No Foolin’

Like most people, I enjoy a good prank now and then. Especially when I’m neither the target nor collateral damage, a well-executed trick that inflicts no harm other than frustration or humiliation is something I appreciate as much as fine wine. Or any wine really.

In my experience, however, the best pranks are those that are perpetrated when the target isn’t expecting them. It’s pretty hard to get someone’s goat when their guard is up, after all. You need to catch them when their guard is way, way down—along with their pants, if possible.

That basically rules out April Fools’ Day since that’s when everyone sees it coming. We’re all so primed for pranks that day we hardly trust anything we hear from anyone. And heaven help the poor soul who attempts to deliver news of any kind that day. Good, bad, shocking or sensational, it doesn’t matter. The recipient of the message won’t believe it unless and until they’ve asked, doubted, denied, and verified—repeatedly, if necessary—if the messenger is pulling their leg.

I don’t know if this has always been the case, but I like to imagine it would have been—if only so I can picture various events that have taken place at this time of year and how difficult it may have been to convince people they were really happening. Take the resurrection for example. Or any other major event from the bible for that matter. I mean, can you imagine how hard it would have been for those angels to convince the two Marys that Jesus was alive if they’d had to do so on April first—or the cultural equivalent in biblical times? Or for the two Mary’s to convince anyone else afterward?

Some members of the audience won’t appreciate my use of those examples, but I trust the rest of you will hear me out since you know I don’t mean any disrespect and, more importantly, you don’t come here for the facts anyway. Meanwhile, if religious references offend you, there are plenty of secular ones to consider. Examples from pop culture spring to mind, as do news reports and historical events like Paul Revere’s ride.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time believing on any given day that 12 intelligent people would acquit O.J. Simpson, or that two successful entertainers would name their newborn baby Blue Ivy. If I had heard either of those things on the first of April, I would not have bought a word of it. And if some dude on a horse had come riding through the neighborhood in the middle of the night shouting that the British were coming I likely would have assumed his friends had put him up to it no matter what day or month it was.

Even if both the O.J. Simpson acquittal and the announcement of Beyonce’s baby’s birth had been fallacious, and Paul Revere’s ride had turned out to be some crazy colonial hazing incident, there are many better pranks to be played. An example from more recent history was a trick I helped the Jarhead and one of his coworkers play on another. It involved an oddly parked car, an unlocked car door, a stealthily positioned “For Sale” sign, a few judiciously timed phone calls, and one bewildered car owner. We didn’t take bets as to whether we could get our victim to walk outside and check what he was hearing on the phone against what he knew about his own vehicle, but if we had, someone would have made a bundle.

A far more subtle example from my own work life involved a correction pen and a black Sharpie, which I used to change a colleague’s mail box label from Jodi to Jedi while I was working late one evening. Since the sole witness to my crime was a woman named Deb who only worked nights, it was several weeks before anyone found out I was the culprit. And since I was fairly new to the job and had yet to reveal what a cut-up I could be, some found it hard to believe I had done it even after Deb spilled the beans.

Maybe it’s because we’re all so much more mature now, but I seem to remember there being a lot more tricks being played when I was a kid—not just in April but all year round. Like when my cousin, David, walked into a room with a plate of what looked like hot, delicious buttered toast and grudgingly agreed to share, and then sat back and watched as his victims started chowing down only to realize what they were eating was butter flavored shortening. Or when two of my classmates conspired to drive me crazy during my senior year of high school by bringing a sealed box to campus and then refusing to tell me what was in it. I don’t recall for how long I badgered those boys about what was in that damn box before they finally agreed to open it, but I do remember just how embarrassed I was when I looked inside and found it completely empty.

But alas, those days seem to be over. Not one prank has been perpetrated against me or in my presence in years—not even on April Fools’ Day—and that’s a shame. So I’m going to do something about it.

I’ll start small. Perhaps at dinner one night next week I’ll offer the Jarhead a scoop of applesauce that’s really cold turkey gravy. Or maybe I’ll drive over to his office with the spare key to his pickup and move it down a few rows in the parking lot. Or maybe I’ll buy a bunch of men’s briefs a size or two smaller than he normally wears and swap them out for his.

That should liven things up a bit—especially if he retaliates. Either way, it will definitely give me something else to write about.


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