Operation Snowball was carried out by a group of mischevious college students at Southern Methodist University
as a "present" for a friend's twenty-second birthday.
In May of 1997, I was graduating from high school. Little did I know that thirty miles down the road, a group of SMU sophomores were collecting styrofoam peanuts for an appropriate occasion. Two years later, I found myself dating one of them, and likewise found myself in on the event. By May 1999, Chris Nelson, Marcus Topliff, and Michael Putney had accumulated approximately 81 cubic feet of styrofoam peanuts.
And the appropriate occasion had arisen, fellow computer science major Aren's birthday. Jennifer, Aren's girlfriend, had arranged a week earlier to get an extra key to his beloved Chevy Nova. Jennifer then copied the key and gave the copy to the perpetrators. It was at this point that the Plan was in action: to fill Aren's car, the joy of his life, the reason for his existence, with packing peanuts.
However, we realized fairly early into the project that filling the entire car was simply not feasible, for three reasons:
- There weren't enough peanuts to completely fill the car;
- With no sunroof, the logistics of keeping a carful of packing peanuts inside the car were not something that we wanted to deal with in the four hours we had to complete the project, and
- When Aren found out about it, we would be cleaning it up.
The solution we came up with was to tape white plastic trash bags to all the windows, and fill the space between the bags and the windows, which would fool the eye into thinking that the entire car had been filled. This task was more difficult than we expected when we found that Aren had recently used Armor-All on his dash and all exposed vinyl inside the car, meaning the flimsy tape we had would not stick. A quick run to Eckerds got us the duct tape we so needed. Besides this, and a few questions from a DPS officer who left saying that this was the greatest thing he'd seen in his years on duty, we didn't run into any major problems filling the car. Almost three hours later, we closed and locked the door, with over half of our packing peanuts and a box of white trash bags left. Some of our group wanted to dump the peanuts in the trunk, but when the "we will be cleaning this up" idea was again brought to the table, we decided to fill the trash bags with the remainder of the peanuts and deposit the "snowballs" in the trunk, in the front seat, in the back seat...
And all we had to do was wait. We ordered a pizza and started watching Titanic, and about 10:30 the phone rings--Jennifer had kidnapped Aren for the day and taken him to Plano, and they were heading back to campus. She told us to be ready and waiting half an hour after her call, so at 11:15 we all went outside to wait. After about 45 minutes, we saw Jennifer's white Monte Carlo pull into the parking lot...and the two of them get out and walk right inside the dorm. Aren didn't even look at his car.
We spent about 10 frantic minutes trying to figure out how to get their attention. Finally I went up to Aren's room, hoping Jennifer would answer, and she did. She came back downstairs with me then called Aren, telling him that she was locked out of the building, and would he please come down and retrieve her?
Finally Aren came downstairs and, in the light from the hallway, sees his beloved Nova filled with packing peanuts. The look on his face was classic--a mixture of disbelief, amazement, and anger. He walked around the car as Marcus cordially told him happy birthday. He began to open the door despite our protests, saying, "I'll clean it up later--I just want to see how you did it!" Naturally, the joke was even easier to take when he realized that packing peanuts weren't loose in his car . He pulled a "snowball" out of the car and looked at it. For a very long time.
We thought that he took it rather well, but he did make Jennifer give him the key to the Nova back.