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The Prank Archives: The UU Churchmouse Hostage Situation of 2015

The following is from 2015, when I attended a conference that was about UU deepening and spiritual growth and of course the kidnapping and ransom of rodents.

… The few of us Canadians at the conference decided to network and bond by going out to dinner together.  As we arrived, another conference attendee approached us and handed us a stuffed rat and a sheet of paper, which we foolishly accepted.

I was all “this is a weird sense of humour”, but I looked through the many covenants in great detail and nowhere in them does it say anything about a sense of humour–weird or otherwise.  The rat thing, apparently, is just an American bonding custom, which we didn’t understand because in Canada we usually bond by—as I mentioned earlier—going out to dinner.

It turns out that it wasn’t a rat, it was a Unitarian Church Mouse, which is apparently a real thing.  He travels all over the country visiting congregations and uploading his adventures to Facebook.  Apparently everyone in the States knows about this, but to our group (all Canadians) it was a bit weird.

Especially the part where we were supposed to try to convince some other group of UUs to accept the stuffed vermin…  I’m not sure of the exact etiquette around the “here, take this rodent” interaction, so I was feeling awkward.  I am learning in these cross-border interactions that it is important to remember to think “how does this translate to my cultural context?”.  

And it was somewhere in that translation process that we felt the call to kidnap the mouse.

I offered to take over the posting of the demands and ransom photo.  Like most Canadians, I never leave home without pajamas with a picture of a Moose and the slogan “Wanna Moose Around?” on the butt. I also picked a red and white beach mat as a background, which in retrospect looks a lot more like part of the American flag than part of the Canadian one.  The fact that the only Canadian thing I had on me was a pile of money, which UU Churchmouse was photographed sitting on, and… well, the visuals did not give the impression that we Canadians were true power players in the situation.

photo-3.jpg

I spent all night trying to post the photo and demands.  Attempting to get wifi working, attempting to tether to my cell phone, and then attempting to slit my own throat.  Which didn’t work since I travelled there by plane so the sharpest thing I had on me was nail clippers.

Eventually, we wrote:

Dear American UUs,

Bwah hah hah hah hah, eh?  We of the Canadian Apprehension Task-force have kidnapped Mr. Unitarian U. Churchmouse, and are holding him ransom.  We shall not return him until the following demands are met, please:

1.  That plaid flannel stole options be made readily available.  Fur lined clerical robes would be nice too, but we’d be willing to compromise on that point.

2.  That the syllable “eh?” be added after each of the seven principles.

3.  That every year on July 1st (Canada Day), the stature of liberty wear a sweater and moose ears.

4.  That the letter “u” be added to the words.  Not just the words that used to have a U, but all the words.

5.  That your president, Obama, be granted a third term in office.

6.  That our Prime Minister, Harper, be removed from office immediately.

7.  That the great lakes be signed over to us in full, because we believe them to be ours anyways.  Except Lake Michigan, which we are not particularly fussed about.  It goes without saying that we will be expecting full ownership of the other half of Niagara falls.

8.  That you fix the money by making each bill a different colour.  Or shape/size.  And put the queen back on.  We would accept an ultrasound image of William and Kate’s fetus in a pinch.

9.  That a law be instituted for when the Republicans and the Democrats cannot agree on stuff, mandating that disputes be settled via impromptu hockey match.

10.  That those creepy scanning machines in all the airports be replaced with highly trained sniffing mooses, and the 100 mL liquid limit not apply to Maple Syrup or Canadian Beer.

Please leverage your denominational structures and federal government to comply immediately with all of our requests, and we shall return Mr. Unitarian U. Churchmouse unharmed.  Eh.

Thank you kindly, and Merci Beaucoup,

The Canadian Apprehension Task-force (C.A.T.)

P.S.  But don’t worry about Mr. Unitarian U. Churchmouse.  We are treating him with great politeness and it turns out that he loves poutine.

P.P.S.  Also, we’re really really sorry about this.

