The MG sat. The soft top stove in. The chain holding up the muffler relaxed. Rust and mold colonies set up shop in the paint, scourging the once-proud British Racing Green with Luftwaffe-like ferocity. By the spring of 1988, some Reed official threatened to have the derelict MG towed off, at which point the caretaker, in his final gesture of duty to Verna, moved the car off campus to the Red House (40th & Schiller), where it sat for another month. Finally, one of the neighbors filed a nuisance complaint about the fetid MG, and the city, too, demanded that it be moved.
Now in this time there was a great hole in the earth behind the Old New Wing of the library, whence the New New Wing would soon spring. I'm not sure whose idea it was to bury the MG there, but I strongly suspect the evil genius of Dave Conlin '88. The night before graduation (I know, because I marched the next day, on zero sleep) the car was towed back down the hill, and about 20 guys set to digging a big herkin' hole in the bottom of the hole.
Things we didn't think about in the planning stage of the prank:
The noise (shovels, picks, and mattocks piercing the soil and ricocheting tinnily off the aggregate) attracted the attention of one of the library janitors, who dutifully called security. Allah Most Merciful smiled upon us that graveyard shift, as Dick the Security Guy responded to the call. Dick appreciated a good prank, knew how to act dumb when it was necessary, and in addition to having been a career enlisted man in the navy, had at one point odd-jobbed as a grave-digger. Whether it was his humor, his grave-digger's admiration for our cryptic ambitions, or his contempt for Verna's MG that stayed his hand I'll never know, but he turned a blind eye to the proceedings.
It took us a good many hours to excavate the automotive sepulcher, and there was no beer left by the time our work was done. We popped the tires (a curiously satisfying act), and rolled it into its final resting place.
We mashed down the windshield and started piling in the dirt, of which there was much. Another hour of filling and tamping ensued, and when all was said and done, the earth was once again smooth over the MG, and there was nothing left to do or say. I graduated hours later, and that was it for me. Grandma wondered at the reception how I could graduate with such dirt under my nails.
They poured the concrete subfloor within the week. It's still down there, a practical joke waiting for future generations of archaeologists to uncover.
"Apparently, they buried objects of value beneath places of learning. We believe it may have been an offering to their god of wisdom. . . ."
Reprinted with permission by William Abernathy from Cafe Utne. For more pranks and other Reed topics, visit http://www.reed.edu/alumni/conference.html