April Fools Day

You’d think we’d see it coming. After all, it is called April Fools Day – and it happens every year. Still, countless humans annually prank countless other humans – from placing Saran Wrap over toilet bowls, to gluing coins to sidewalks. We fool and get fooled alike.

April Fools Day, it is said, originated in the 16th century in France (where they still cannot

get enough of Jerry Lewis). It is also called All Fools Day, which many people prefer because it sounds more inclusive.

I was partly complicit in one of this area’s most notorious April Fools stunts a number of years ago. An April 1st broadcast of the local comedy show Almost Live on KING TV was suddenly interrupted by what appeared to be a breaking news bulletin. A grave-looking news anchor said, “The Space Needle has just fallen over!”

A “live” picture of the great landmark lying on its side further enhanced the story – a photo quite obviously phony when viewed today – but that nonetheless convinced considerable numbers of local viewers that what they were seeing was real.

Hundreds of people began calling emergency and police departments – some in a genuine panic: “My daughter is a waitress at the Space Needle!” Or, “My neighbor runs the elevator!” The furor became national news, and if KING TV had a woodshed, the cast and crew of Almost Live would have been taken to it.

On another April 1st at another TV station where I worked, a guy named Steve had just quit his job to take another and better opportunity in a larger market. He’d sold his house, bought a new one – and sent his family ahead to the new town.

He had just finished cleaning out his desk when the phone rang. He picked it up and the voice on the other end was deeply apologetic. “Steve, I’m afraid we’ve had some sudden budget cuts here – and we’re no longer going to be able to offer you that job.”

Steve’s face turned ashen, he hung up quickly – and with tears in his eyes, raced out of the building so fast no one had time to tell him that the apologetic voice on the other end of the phone was actually a prankster employee calling from the next room.

Steve drove his Plymouth Duster through the parking lot so fast, no one could catch up to him amidst the blue smoke of his peel out. There were no cell phones back then – and no way to contact him.

Those of us in on the trick imagined all kinds of horrible scenarios, the worst of which was a desperate Steve driving his Duster off the nearest cliff. (Although none of us could think of a single cliff in that particular town.)

When Steve waltzed back in an hour later, his look of triumph was ear to ear. He had reverse tricked the rest of us – immediately recognizing the phone prank, and then putting on an acting performance that should have garnered him an Emmy.

That day, at least, he was no one’s fool.

But there was no shortage of them elsewhere in the building.