Franklin’s athletes and artists are some of the most special and talented members of the student body. They deservedly are covered in The Franklin Post’s “Spotlight”series. This, however, doesn’t give the opportunity to highlight some of Franklin’s lesser-known, yet just as integral, students. In the first installment of an ongoing series, we take a look at Wathan Nilk, a seemingly average individual with some remarkable hidden talents.
One of the most fascinating things about Nilk is how he and his friends spend their spare time. “Sometimes we go to that parking lot on top of Fred Meyer’s and wait for someone to walk down the sidewalk,” Nilk explains. “When they’re just close enough, we throw something down to see if it hits them.” This is far more complicated than Nilk makes it out to be, and what appears to be a two-bit shenanigan actually takes enormous natural talent coupled with years of education and practice.
Pranking is ingrained in human DNA. Ancient Romans celebrated Hilaria, during which commoners often pretended to be high ranking officials or people of great stature. In the 1400’s, a monk, Thomas Betson, tricked his fellow monks into believing an apple was possessed by hollowing it out and putting a beetle inside of it. As time went on, pranksters began to optimize the risk-reward ratio, in order to get the maximum amount of laughs without putting themselves in harm’s way. Nilk’s revolutionary pranking technique may be a subtle nod to the “ding dong ditch” approach, made popular by English schoolchildren in the 1800’s, in which a prankster knocks on someone’s door before running away to a safe distance. By doing so, the prankster is able to observe an often comical resolution without risking any harm. Nilk’s rendition, however, employs an aerial tactic, making it far more difficult for the victim to catch the prankster in action. “I would have never thought of it in a million years,” says Elizabesch Kirth, one of Nilk’s many targets, wiping away what appears to be a mixture of ranch and macaroni and cheese from the back of her 2003 Ford Prius. “That kid’s got something.”
Even with great talent, there are bound to be some growing pains. “At first, we couldn’t get the timing right,” confesses Nilk. “You can’t just throw something while someone is directly under you. It takes time for things to fall.” After hundreds of sessions of trial and error, it seems Nilk has achieved an almost-exact science. “Whenever I throw something, I just know,” he says. “I don’t even have to look anymore.” This understanding of kinematics has not only helped Nilk to get a laugh out of his buddies; it has translated into the classroom. “In the beginning it was hard to get through to him, but one day, something just clicked,” says Savid Droup, Franklin’s IB Physics teacher. “I wondered what had happened, and when I looked at his test, I understood.” On a test that achieved a perfect score, Nilk drew 14 distinct diagrams, each with a different food item being chucked onto an unsuspecting civilian.
Surprisingly, Nilk has never partaken in any school sports. After throwing a football in a perfect downward spiral to pelt a pedestrian walking along Hawthorne Boulevard, he was approached by football coaches, but never truly entertained the proposition. “It’s less exciting when the people you’re throwing something at knows it’s coming.” One sport, however, piqued Nilk’s interest from a young age. “I almost joined the dragonboat team my freshman year,” he says. “I’ve never been a fan of boating or fishing or anything like that, but dragons are awesome.”
Dragons are, in fact, awesome. Numerous online articles have been dedicated to proving the magnificence of the mythological creatures, citing both their magical capabilities and historical significance. On a Yahoo Answers subsection entitled Are Dragons Cool or Lame?, longtime user Olivia affirmed a widely held belief, saying that, “Dragons are awesome! Seriously, what is better than a flying mystical creature that breathes fire???” An 8 year veteran and level 2 member of Yahoo Answers, Olivia has accumulated 458 points on the platform. More impressively, though, an astounding 41% of their answers are chosen by other Yahooers as “Best Answers.” This means that nearly half the time, Olivia’s answer to a specific question is of a higher quality than any other, establishing a level of credibility that should not be taken lightly. In addition, members of Franklin’s dragonboat team seem to agree with Nilk. “Oh yeah, he’s right,” says J.R. Surban (12), a four year member of the team. “Dragons are sick.”
Ultimately, though, Nilk opted to focus on his personal goals, including one that recently gained traction. “Yeah, I have this Instagram meme account, and over the past few weeks I’ve gone from, like, 10 followers, to over 90.” This meteoric rise to fame can be attributed to a single post. “I posted this picture of a dog wearing a funny hat and it got a crazy amount of ‘likes.’ I’m talking more than 200. People are interacting in the comments sections, talking about what hat the dog should be wearing next. The response has just been amazing.” Whether mastering the art of the prank, admiring the majesty of dragons, or creating a community where people can share a laugh, Nilk truly puts forth his best effort, a promising sign for an equally promising individual.