I would like to state here, for the record, that I was actually dating Tarquin. I wasn't indulging in any kind of international stalking, and there's no need to contact Interpol. The problem was, alas, that Tarquin did not love me. He broke it off a couple of months before we were due to head for the white stuff. Damn you, Tarquin. I did a lot of crying, and then I sat down and asked myself what to do. Should I contact the ski company and say that, unfortunately, heartbreak prevented me from honouring the contract I had already signed? OR, should I sod it, and go anyway? Screw Tarquin! I had nothing better to do, so I was off to France. One grey morning in mid-November I stood in the car park at South Mimms service station and waited for a large, uncomfortable bus to pick me up and take me, painfully slowly, to Courchevel.
There are lots of adventures associated with the five months that followed. These include the time my chalet was filled with Christians on a singles holiday, the time I set fire to all my clothes, and the time I won employee of the season. OK, that last one wasn't really an adventure, I just wanted to smugly get it in there. Screw you Tarquin, screw you. My family might never own their own chalet in the French Alps, but you can never take my Employee of the Season badge away from me. OK, there was no badge, but who cares? I care. There should have been a badge. Anyway.
This story is about a prank.
I was a few weeks in to my season, and already pretty comfortable with my job. I had a perma-smile, and just the right balance of cheekiness and deference with my guests. Nothing was too much trouble, and I was loving my afternoons on the slopes, learning how to ski. A new set of guests arrived; a large group of male friends in their late 60s. They were clearly up for a laugh, and I noticed when cleaning their rooms on the first day that each of them had a mask or costume of some kind. That evening, when they came back in from the cold, I asked them about it.
Me: What's with all the masks and costumes, guys?
Guest: Every year, on our last day, we go out on the hill in costumes. It's a tradition that's been going for ten years.
Me: Nice. But who brought the Freddie Kruger-type mask with the fangs? It's horrible.
Guest: Oh, that's Bob's, don't you like it?
Me: No! It really gave me the creeps when I saw it today.
Guest: Haha. What's for dinner tonight? Can I have an extra pillow? What about another towel?
That was the end of that conversation. The next day, I went up to clean the big room first, since it always took the longest. A quick glance as I walked in told me that all of the beds were already made, so the guests got an extra tick in my good guests book. My loyal if somewhat ineffective companion, Henry the Hoover, traipsed around behind me, and we endeavoured together to remove some of the fluff from the carpet. I was just about to go and tackle the bathroom when a sudden, eerie feeling crept up the back of my neck. The sun was shining happily through the window, and yet the room felt cold and hostile. My palms became clammy and I fumbled Henry's off switch with my foot. Slowly, my heart thudding in my chest, I began to scan the room. Bunk beds? Check. Nothing unusual there. Bedside table? Check. Single bed? Check. Other single... HOLY CRAP! I dropped Henry's nozzle and leapt backwards. This is what was sleeping in the other single bed; had been sleeping there the whole time I was cleaning:
I'm not going to lie. They got me good. They pranked the living hell out of me. A few deep breaths later I regained my composure, cleaned the bathroom, and moved on to the rest of the chalet. Two hours later I was done. My little empire was clean from top to bottom and Henry was taking a well deserved rest in the storage cupboard. Normally, this would be my cue to eat a hasty cheese sandwich before hitting the slopes for the afternoon. But not today. No no. Non monsieur. Pas aujourd'hui. Today, I had other plans. Plans that I had been working on from room to room, as I scrubbed toilets, repaired hospital corners, and picked miscellaneous clothes off the floor. PLANS FOR REVENGE. MWAHAHAHAHA.
I returned to the scene of the crime, and removed Mr Freaky Face from the bed. On my way, I had gathered a small selection of props, including a pile of old newspaper, usually used for starting up the log fire in the lounge, and a fresh pair of rubber gloves. I ransacked the closet in the room, extracting all that was necessary to perfect my scheme. It wasn't easy. It took significant ingenuity. It took string. It took patience. But by jove, by jingo, mon dieu, it was magnificent.
I drew the shower curtain closed on my creation and, with an evil laugh and malevolent rubbing of my hands, descended back to my lair. I chuckled as I got changed into my snow stuff. I chuckled as I clomped down the road to the ski lift. I chuckled like a maniac up and down the slopes. And then, quite suddenly, just as I finished my last run, I stopped chuckling. It had occurred to me, quite out of the blue, that I had engineered a pretty effective scare for a group of OLD MEN. What was I thinking? There was a good chance that one of them might have a weak heart. I MIGHT HAVE JUST KILLED ONE OF MY GUESTS. I clomped relatively swiftly back to the chalet. As swiftly as one can manage in ski boots, anyway. No flashing blue lights outside. I opened the door cautiously, and could hear laughter from the lounge. OK. There probably wouldn't be laughing if someone had recently died from a heart attack induced by a sudden terrible fright. In a slightly cowardly manner, I retreated to my bedroom, whence I showered and dressed for the evening service.
When I arrived at dinner, I was greeted with a round of applause and a small bottle of whisky.
Here's what happened:
- Guest number one returned to his room, approached the shower, suffered a moment of APPALLING TERROR, re-closed the shower curtain, and hastily got into bed, where he pretended to be deeply asleep.
- Guest number two entered the room, noticed his friend taking a nap, tip-toed to the bathroom, approached the shower, suffered a moment of EXTRAORDINARY PANIC, swore, noted his friend's strangled laughter from the bedroom, re-closed the shower curtain, returned to said bedroom, and, upon hearing Bob's footsteps on the stairs, also jumped, fully clothed, into his own bed.
- Guests one and two buried their heads in their pillows, biting down hard on a serious case of the giggles, and pretended furiously to be asleep.
- Bob, owner of the offending mask, entered the bedroom. It was not protocol to take a nap before dinner, but nonetheless, he kindly left his friends to it and entered the bathroom...
I have never, in my entire life, heard a grown man make a noise like that, guest number one told me, a broad smile on his face. It came from the very depths of hell, that noise that Bob made. It was classic. I thought he might have a heart attack. Brilliant. It'll go down in history, that one.
I'm actually not a prankster. In fact, I'm not sure I'd ever pranked anyone before that day, aside from tying mum's shoelaces together, which didn't work, since she saw me doing it under the table. I had certainly never used props in a prank before, and haven't since. I think it would be difficult to top that one. I think it was my crowning glory, as far as pranks go. I'm so glad I have photographic evidence of my creation. Do you know, I've just decided? I think I'll call him Tarquin. Good job, Tarquin. Nice prankin'.