Effects of a Prank

Pat (our son) reported very late Thursday night that he had heard an explosion (“like a dynamite blast”) that brought him out of a sound sleep. Upon being jerked back to consciousness, Pat hurriedly dressed and went out into the street. A neighbor’s mailbox had been blown up, its plastic shards lying about the street and neighboring lawns. A cloud of smoke drifted away. Anyone living in the subdivision would have heard the blast and wondered what could have happened. A number of residents peered out of windows and some went outside to check further. Many discussions ensued, with theories as to the reason for such a prank abounding.

It wasn’t difficult to form an opinion about the cause. The owners of the mailbox, a married couple, are both educators. She is a professor at a local college. He is a teacher and sports coach at a local high school. There you go. It was probably one or more of the kids the husband coaches in school. Either the prank was a payoff for some real or imagined injustice, or it was just a way for the coach’s athletes to say so long at the end of the school year.

Now that we’ve figured out what happened (at least in our own minds), we can dwell on the effect of the blast. No one, of course, and especially adults, would overtly condone such an act. Explosives are dangerous and often cause injuries and even death, and in many cases (such as this) cause property damage that must be paid for. There is usually a penalty for blowing things up, either by way of injury, financial cost, legal punishment, or all of the above. Damaging personal property is a crime. And there’s also the potential for additional penalties due to endangering bystanders.

In this case, no one seems to have been injured. The perpetrator might have been injured but if it’s never determined who did it, we will never know for sure. Assuming the prankster was able to get away in one piece, this crime was merely one of property damage unless illegal explosives were used. After Pat summoned the police, the investigating officer in turn summoned an explosives expert to determine exactly what was used to generate the blast. No word has yet been received on the results of that examination.

Putting all the legal issues aside, what about the effect on the neighborhood? There would have been great cause for alarm and fear if someone had blown up a house or a car. But after the initial rush of adrenalin upon hearing the explosion, and after the neighbors discussed the event among themselves and were able to develop some theories about its cause, the alarm level diminished. Fear of future similar events lessened also as neighbors surmised that it was probably an isolated event aimed at a particular person. People could go back to bed and fall asleep without worrying too much about more blasts that night.

Did anyone laugh about what happened? Of course. Perhaps the laughter was the nervous variety that issues forth when someone is frightened suddenly only to discover that there was really nothing to be afraid of after all. Perhaps the laughter came in the retelling of the incident by those who witnessed the smoke and the splintered remains of the mailbox. It really was pretty funny after all, wasn’t it? Somebody purchased the explosive device, took the time, and risked getting caught just to create a loud explosion and a ruined mailbox. In fact, I can imagine what it must have looked like. Watching it, you’d see the door burst open and the housing break apart and fly into many different directions exposing the bright yellow flame inside. A dense cloud of smoke billows forth and rises in the night air, only to drift away to the east in the gentle nighttime breeze. Lights go on inside neighboring houses and on porches. The neighborhood comes to life and the bravest residents walk into the street. Conversations start, evidence is examined, people meet neighbors they have never spoken to before, and a common cause is found. Let’s figure out what happened, why it happened, and decide whether it will happen again. Let’s agree to be watchful together, and to notify one another if anything unusual is seen. In fact, let’s trade names and phone numbers to keep in touch, just in case. Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re acting like a real neighborhood.

Just because some foolhardy kids decided to scare the living shit out of their coach.

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