I’ve been flying solo at work this week. My two colleagues have been out of town at a conference, so it’s been just me and our excellent team of college students running the shop. And the students have been great, showing up early and performing their duties with distinction. They are mature beyond their years, bright beyond their peers, and make my job about as much fun as anyone could imagine a workplace can be.

Today was my last day before a weeklong vacation (and before my birthday this weekend). When I returned from lunch I found my office door closed with a note on it wishing me a happy birthday. Opening the door revealed this:

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Impressive work, no? My first impulsive thought, though, was “What an annoyance this will be to clean…”

Then, as I surveyed the scene, I was genuinely delighted by the meticulous attention to detail and by the fun spirit that prompted this. The two primary culprits were cautiously awaiting my response and were preparing to start removing it right away. I paused and pondered for a moment, then I said, “Don’t clean up. We’ve got to leave it. Everyone needs to see this.”

This is practically a work of art, right? And it was inspired, I know, by their genuine affection for their old-enough-to-be-their-father boss who they were counting on being a good sport. I realized this was a high honor, a prank to be thankful for.

So, while I’m away on vacation, my office will remain a newspapered tribute to not taking work too seriously.

Well played, college superstars. Well played.

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