In the 1970′s and 80′s, my brother George had a complete weight lifting gym in our basement. When I say complete, I mean all the machines and thousands of pounds of weights. There was even a name for the gym.
The gym was open to all of our friends who wanted to lift weights. There were approximately 20 members who frequently came over several times per week. Most were just regular lifters, but a few were serious body builders.
One of the members was Phil, a school mate and friend for many years. He wanted to be the next Mr. Universe and started his training with a vengeance. Phil was dedicated and had a complete plan mapped out. He had wall graphs charting his weight gain and also his vital body measurements. Biceps, chest, waist, legs, and about 25 other body measurements.
George took notice of this and also of the tape measure Phil used and the frequency he measured. (Once a week, every Monday) George, being the prankster, had an idea and brought me and Hoover (Geo’s Gym member) into the plan.
On Sunday, George took Phil’s measuring tape and soaked it in hot water for an hour. Then he hung it over one of the pull up bars in the ceiling and tied several weight plates to it which would stretch the tape by about a half inch.
On Monday before Phil would arrive, George placed the tape back where Phil kept it. He and Hoover would then wait for Phil to measure his progress.
Phil began with his biceps and stopped and measured it again. In fact, he measured it three times. He had lost a half inch on his biceps. He then went to each body part measurement checking each several times.
When he was finished charting all the results, George asked how he did. Phil said he couldn’t figure it out but he lost almost a half inch. George played along and asked to borrow Phil’s tape to check his own measurements. He took the tape, flexed his arms and measured his bicep. Lying, He said he gained an 1/8th of an inch from last week. Hoover also said the same.
For about a month, George repeated the routine and Phil couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong. And then George changed directions. Instead of soaking the tape in hot water and hanging weights on it, George would soak the tape in cold water and then toss it in the clothes dryer for 20 minutes creating a shorter tape measure. About a half an inch. George then put the tape back and waited for Phil.
Come Monday, Phil began his measurement ritual. After the first measurement, he got all excited as he noticed a big jump in his bicep. When he was finished he told George that he had a break through in his training and that the results were significant. George continued this sequence for about a month.
George kept this up for more than six months, changing the tape making it shorter or longer on a whim all awhile Phil was oblivious to what was really happening.
Alas, all good gags come to an end. One Monday, Phil brought a new measuring tape and tossed out the old one. After he completed his measurements, Phil knew something was wrong. His chart zigzagged up and down each month and now his measurements were again completely different from last weeks. George decided to inform Phil what was happening and that he was being pranked.
George, Hoover, and myself were laughing hysterically as George explained how he would stretch the tape one week and shorten it the next and how Phil would get mad when the measurements were short and excited when they would get big. Phil took the news pretty good. Of course he had to. George was a beast and it was his gym.
Good times, good times.
R.I.P. Big G.
LURKING ON THE GRASSY KNOLL