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Fun with a vengeance

It sounds like a thunderstorm is approaching, so I head to the front porch to put the fuschia plant out for a good soaking. But when I open the door, all I can see is the Lizard of Fun, a frown on its face and a rumbling growl coming from deep in its chest.

"No thunderstorm?"

"No plant," says the Lizard, pointing to where the plant used to be. "Some jerk stole it. I told you we should’ve Super Glued it to the porch."

I look up and down the empty street. "Maybe it blew away in a sudden gust of wind?"

"Nope," says the Lizard. "This is a professional job. They target plants, you know. They know which ones to sell for parts, and which parts can’t be traced. Then they remanufacture what’s left and sell it at a discount. Right now that plant’s probably on a container ship on its way to a used-plant dealer in Singapore, with its air bags and hubcaps missing. Either that or someone is trying to smoke it."

"It’s a potted plant, not a pot plant," I point out.

"If they were smart enough to know that, would they have taken it?" says the Lizard, pulling an old picnic tablecloth around its shoulders like a cape. "Justice must be done, one way or another. I shall have my revenge!"

The Lizard passes me a copy of 21st Century Revenge: Down and Dirty Tactics for the Millennium, written by Victor Santoro and published by, who else, Loompanics Unlimited ("Possibly the coolest publisher in America," says the Lizard).

"Isn’t this a little reactionary?" I ask.

"Reactionary?" cries the Lizard. "Your insurance deductible isn’t going to touch this. The cops won’t do anything. The ACLU isn’t interested, and Bill Clinton won’t take my calls. So it’s time to take matters into my own paws. ‘Chapter 13: Hard-Core Techniques.’"

"It’s just a plant," I shrug. "There’s no point in going postal over it."

"It’s never just a plant," the Lizard sneers. "Now, help me decide which tactic to use."

According to Santoro, who’s written a number of books about the fine art of vengeance, the best tactics for revenge manage to really, really annoy and inconvenience the target, but don’t actually hurt anyone. Think of an e-mail virus that copies itself all over the Internet, but doesn’t do anything more destructive than generate lots of messages in your in-box – that’s a good one.

In fact, suggests Santoro, even though caller-ID and voice-mail systems have pretty much taken the zing out of the classic harmless revenge tactic of a series of annoying or hang-up phone calls ("Wait a minute, I think telemarketers still get away with those," says the Lizard), other technological methods are looking better all the time.

"We could send them a fax-bomb," suggests the Lizard. "Get a bunch of black construction paper, tape it together in one long strip, and fax it to them!"

"What if they don’t have a fax?"

The Lizard flips through the book. There’s no shortage of revenge schemes, from the openly vicious to the downright silly.

Many of the nastier tactics rely on having a good deal of personal information about your target – their credit card number, for example, will allow you to order dozens of embarrassing magazine subscriptions and anchovy pizzas in their name. Their home address and a well-worded garage sale ad will send hundreds of bargain-seekers to their front door early on a Saturday morning. The knowledge that they’re looking for a new job lets you call the human resources departments of all the companies in their field, posing as their probation officer.

"Naaah," says the Lizard. "I want something more hands-on."

A wax crayon or a piece of fiberglass cloth in their clothes dryer. A generous sprinkling of salt to write a message in dead grass on their front lawn. Eggs cracked into their car’s fresh-air intake vents. A raw chicken or fresh fish slipped inside their briefcase or desk drawer at the beginning of a long, hot weekend. A dollop of Super Glue, at the end of a toothpick, inserted into their front door lock.

"Well, if we’d had Super Glue in the first place – " shrugs the Lizard. "Whaddaya say we fill their toilets with quick-setting concrete?"

"I dunno," I say. "Don’t you think we should maybe rise above it and be a little bit more ethical?"

"You’re right – how about posting their name and phone number on an Internet sex-chat group?"

"Except we don’t know whose name to post."

Besides, I remind the Lizard, Santoro points out a key rule of behavior when it comes to this kind of dirty doings: To keep from being a victim of revenge yourself, make sure you don’t do anything that’ll make someone want revenge in the first place.

"I’ve got it," smiles the Lizard. "We’ll just replace the plant and hope they come to steal it again."

"You mean, we’ll turn the other cheek?"

"Sort of. You know how to grow poison ivy?"

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