March 16, 2009
Abercrombie & Fitch, Attorneys at Law
Of all the shticks on NBC's The Office, one of my favorites is the rivalry between Dwight and Jim. The pranks Jim plays on Dwight are priceless--and perhaps a bit too reminiscent of actual jokes played by some of my colleagues on other colleagues (never by me, of course).
Linda Doll and I included one of my favorite stories in our anecdotal history of InterVarsity Press, Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. It highlights the friendly rivalry between the staff of Campus Life magazine (some thirty-plus years ago when it was run by Youth for Christ) and the staff of InterVarsity's HIS magazine.
Steve Board, editor of HIS in the early seventies, was known for his dry and imaginative wit. He particularly enjoyed collecting stationery from various institutions, like the White House, photocopying the letterhead onto a fresh sheet of paper and then writing his own fictitious missives to friends or officemates. Several of these inventive creations made their way onto the office bulletin board for all to enjoy.
One day Board, at the peak of his powers, realized that HIS had inadvertently republished an article without getting proper permission. In addition, he discovered that HIS had somehow actually given permission to Campus Life magazine to reprint it as well, even though HIS had no right to do so. Immediately a plan was born in his mind.
He created fake stationery from the law firm of “Abercrombie & Fitch, Attorneys at Law,” and sent a letter to his friends at Campus Life, written in his best lawyer-eze. The letter sternly informed Campus Life that a lawsuit was being brought against it for copyright infringement. The letter also referenced HIS magazine, with a notation that a carbon copy had been sent to HIS as well.
After mailing the letter, Steve kept waiting for a phone call from Wheaton. He asked Barb Sroka, his assistant editor, to be sure to forward the call to him as soon as it came in. He was sure that the notation of a carbon copy to HIS and the name of the law firm would be dead giveaways as to who was really behind the letter. But Abercrombie and Fitch was not as well known nationally for their apparel as they are today.
Board had just stepped out for lunch when the call came from an editor at Campus Life to Sroka. “Did you get this letter about the lawsuit too? We’ve been in prayer all morning about it.” With Steve out, she wasn’t quite sure how to respond and haltingly confessed that it wasn’t real, that Steve had in fact sent it. After a moment of stunned silence came the reply, “Very funny,” and an abrupt dial tone. As soon as Steve returned from lunch he called Campus Life back to try (with only marginal success) to help his friends see the humorous side of the episode.