Step 1: The planning stage.
Luckily, CPT Long is a good guy. He likes kids and quickly befriended my son when I brought The Boy to the office. With a tradition of pranks and jokes on and by the fire inspectors in the office, I felt comfortable decorating the shiny car parked out front of the Building Department. But how to do it in a non-destructive manner was the first puzzle.
Here you can see the wide expanse of panel that needs some "sprucing up". A nice little white ladder would be perfect! Conveniently located above is a luggage rack. Could a ladder be tied to this? Maybe two ladders, tied together and strung over the car like saddlebags.
For lettering, a static cling vinyl sign would be just the thing. All I need to do is find a sign maker that can do the work for a nominal fee.
Step 2: Shopping for supplies.
Step 3: Budget trouble.
I was going to have to make the sign myself. I picked up a couple of pieces of red posterboard with the idea that I would use that and more magnets to attach the sign to the car, but I don't hand letter worth a darn. I'll need stencils. And paint. And brushes. The vinyl sign cost is looking more reasonable now.....
I was unable to find stencils in a size and font that seemed appropriate, so I hit the 'nets. Searches for a traditional font used on fire apparatus turned up several suggestions, but they all cost money again. And how would I create a stencil from that anyway? Soon it occured to me that there are a wide variety of fonts in PowerPoint and the WordArt tool would let me configure things just right. I got this flash as my Long-suffering Wife was working on a presentation for her public speaking class. Thanks Honey! But again, how does it get to the signboard? Print it out and piece it together, then go from there.
Again, it's my Long-suffering Wife to the rescue. She pointed out that if I traced the letters with enough pressure, there would be an impression on the cardboard that I could use as a guide. She was right, and it worked like a charm. I used a pen to fill in the impression and then painted the letters with gold paint and outlined them in black. It took about an hour and a half, but I got the first one done and it looked good. The sign for the other side would have to wait until the next night.
Once the paint was dry, a few more magnets were taped to the back to hold the sign to the car. Have you noticed the flaw in my magnetic plan yet?
Step 4: The Accomplice.
A few weeks before the planned execution (of the prank, not me) Bill's HHR stopped showing up at the office when he did. Now, fire fighters are in good shape as a rule, but I don't see him walking or biking to work, especially when his job requires him to travel throughout the city, and usually in his own car. So I needed to make some quiet inquiries. Enter: The Accomplice.
Drew has worked with these guys longer than I so he is the ideal informant. He asked around and found that some bureaucrat had decided that the Fire Inspectors should be driving City vehicles while performing their duties. Makes sense, really. It gives them a bit more credibility when they pull up in an official vehicle instead of the more comfortable pedal-car look-alike. But that's quite a hitch for my plan. I can't go to his house and decorate the car. No one would see it, and I don't know where he lives. Lucky for the plan, the bureaucrat was constrained by a competing City policy. It seems that during Sweeps Week the local Eyewitless News crew had sniffed out abuses by City employees who took City cars home as part of their work. In typical kneejerk political reactionary fashion, the policy was revised to require that anyone assigned a City vehicle would have to leave it at work at the end of the day. No biggie unless you are prone to midnight responses to actions in the field. Editiorializing aside, this is good news for me. Bill has to drive to the fleet garage, pick up a City vehicle, then come across town to the office. I now know where to find the target vehicle.
Step 5: The Execution
There is still one glaring "what if" in this saga. I never thought to check that the panels intended to receive the ladders are actually steel! My god, what if it's all fibeglass or plastic in the area normaly occupied by windows? I have no string to implement the original saddlebag concept, but if we're lucky, we can get some sort of cord from the fire fighters at the scene.
The rain moved off early this morning and the wind has died down so there is no meteorlogical threat to the signs. When we get there, the news is even better - he's parked in plain view of the road! Everyone will see the handiwork! We park, retrieve our materials and get to work. Luckily, the panels are all steel and the ladder magnets stick perfectly. The signs require a bit of finagling to get arranged just right, and while we play with it, one of the fire trucks is brought out of the station for washing. The guys do nothing more than smile and wave, so we know we're in the clear.
Mission accomplished, we head back to the office. Bill has returned for some lunch between jobs and I have to avoid him so I don't tip my hand. Anticlimatic as it is, I won't know his reaction until I see him the next morning. But we have pictures, and they will be "leaked" to the rest of the office.