Then, the wifi cut out completely.  Anne suggested we use something called a pen and paper, and post the demands to the bulletin board, which is apparently what criminals did before wifi. We did this, in a thrilling spy like operation which had us feeling very James Bond.  Until we realized that exactly zero people were even noticing what we’d posted.

What is the etiquette for when you take a hostage and nobody notices?  I mean, I understand “we do not negotiate with terrorists” as a policy.  We don’t negotiate with terrorists in Canada either.  But we do feel polite acknowledgement is only civil.

Back to the wifi.  I was really learning to value the interconnected web in a new way, now that it was constantly missing.  We had no idea what to do.  I mean, we couldn’t just walk up to a random American and hand over the mouse.  One has to save face in these high stakes international negotiations.

My friend Mike was now involved from across the country–because we could “access wifi” by issuing him instructions and giving him the passwords and user IDs for our facebook and bank accounts. It was a lot like in the Batman movies, except instead of saying “Alfred, cross reference all recent prison breaks with…” we were saying things like “how come that stuffed mouse won’t be my friend on Facebook?” and “see if you can get people to notice us”.

Which I don’t think Batman ever said.

Also, Mike decided to counter-negotiate, posting without my prior approval, which I guess is how hostage negotiations usually work:

OFFICIAL RESPONSE FROM THE AMERICAN NEGOTIATING TEAM:

On behalf of the American negotiation team, I have been instructed to provide the following counteroffer:

If you release Colonel– I mean Mr. Churchmouse, we are open to a dialogue in which we will discuss granting you approximately 10% of the water from the Great Lakes. Since they are currently 100% American, this will be a great asset for you.

July 4 is our holiday and July 1 is yours. We will agree to a truly Unitarian compromise and make the joint holiday July 2.5. So the holiday will not start until noon on July 2 and will go until noon on July 3.

We will add “u” to “favorite” and “flavor”, but will still spell “check” our way. No one would ever be able to pronounce “cheque” and would probably laugh if they received one spelled in such a manner.

Our constitution will not allow for President Obama to stay for a third term. However, we have a 69-year-old woman in fashionable shoes ready to not only succeed Obama, but clean up his domestic policy messes. Think Jack Layton with a dress.

We will promptly remove Prime Minister Harper from office and will install Don Cherry in his place. All cabinet ministers will be required to wear suits in his fashion, especially the women.

We will NEVER be putting any royalty on our money again. WIth the possible exception of the Queen of Soul, Mrs. Aretha Franklin, and the King of All Media, Mr. Howard Stern. Hey Now!

The hockey shootout idea is acceptable.

You guys have the cancer machines just like us. You’ll have the sniffing machines as soon as our Pentagon and your Ministry of Defense (notice the ‘s’) collude on that. Sorry, eh.

Oh, and we’re annexing all poutine recipes. And vinegar on French fries.

Yours sinceruly (notice the ‘u’)

The Pentagon– I mean, the American Delegation of World of Delightful and Charming Unitarian Universalists

At this point I had spent half of the conference sessions at the back of the room saying “sorry about this, I’ll join the group again in just a minute–I’m kidnapping a mouse.” 

We didn’t get Mr. UU Churchmouse’s escape finished until Thursday.  At this point, the Mouse’s allies were getting annoyed, since we’d stolen the mouse, put up stupid demands, and appeared to now be stubbornly waiting for them to… what?

They said we were not very UU to kidnap a mouse, and even the owner of the page posted that we should “repent”.  I wanted to post “I’m TRYING, but repenting is more logistically tricky than you would think”… But of course the wifi was down again.

You know how team building exercises are supposed to include adversity and challenge?  At this point, we were so team-built that we were practically one person.  Running those negotiations was full time work.  

We weren’t even good at it.

I mean, we essentially went from “Give us these ten things” to “Please please take this mouse off our hands before we are excommunicated.  We’ll do anything.  We’re really sorry about this.”

Seriously.  You have no idea how sorry.

Liz JamesComment