The exact origins of April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, are unknown. Celebrated for centuries by many different cultures, it is a day for telling jokes and playing pranks. Remember elementary school and all the silliness? The jokes that were only funny to other children your age? Tell the little girl who sits behind you there’s a spider in her hair and she might start screaming and swatting at her head. Tell your mother the same thing and she’ll just look at you with mild amusement and respond, “I don’t think so, but nice try.” Coat the edge of a quarter with pencil lead and bet some little boy that he can’t roll it down the center of his face without dropping it and before you know it he’s grinning at you, unknowing, with a black line dividing his face in two, certain he’s just proved you wrong while you and all your friends point and laugh. I got caught by that one.
Of course, pranking is not just a past time of the young and silly, it’s also enjoyed with great relish by some you would think too old for such nonsense. There’s the rubber spider on a co-worker’s chair, or the pool of fake spilled coffee across their desk. Playing pranks can be fun for all ages if done sparingly and with careful thought to the recipient. It’s only funny if the person being pranked thinks so.
Elaborate hoaxes have been played on the public over the years, often meeting with an unbelievable level of gullibility from the people. The media have reported outrageous fictional tales with great success. In 1957, the BBC reported Swiss farmers were having a record spaghetti crop and showed pictures of smiling people harvesting strands of pasta from the trees into over-flowing baskets. In 1985, Sports Illustrated amazed many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 mph. Does anyone remember 1996, when the Mexican fast food chain Taco Bell announced they were buying the Liberty Bell and renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell? How many of you, just for a brief moment, were horrified and outraged before you realized it had to be a hoax? In 1998, Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper” and scores of clueless customers tried to order the fake sandwich.
All done in the name of fun, good, clean, harmless fun. Do you have a favorite prank from your past? Or perhaps you’re planning your best one yet for this year? Tell me about it. Maybe I’ll tell my supervisor, the one who’s out on maternity leave, and the office manager that I’m quitting. Act all outraged and see if I cause a panic. (She has two weeks of leave to go before she comes back.) No, I better not. That could backfire on me. They could say fine, if that’s how you want it you can leave right now. That wouldn’t be very funny. Not funny at all.
Perhaps I should work an April Fools’ Day joke into my book. I think Mary would be a very good sport about it. She might even be the instigator.