The Masked Puffin
October 26, 2018
I wrote this up to share with some people in chat. It seemed entertaining enough to put on the blog as well.
A long time ago I worked at a big corporation and was occasionally bored at work. I channeled this boredom towards entertaining my coworkers. One of them lived in a ritzy suburb. He happened to have a milestone birthday coming up. What do you get for someone turning forty who lives in a swanky neighborhood? Well, I found a local company that specialized in “novelty” stuff; 3 meter tall inflatable birthday cakes, etc.
I ordered my coworker a front-yard full of pink plastic flamingos. The company promised a stealthy setup before sunrise. They asked what I wanted the card to say and, in a fit of madness, I had it signed “from the Masked Puffin.”
My coworker loved his gift but he also decided that he really wanted to figure out who sent it to him. I don’t know if calling the decorating company never occured to him or if he thought that would be cheating. For me, I decided it would be a lot of fun to play along.
With my pockets full of red herring, I lent my help in trying to figure out who on earth was behind this.
We all had whiteboards in our cubicles. The masked puffin started visiting random coworkers to leave messages; little doodles and words of encouragement. The masked puffin of course left messages in my cubicle as well (I’m no mastermind but I’m not stupid either).
To prevent any handwriting analysis, I had my wife come and write the messages. Yes, people on the team slyly grabbed handwriting from others to try and determine who was leaving notes.
The masked puffin sent emails as well from his ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ account (long since gone). I had recalled from my university days that our university’s email was set up as an open relay that also happened to strip all originating headers. Any quick examination of the headers made the email look like it was coming directly from my university. I found a similarly configured server at another university. So all of the puffin’s email came from Alaska. (as a puffin, I like to stay in character).
The whole team was having a lot of fun trying to crack the case of who the puffin was… including me. Sadly, we were never able to figure it out despite my best efforts.
The masked puffin’s final act was to send a puffin beanie baby for my coworker’s next birthday.