The Water Fight

January 6, 2020

What began as a small water fight between friends morphed into a 38-year cloak and dagger tradition. It has been played out on several continents by prominent members of the government and no government associations, a United States Congressman, a U.S. ambassador, an Arlington Virginia fire captain, and many other recruits and mercenaries. I am telling the stories from my perspective. Randy is allowed to post his rebuttal publicly. Let me explain how this all began.

After three years of friendship, nightly dinners, and a mutual love for mischief, I asked Judy Asmuth out on a date. Before the advent of the VCR, Disney would re-release its classic movies in theaters from time to time.  Judy had grown up in a religious tradition that eschewed card playing, dancing, and the cinema, among other things. Peter Pan was playing at a theater in Fountain Valley. I managed to work up the nerve to ask her out, and she said yes.

In my mind, it was the perfect opportunity to don my Peter Pan costume, complete with green tights, a hat, and ballet shoes. When I emerged into the dorm lobby. Judy looked at me, shook her head, and said, “absolutely, no way.” I promptly went back up to my room and put on something “preppy,” which was the prevailing style in the 1980s.

Following the movie, we went to Marie Callender’s and had my favorite, strawberry pie,. We then drove down to Newport Bay and had our first kiss. We both knew that night that we would marry each other.

On cloud nine, I returned to my dorm room. When I open the door, there stood my friend  with a large bucket of water. I tried to shut the door, and it slammed back into my noggin, gashing my forehead. The date was forever cemented in mind not only because it was Judy and my first date, but also because it was Randy’s birthday.  The whole situation gave rise to an annual tradition, employing many accomplices and alumni.

January 7, 1984, gave me the perfect opportunity to settle the score. I waited outside Randy’s parent’s home in the bushes. I had a hose ready to go. As he walked up to his door by then, I turned the water full blast in his direction. It is now the beginning of a 38-year-old tradition.

The first few years of these shenanigans were relatively simple. We will go out to celebrate your birthday. A water glass might have been tipped over, or a waiter somehow decided to water plants over my lap. Still, the real cloak and dagger, almost spy-like capers, took over the tradition.

There are 38 years of stories that can be told. I called Randy last night, and we reminisced about what we thought was the best.

Here are a few of my favorites:

There was a time that this tradition was straightforward. It made the jump to full-on spy caper mostly out of necessity. In this story, the protagonist was living in Croatia, having been recently married to his wife, Vesna. Before departing for Croatia, my friend placed a Skype phone call to one of Vesna’s relatives. He made a fatal flaw by making that call on my computer. I know I had contact! The only rule we have set into place was that you cannot retaliate against a willing participant. I contacted stable, and he quickly agreed. I never put parameters on the plan, and Steve O came up with a brilliant contrived the best possible scenario. A waiter serving the young, newly married couple took a water picture and poured it on an unsuspecting Randy. The game heading now become international.

Randy was in town to celebrate Christmas and his birthday. On January 3, I drove him to John Wayne Airport and saw him leave to head back to Washington. The crux of this story takes place beginning at 11:50 PM on January 6. There was a ring of the doorbell. When I opened the door, there was a girl in my youth group who had recently had a baby out of wedlock, and she was crying. She told me that her mother kicked her out of the house and didn’t know where to go. I asked where her son was, and she said out into the car in the car. I went to retrieve the boy, and when I did, I was assaulted in a pillowcase one over my head; my first thought was psycho boyfriend is going to kill me. Then I realized I recognized some of the voices. It was kids in my youth group. They proceeded to tie my hands and feet together and put me in the back of my truck. They proceeded to drive to the park, where they tied me a tree and began a countdown. ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, and then, the pillowcase came off, and there he stood the large yellow bucket for water.

One of the advantages of being a youth pastor at the time was that I always have a willing partner to help with this event. I do not believe anyone has refused me. My former student Matt Herrera, grew up in Mission Viejo but moved away to go to college and later became a fireman. He rose in the firefighter ranks to the rank of captain. 

Matt and Randy a had met years earlier in Washington DC. Matt drove the fire truck to his home, knocked on his door, and told him there had been a gas leak. At that point, the water gushed from a fire extinguisher. It was glorious few minutes.

For the 25th anniversary of the water fight. I purchased a flight to Washington DC and did not let anyone know I was coming.  My former student, John Brock, took photos of the “hit” and posted them online. I on the other hand turn off my location services on my phone and madeUpon arrival, I checked into a nice hotel and then took the ice bucket with me to camp out underneath Randy’s stairs. I have not really put much thought into what I was going to do, but I finally decided to knock on the door. A couple of my recruits had already done the deed earlier in the day, and hopefully, this was going to throw the tips off. When the door opened, Randy’s daughter and wife stood there aghast. I could read her lips as she slowly pronounced, “Oh my God!” She then pointed down the hall. I quietly headed toward their bathroom to find Randy hiding in the bathtub. I took the ice bucket and threw it over the top of the shower curtain. There was an audible gasp as I pulled back the curtain to a very shocked friend. I had been successful!

Recently, a willing player somehow managed to get the address incorrectly. The temperature was below zero, and there were at least 2 feet of snow on the ground. He camped out on the side of their house and waited for three hours. The water in his bucket froze solid by the time he realized that he had the wrong address. That is the risk mercenary’s take.

At one point we had to resort to psychological warfare. I intercepted an email to my son from Randy asking for his help. I wrote back as Josh and told him to “use this new address. “My dad checks my email.” I’ve then proceeded to write back and tell him to use this new address and he began to correspond with “Josh” when it was really me. Writing as Josh,  I asked if he would like some extra help. Of course he responded in the affirmative. I’ll let him know that Kelly Reeder, Josh’s third grade teacher, would love to help. He then carried on conversations between Josh and himself and Kelly and himself. I talked about how badly he was going to be “nailed. He did not leave the house for 24 hours. Mission accomplished!

Someone asked me recently how long will this continue? My response, until we die. I have plans to pour a glass of water on my friend while he is in his casket. That’s what friends do.

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