Glass hammer

“Hey kid, go to the store and get me a glass hammer, will ya?” Many professions prank newcomers by giving them an impossible task: find a left-handed screwdriver, striped paint, elbow grease, a lobster gun…

Glass hammer
Frabel [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The most common form of this prank runs as follows: a trainee or new employee is tasked with finding some item that sounds plausible but is in fact ridiculous. The trainee goes shopping for this item, but is told by the suppliers that they’ve just run out or no longer carry it. Instead, the supplier (who is in on the joke) tells them that they should check another store on the other side of town. Rinse, repeat, see how long you can get them going back and forth on a useless fool’s errand.

If you’re a building apprentice, you may be sent for a left-handed screwdriver or a glass hammer. A car salesperson is sent for a lot stretcher. In a restaurant, it’s the dough repair kit, lobster gun, can of steam, or bacon stretcher. In baseball, it’s the key to the batter’s box or a box of curveballs. My dad told me about the futile quest for striped paint.

It occurs to me that search engines have pretty much ruined this prank – although if anyone has evidence that any variations are still in use, please let me know!

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