John Brock: My wife says if you get a call from me on April 1 — hang up!
One of my favorite special days is coming up next week. I always enjoy the observance of April Fool's Day.
Once a year, I get to do what I would like to do all year long but can't in the interest of good taste, better judgment and, perhaps, even the law. Through the years, April Fool's Day (AFD) has brought me great joy but not necessarily to my family and others around me.
No one can really say how April Fool's Day got started but some say it dates to the Middle Ages when the calendar was changed. Previously, April 1 was the first day of the New Year but changed when more months were added and January became the first month of the year. Without CNN and Fox News, the word spread slowly and much of the world's population was late getting the word. Those who failed to celebrate the "new" New Year on January 1st were referred to as April Fools. So they tell me.
I have concocted some rather outrageous practical jokes in observance of this special day. Not everyone has always shared my exuberance but most have been able to laugh it off without residual damage to our friendship.
I once owned a company that had about thirty-five trucks on the road. I lived on a huge lake and one April 1 morning before I went in to work, I called my secretary and told her that the lake's dam had broken and giant bass and other fish were flopping around in the mud and were available for the taking. I suggested she send our trucks down to harvest the bounty.
I thought surely they all knew me better and would quickly catch on but I don't suppose I should have been surprised when thirty minutes later, two dozen of my trucks showed up in my front yard to collect the giant fishes allegedly flopping in puddles left by the broken dam.
In my view, my best AFD joke occurred when I was a professor and vice-president of a university. As VP, one of my duties was to plan and supervise the recruiting efforts for new students.
Each week, we had dozens of prospective students and their families visit our campus. In order to accommodate our potential scholars, we had a cadre of student "helpers" who would advise these wannabe college students and take them and their families on a grand tour of the campus.
On AFD about twenty years ago, I was sitting in my office concocting my prank for the year when it hit me – a tale of Siamese Twins! I called over to the student admissions counselor's pool and told the young lady who answered the telephone that I was facing a dilemma and I needed some immediate help. I said that my problem involved a set of twins who were in my office and interested in attending our university.
I added that they were Siamese twins, joined at the hip and had a combined grade point average of 7.5 and a combined SAT of over 3,900. Our young lady in the Admissions Office asked what they could do to help. I told her that we had a good chance at recruiting the two young ladies but there was only one problem and I needed the Admissions Office help. She asked, "What's the problem?"
I replied, "They love our school and want to come here but they refuse to room together and I need an advisor's help in resolving the problem."
I hung up and waited a moment or two before a bright-eyed, energetic sophomore burst through my door to help solve the problem of Siamese twins who did not want to room with each other.
He entered to find just me alone, laughing hysterically. Only then did he stop to think of the absurdity of trying to convince Siamese twins that they had no choice but to room with each other.
On another occasion, we had a new telephone operator in the university’s administration building. I called her and said that I was from the telephone company and for the next ten minutes we would be conducting some tests on the lines in her building.
I added that it was absolutely imperative that no one talk on the phone during these ten minutes because we would be “passing hot steam” through the lines and anyone with a receiver in their face could incur harmful scalding injuries. I hung up.
The poor dear, in an effort to save us all from disaster, ran Paul Revere-style from office to office spreading the word throughout the building. As ten minutes were about to expire, she burst into a department head’s office just as he put the receiver to his ear, whereupon, she crawled across his desk; and in a valiant attempt to save his life, jerked the instrument from his hand and flung it to the floor. She was hard-pressed to explain to the startled gentleman why she had not allowed him to receive that important telephone call.
This year, I don't know what I will come up with but surely there is one more trick left in the old bag and at least one more soul who doesn't know me well enough to immediately recognize when I am pulling a prank. We'll see.
I suppose some folks would call it lying but I consider it’s just having a little fun once a year. In the meantime, my wife says if you get a telephone call from me on April 1 — HANG UP!
John Brock is retired and lives in Georgetown County. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper, or by Email: email@example.com.
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