I worked in a cubicle crowded with case files, a collage of NY Post headlines, hoarded office supplies, a pink Disney princess clock won at the Bowery Poetry Club’s Drag queen Bingo, a nameplate reading Tobias Funke, the Internal Revenue Code from 2008, 2009, and 2010, my artful rubber band ball, travel scrabble, a whoopee cushion sound-imitator, 3 footlong pens, rejected holiday party invitations that didn’t meet regulations, and a WANTED sign for a stolen nerf football. As a paralegal specialist for IRS Office of Chief Counsel, I cared about efficiently getting all of my work done so that fun could be had at lunchtime and I could leave on the dot when my tour of duty reached its end. Needless to say, distraction was not welcome when there were tax problems to be solved.
The IRS Office of Chief Counsel was no different than any other work environment at least in one way: we had IT employees who could remote in to any computer. It was helpful on occasion and creepy at all times, because it felt like Big Brother was always watching, though maybe not for a reason. You would know that they were signed on because a small icon would appear in the lower right corner of the screen near the time, the screen would flicker ever so slightly, and the mouse would jerk just a little bit in one direction.
I started to experience the mouse-jerk phenomenon without seeing the icon on the bottom of the screen, and I was thoroughly creeped out. It was possible I was just seeing things, but I grew increasingly paranoid that people were watching me from afar. Just like that, someone would know the typos I was making, the occasional Dictionary.com search, and the dumb emails shooting back and forth in a tangled web with nearby cubicles. It didn’t really threaten me – I wasn’t doing anything to be worried about – but it made me anxious. I even asked one of the IT people if it was possible for someone to sign into my computer without seeing the icon on the bottom of the screen, and they said no without even a twinkle in their eye. This meant they were doing it stealthily! I had to get to the bottom of this.
But I couldn’t. Nothing was adding up, and it wasn’t impacting my work too much other than distracting me for a minute and putting me more on edge. Typical for a worker in that office; no big deal. Whining and floating this by coworkers yielded only nonchalant shrugs and accusations of going crazy.
Folks, more than 2 months later, it was revealed to me by giggling coworkers in the neighboring attorney’s office that I had fallen victim to one of the oldest (circa 2003) tricks in the book: A wireless mouse was being controlled sporadically from less than 10 feet away. I was successfully pranked.