Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Practical Jokes

Well, it's that time of year again - April Fool's Day. I wonder what mischief our friends, family and the media will be up to this year?

The best practical joke that I ever pulled wasn't even on April 1. It took place in February 1980. My parents and another couple (J and S) were planning a train trip to the west coast. They were supposed to board the train at midnight one night in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. They would travel west to Vancouver, then take the ferry across to Victoria. They would make the return trip by ferry and train a few weeks later.

My parents decided to have a little fun at their friends expense - especially since the husband (J) of the other couple was notorious for playing pranks. They asked me to call them and tell them that there had been an error in booking and that their sleeper car would not be available until at least Brandon (a couple of hours west). Mom and dad had provided me with the travel agents name, number, all the booking info, sleep car number, their birth dates, phone number, mailing address - everything I might need if they asked any questions.

This was long before call display and really clear long distance. I didn't know the couple that well at the time but figured that I could pull it off. I made the call late in the afternoon of the day they were to leave. I told them that I was calling from Via Rail. In my most professional voice, I explained the booking issue and said that I had already spoken with their travelling companions (my parents) and that they were fine with the situation as long as their friends also agreed to the arrangements. I made a point of throwing in some of the booking info to make it seem more legit. Both couples would have full access to the dome car and its amenities until their sleeping quarters were ready. I apologized for any inconvenience. They said everything was fine with them as well and thanked me for informing them. I called my parents and filled them in.

Later that night my brother and his wife drove the two couples to the train station. S was talking about the call from Via. My parents said that was odd as they never got a call. S couldn't believe or understand what was going on. She swore that this was all on the level as the woman who had called had all the booking info and everything! My parents just let her ramble and said we'll find out for sure at the station. She was getting madder and madder as no one believed her. She said "I bet you a hundred bucks this is real!" They just laughed and said we will see. She upped the ante to five hundred and they just laughed and said we will know in a little while. It was all my family could do to keep a straight face, but they wanted to see how far she would go with this since she was so convinced!

When they went to board the train S asked the conductor about the rooms and the dome car. Of course he had no idea what she was talking about! She was dumbfounded as to what was going on. My parents finally confessed that I had made the call and that the whole thing was a joke!! S didn't believe them at first. The realization that she had been fooled hit her slowly and she couldn't believe that someone like me would play such a trick (I was a much different person back then!)

They boarded the train and had a thoroughly enjoyable holiday. S told the practical joke story to pretty much everyone on the train there and back and at their hotel in Victoria. Everyone thought it was hilarious and that she had been a good sport to tell the story on herself! She did get on my case a little when they got back but she was also impressed that I had been so convincing! She offered to pay my parents the money she bet, but they said that the reaction to the joke was payment enough!

I haven't played a lot of practical jokes since then, but I inadvertently pulled one last year. I'd seen the video that was released by the BBC about flying penguins. It was very obvious to me that this was yet another of their brilliant and elaborate April 1 pranks.

So I decided to email several of my friends a link to the above video without mentioning that this was a joke. Some I emailed privately, but also did a group email to about a dozen friends on the wiki. I said "Don't know if you've seen the news today, but you should check out this link and the video that goes with it!!" It never occurred to me that some of my otherwise intelligent friends would fall for something that seemed pretty obvious to me.

The group email proved to be the most fun as those who got it sent a private note back so as not to spoil the fun for others. Several got it right away and thought it was quite funny. A few thought it was a bit odd and wondered if it was a joke. At least 4 bought it hook, line and sinker! Emailing back to the whole group with responses such as "This is amazing!" and "Who knew!". As each response rolled in that day, I emailed each privately and asked if they knew what the date was. I also sent them a link to my April Fool's Day post from last year. Luckily they all had a great sense of humour and had a good laugh when they realized they had been fooled!

No one was mad at me, but to be on the safe side I'm going to be extra careful this year. Payback can be a real bitch!!


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