constructive.
Everyone is a big winner.
The best office jokes, of course, are played on those who have no inherent ability to cope with the emotional fallout.
Myself and another senior were at a client once with an IT audit senior. My friend and I went to lunch, and returned to find an open text document on each of our computers, reading "IT Security is serious business. Lock your computer when you leave or I will report you to the National Office."
The IT Audit Senior had decided to play vigilante.
Both my co-senior and I were slightly offended, because IT people were rarely allowed to interact with clients. This business trip, we decided, was a privilege for IT Guy, not a right.
In the words of the Senior George Bush, "This aggression would not stand."
The next time IT guy went to the restroom, he did not lock his computer. IT security is SERIOUS BUSINESS, DAMMIT!!!
To demonstrate how serious, we sat at his computer and activated a little known feature of Microsoft Word: the customizable area of Autocorrect.
This deserves some explanation.
You know how, if you type "auidt" instead of "audit," and Bill Gates often works some magic and fixes the typo for you automatically? Well, the list of common typos that Word uses can be edited. In fact, it can be edited to the point where your name, or your firm's name, can be considered a typo by Word and replaced with any vulgar word of your choosing.
For example, suppose IT Guy's name was Fred. You can tell Word that "Fred" is a typo, and should be replaced with a word like "Slut." Whenever IT Guy types his name, Word automatically replaces it with the word "Slut."
As there are countless "common" words used in everyday Big4 life, and countless vulgar words in the English language, one can have infinite amounts of fun with this trick.
Later that day, IT Guy typed a memo on Word and e-mailed to his boss without manually proofreading it.
He was never heard from again.
* This is the fourth in a series of reminiscences about life in the Big Four accounting firms. The author has asked to remain anonymous.
Life in the Big Four, Part I: RecruitingLife in the Big Four, Part II: TrainingLife in the Big Four, Part III: First ClientLife in the Big Four, Part V: Hotel LoveLife in the Big Four, Part VI: Rental CarsLife in the Big Four, Part VII: Public Service Announcement and the IPOLife in the Big Four, Part VIII: Life in the Big Four, Part VIII: Airports, last minute, and long flights