Thursday, April 3, 2014

Case Study No. 1342: Staff of the William L. Clements Library

Real Pacman Runs In Library D:
D: Dear god!
Tags: pacman pac man stunt library computer exam test school funny
Added: 8 years ago
From: EdwardTheFulMtl
Views: 205,270

[scene opens inside the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan, as students and librarians are going about their normal business, when someone dressed in a giant Pac-Man outfit enters through the doors, followed closely by someone dressed in a giant Blinky outfit]
PACMAN: Oh god!
BLINKY: Wakka wakka wakka wakka!
[he starts running down the hall (with the red ghost hot in pursuit) as the students and librarians nearby can only look on in confusion/amusement]
PACMAN: Aaahhh! Oh no!
BLINKY: Wakka wakka wakka wakka!
[cut to Pacman and Blinky entering the nearby Fishbowl computer lab in Angell Hall, as they continue their "cat and mouse" game]
PACMAN: Ahh! Oh god!
BLINKY: Wakka wakka wakka wakka!
[they run up and down the computer terminals (which act as a sort of maze) as the surrounding students laugh]
PACMAN: Oh my god, help!
BLINKY: Wakka wakka wakka wakka!
PACMAN: Oh god, oh god, he's after me!
BLINKY: Wakka wakka wakka wakka!
[the run off camera, as some students applaud]



By Forest Casey On March 13th, 2007

Before I pulled my first operation with the UM Patriots as an undercover reporter, Kevin Irrer looked me in the eyes and said, "If we don't like you, we won't call you again."

I laughed. He wasn't kidding.

Thirty minutes earlier, I was told to meet a man in the corridor outside of the art gallery in the Duderstadt Center on North Campus. My contact told me nothing about the upcoming operation, except to come alone and not to look suspicious.

About a week before that, at about 3:30 on a Tuesday morning, I woke up to an impossible phone call, the kind of call that starts the long, slow thrill of a spy movie.

The person on the other line coughed directly into the phone before grunting "Hello?" I didn't recognize the number.

"This is Kevin from the UM Patriots," he said. "You called me earlier today. Tomorrow is National Pirate Day. We're going to make a grappling hook and fly a pirate flag from the Graduate Library. Do you want in?" He couldn't have been more articulate, but I still had no idea what he was talking about.

After the group's iconic run through the Fishbowl, during which Blinky chased Pac Man through the rows of computers, all of campus wanted to know who was beneath the costumes. I had gotten his phone number the previous day from another photographer and left a message for the Patriots, but they didn't call back, and I more or less forgot about it.

And so I did what any reasonable person would do with an exam scheduled for the next evening and an impossible caller on the phone - I told "Kevin" that I was probably dreaming the conversation and to please call me the following day to prove he did indeed exist.

If the Running of the Pac Man was held 20 years ago, those fortunate enough to be sitting in the Fishbowl would have told their friends, and later, maybe their kids if they decided to come to the University, but it would have stopped there. Today, you can all see the prank thanks to digital video, cheap film editing programs and

And many of us have. Their pranks have been viewed nearly 15,000 times on YouTube. The Pac Man stunt has been imitated (poorly) by students at the University of Washington. The Ann Arbor group has a fan group on Facebook that includes Michigan football star LaMarr Woodley and 21 other members. Its website ( has six different pranks you can see and has been getting solid traffic since it was first uploaded.

But now the group faces the same mind-numbing task as any group of artists: How do you top your prior success? Then how do you top that one? How do you form a group that will stay fresh after the founders graduate? And what's probably the most interesting question of all: Why the hell are you doing this?

Back to North Campus.

I asked around until I found the art museum and tried to look like an engineer. Two men were standing outside over a cardboard box. They looked pleasantly suspicious. I walked over and said the password they instructed me to use, which was, "Hey, are you guys from UM Patriots?"

Fifteen minutes later, I was in the front row of an Engineering 101 lecture at the Chrysler Center, trying to keep my camera hidden. A person to the left of me paged through a magazine. The students in the row behind me all seemed to be learning how to spin their pens. The professor was plugging his laptop into the projector with one hand and holding a silver thermos with the other. None of them could have been prepared for what came next.

