Drop The Pink Hippo.

This is big ball of string is one of many items that decorate my office.

This big ball of string is from my days working in the mailroom. Packages would arrive tied up with string. I saved it because you never know when you might need string.

Revelations that boredom can be beneficial always remind me of a piece I wrote back in 1996 about the time I dangled a pink hippo out of a 7th floor window. Looking back at that piece I realize there were so many interesting details I left out, so it’s worth revisiting.


This is a ridiculously inaccurate recreation of the original hippo which is long gone with the coworker who owned it.









Why was the hippo pink? It was a furry stuffed animal and supposedly the fur had been treated with cobalt chloride. The coworker who owned it said it would turn blue if rain was imminent and pink on clear days. Actually she had it backwards—dry cobalt chloride is blue and wet cobalt chloride is pink. That explains why we never could get it to turn blue, even though I put it under a running tap and also licked it. Maybe if we’d put it in the oven it would have changed color.

I finally got it to turn blue!

I finally got it to turn blue!

Still it was the belief that it would turn blue that first prompted me to dangle it out the window. Wanting to see whether my big ball of string would reach the ground from the 7th floor was secondary. It was while unrolling my big ball of string, of course, that I discovered I’d failed to tie the first three feet or so to the rest of the ball. The hippo plummeted into the bushes below.

After the hippo took a dive I switched to using a pen as a weight because I didn’t want to risk my coworker’s toy hippo. The pen was also slightly heavier, and I thought this would provide a more accurate reading. It had gone at least seven or eight feet when someone on the 6th floor reached out and grabbed it. When I pulled back they started yelling, “Hello! Hello! Who’s up there?”

I should have explained previously that the 6th floor of the building is a parking garage. It’s where people went to smoke, unless you were the mailman, and then you smoked in the 7th floor hallway next to the mailroom where only delivery people went. That way you could crush your cigarettes into the linoleum floor, but that’s another story.

I have nothing against smokers, but in retrospect I feel I was being unfairly judged by the person who grabbed the pen. I assume they assumed they had the moral high ground. They were attempting to stop someone engaged in something more foolish and unproductive than sitting in a parking garage smoking. This is because they sounded angry. What was the problem? Maybe they were one of the people who worked for the Jack Daniel’s distributor on the 10th floor. They were always kind of standoffish and snappish even though they had tons of whiskey in their office. I know this because they regularly gave free bottles of it to delivery people who in turn would pass it on to me. Before the distributor moved to another building I had enough Jack Daniel’s to last months years.

The final element that makes this story worth revisiting is something I couldn’t provide at the time I first wrote it: illustrations. Now you can see where it all went down.


Facebook Comments


  1. Pinknoam

    I think I’d have probably tried to tie something else to the string surreptitiously as it passed me, so that when you pulled it back up you would spend the rest of the day wondering where the f*ck this license plate came from. That or I’d tie it to a car, because I’m funny like that.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That would have been hilarious. Yes, I would have been saddened to lose my giant ball of string to a speeding car but it would be worth it to imagine the driver getting out and wondering why there was approximately three hundred feet of string dangling from their car.

  2. Gina W.

    Oh my gosh Christopher, if you and I worked at the same company, we would never get anything done. If you said to me, “Hey– wanna come watch me dangle this toy hippo out the window?”, I’d totally be like, “Do you not know me at all? Why are you even asking?”. We’d probably spend half the time in the HR Directors office and get reputations for being troublemakers. One time I had a clip-on thing that you could use to hold papers to the side of your computer monitor. It broke so I was left with a stick with a plastic ball on it. So I did what any rational person would do and made a face on the ball part with a black marker. Then I would sneak up the cubicle of a friend, stick the face over the top of it and talk to the person in a Mr. T voice. I’m not sure why I chose Mr. T. I remember my friend Margo was so surprised by my little prank that the two of us started laughing hysterically and I was afraid one of us would pass out from lack of oxygen to our brains. Those were good times…

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Wow. Knowing that a plastic ball speaking in Mr. T’s voice could pop up over the wall of my cubicle at any moment would make getting up in the morning to go to work so much more enjoyable. Or just knowing that any other kind of weird random thing like that might happen. If you’re ever thinking of a career change consider working in a library. And just to underline that point when I returned from being out of work because of chemo my supervisor and a couple of other people had covered everything in my office with aluminum foil.
      I still have a giant ball of aluminum foil under my desk.
      It’s a good thing they sealed the office windows or who knows what foolishness I’d be up to with all that.

  3. kdcol

    Back in my first full-time office environment job, we were all still so young and most of us were single. Those were some really good times. I’d sit in my chair and the guys in my group would see how far they could roll me down the hall. We had ball (soft fabric like) wars over cubicle walls. I can only imagine the trouble we would have gotten ourselves into if we were able to open windows. Of course management cracked down and everybody grew up and it was just never the same.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      For some people growing up ruins everything, but it doesn’t have to. I was going to suggest that management could always boost morale by buying toys for the office instead of cracking down, but it doesn’t have the same effect when you feel like they’re encouraging you to take a break to act goofy.


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