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Be A Great Friend. Scare The Bejeezus Out Of Them.

I have no idea, either.

I just pulled off a great prank on a friend, and he is thrilled. It took months of coordination, communication, and planning with lots of people, but the look on his face and the hours of watching it sink in afterward was worth every second. Surprises are one of the greatest gifts you can give to a friend, because you are close enough to know both what would make them happy and how to hide something big from them.

I had a few friends planning a trip to Sweden, and it turned out my schedule was flexible enough to reroute my trip the other way around the world and join them. I discovered this as one of these friends was visiting, and we decided it would be hilarious to surprise the other friend later. After taking care of all of the airfare and accommodations, it turned out to be easier than expected, and it quickly escalated into a game to see how long we could possibly wait to tell him.

I flew into town, and the unwitting friend picked me up from the airport. I acted surprised that he was headed to Sweden and asked what he was excited about getting to do and see. Then I got to be genuinely excited about the plans with him. Come on. Staying in a treehouse hotel? Visiting Santa and driving a sleigh with reindeer? Going to great concerts? This is a great trip.


As we started hanging out with friends, things got more complicated very quickly. Every social experience became touch and go, maneuvering around Swedish topics (which everyone wanted to talk about) until one of us could whisper the game plan to the newcomers. The interesting thing is that everyone latched onto it immediately, wishing it were them who had a surprise being prepared for them. There were a few slip ups that were quickly covered, and somehow he never caught on.

After way too many close calls, we finally got to the day of the trip. We happened to be going to the airport at the same time, so we went together on mass transit. I happened to be leaving after them, so I decided to go hang out at their gate until they left, then I would wander back to my (fake) flight. We were all dumbfounded that he didn’t at least suspect something, but there was really no reason to think we had a secret.

Once we arrived at the airport, they went to check in and I snuck away under the guise of checking into my flight. I got the all clear SMS saying I could hop in line to get my ticket, as they were heading through security. About halfway through the slowly weaving line to check in, my phone rang. The friend was heading outside to make a call and was about to walk right past me. Trying to think quickly, I pulled my hat down and turned to the side as I watched him pass. Once he was outside on the phone, I relaxed and kept an eye on him while inching forward through the labyrinthine line toward the counter.

He finally finished his call and headed back inside, directly toward me right as I neared the front of the line. I ducked down and pretended to be doing something with my bag while hiding behind the only person in front of me and watching my friend’s feet. Once he had passed, I exhaled and stood back up.

Suddenly he popped back into the room. He had gone in the wrong door, and was now walking directly toward me, as I was right next to the only valid security entrance. I took off my hat and turned around, and as he got within a few feet, the only person left in front of me went up to the counter. Now completely exposed, I turned toward where my friend would surely be standing. I looked directly into his eyes and saw his confused expression. Then he turned the corner.

I texted my friend in the know that I may have been spotted, and I got my ticket. I was sad that it had been so anticlimactic, but c’est la vie, I was still on my way to Sweden. I checked in and started for the security line in a much more somber mood. My phone buzzed. “He still doesn’t know.” And my heart was racing again. It was back on. Once through security, I glanced up at the monitors and picked a flight to San Francisco. That was my new fake goal.

The view from the treehouse hotel in Hårads.

We worked our way to the gate and had lunch together. The entire meal quickly became a contest to give the biggest hint without laughing. Knowing that I had the seat between my two friends on the flight, my friend in the know started off with “I wonder what the person sitting between us will be like.”

“He’s probably a complete dick.” I responded.

“I just want it to be a beautiful brunette with long hair” he slowly enunciated, emphasizing the last part, and I nearly lost it.

They started calling seat numbers the gate was opening for, and I hugged my friends as they got into line. With each hug, I nearly lost it, and I felt my friends in the know shaking with stifled laughter as well. I waited until they had enough time to get on the plane, and hopped onto the end of the line. Suddenly I thought of a way to stretch it out even longer. I grinned as I slowly wove my way down toward the plane, keeping my hat on and my head down. I texted my friend to tell him to act just as surprised as our friend who didn’t know.

Keeping my hat down over my face, I sat down in the seat between my friends, looking a little shifty and nervous. I made sure he saw me, then I whispered “Just act natural.” Then I watched my friend’s eyeballs try to pop out into my lap. He twitched back and forth, and after a bunch of forced small talk, finally worked up the nerve to whisper “what did you do?”, and I replied “Once we get in the air. Shh.”

I turned to my knowing friend, who wide-eyed asked me in that ludicrous mouthing that is saved for such situations how he could possibly still believe this. I subtly covered my face with my hat every time a flight attendant walked by, trying to act nervous but not suspicious. Once we left the ground, I let loose a little “Yes!”, fist pump, and turned to my friend to shout “Surprise!”

We explained everything as he sat there in disbelief. He thought I had either bought a last minute ticket at the gate or actually snuck on, but it never occurred to him that we had been planning it all along.

The next few hours he would pipe up with “Did this person know?” and we always replied “Yes. Everyone knew.” Watching his amazement slowly sink in over the course of the entire flight, punctuating brief silences with “You guys are crazy. How?” made the entire flight hilarious. In the end, he ended up with an adrenaline rush, another friend on his trip, and we all had a hilarious story. Exactly what a surprise should be.

Surprises are wonderful things. They take time, effort, communication, and wouldn’t be possible without a solid friendship to understand what would truly surprise someone. Pranks are common, but using a surprise to really make someone’s day or even month? That isn’t done nearly enough. Surprise someone today and make them smile. Then think about how you can really make their day interesting.

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