Kevin, dressed inconspicuously in the white shirt of an Orkin bug exterminator, came out of a back entrance and aimed his flashlight at the cracks in the wall next to me. The Orkin logos on his helmet and shirt, which had looked like they were printed off the Internet when I saw them close up just minutes earlier, looked completely real from my new vantage point. At that moment, it all hinged on the professor.

He took a sip of his coffee and said into his microphone, "Wow, that's pretty bad - looking for bugs in a programming class." It wasn't a bad joke and it meant that the professor bought the disguise.

The class quieted down and the lecture began. The professor started talking about the homework assignment, which many students were finding too difficult, as the clandestine Patriots in the audience readied their video cameras. The trap was set.

A pretty girl sitting near the aisle shot up from her seat, "Orkin Man, look out!" The class turned from her to Kevin, but her cry came too late. A man dressed as a giant bug ran from the back door and landed on Kevin's back. Their struggle was epic, twisting back and forth until the bug got the best of Kevin, throwing him to the ground near the lectern. The fake punches kept coming. It looked as if the bug would exterminate the Orkin Man, but Kevin reached into his utility belt, pulled out a spray can and doused the bug with what was presumably enough poison to kill a horse.

The bug was dead. The Orkin Man picked up the pretty girl in his arms and ran out of the room. I could still hear the rapturous applause as we ran out of the back door and into a neighboring bathroom. The first-year engineering students saw something too enjoyable to considered performance art and too artistic to be considered a mere prank.

Underneath the costume, the bug is Randy Wan, who also sprinted out of a lecture hall as Superman last year. And now that the Patriots need a new figurehead, there could be nobody more comfortable as a leader than Randy.

As an unofficial and relatively new student group, the future of the Patriots is unsure. It's a secret organization and there's neither recruiting nor an institutionalized process for leadership succession. After Kevin, the outgoing leader, is gone, Randy is ready to take over, but when Randy and his friends graduate, it's not guaranteed that there will be another group of engineers standing ready to carry the torch. How many future students will be willing to dedicate their time and energy to flying pirate flags rather than preparing for exams? It's possible that someday in the not-too-distant future, traffic will slow on the Patriots' website until the group fades into obscurity as a fond and bizarre memory of campus life.

But if it's going to happen, it won't happen anytime soon. On Valentine's Day this year, they solidified their campus presence, at least for now. The Patriots joined forces with another unconventional campus group, the Valentine's Day Ninjas.

When they suited up in pink spandex to spread joy around campus on what would otherwise just be another Single Awareness Day, most lingering doubts about the future of their organization were thrown out the window like a pink paper throwing star. As long as there are students daydreaming of being saved from lecture by Superman, the Patriots will have an audience. And as long as the rows of computers in the Fishbowl look like the maze on a Pac Man screen, the Patriot's pranks will be the stuff of legend.

As to the why? That turned out to be an easy question. Kevin summed it up quite profoundly.

"Our main objective, quite simply, is to have fun," he wrote in an e-mail explaining the group's mission. "We're certainly not doing this for any political reason or anything too serious - our only message is this - have fun."

Will the Patriots look as good on a resume as an embattled tenure as a Michigan Student Assembly representative? Maybe not, but it's possible.

After all, as MSA tries to combat crime by pinpointing areas with little campus lighting, the Patriots actually don crime-fighting superhero outfits and run around in them. It's anyone's guess as to who has the more tangible campus presence.

The UM Patriots are certainly the only student group who almost everyone on campus approves of unequivocally, even if they're not driving down crime. They're one of the last and best secret societies on campus. But why are they doing it? Maybe their antics mean more to their members than to the campus community at large.

"Life's too short to be completely serious all the time," Kevin said. "Sooner or later, you'll die, and right before you do, you may think 'Damn. I wish I ran around in the library during my college years dressed up as Pacman.' "

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