Nobody’s Fool

I don’t know about you, but I was never one for playing pranks as a kid.  I never dipped a fellow camper’s hand in warm water hoping she’d wet her sleeping bag….I never affixed a “Kick Me” sign to anyone’s unsuspecting back as they passed my desk in math class…I don’t even know what it means to short sheet someone’s bed.  So can you please explain to me what’s up with April Fools Day?       

Being somewhat cerebral, I decided to do a little research online.  Apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand this holiday-of-sorts.  Historians can’t even agree on the genesis of this not-so-noteworthy day.         

One popular theory is that April Fools Day – or All Fool’s Day – began around 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX.  At this time the Gregorian calendar was introduced, moving New Year’s from the week of March 25th to January 1st as we know it today.  Apparently communications being what they were in the days before CNN and Fox News, not everyone got the message – some not for several years (years!).  Others refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st.  These non-reformers were labeled as “fools” by the general populace.  They were subjected to ridicule and were often sent on “fool’s errands” or were made the butt of other practical jokes.      

I was surprised to find that the advent of spring brings with it much jocularity around the world:  For example Scotland and Taily Day are responsible for the genesis of the hilarious “kick me” gags.  In England, those jolly old chaps only joke in the morning (apparently it’s considered bad luck to play a prank on someone after noon).  In Rome, this very special day is known as the Festival of Hilaria, commemorating the resurrection of the God Attis. (I know I always thought that life after death was a joke.) The Portuguese celebrate April Fools Day on the Sunday and Monday before Lent by throwing flour at their friends (truly hilarious in my book and great fun for those with celiac’s disease).  And lastly, in India, the Huli Festival on March 31st includes people smearing bright colors on one another in celebration of spring.  (I’m not kidding.  You can’t make this stuff up!  Plus, I found it on the internet so it must be true!)      

Maybe it’s in our DNA.  Maybe there is some genetic need in us humans to shrug off the dourness of the long, cold, winter by engaging in foolish behavior and playing pranks on our unsuspecting neighbors.      

I mean look at those astro-physicists and brainiacs at MIT.  From snow-making in the dormitories to turbojets in the lecture halls, those geeks have a longstanding tradition of what they call “hacks” —  ingenious and outrageous acts that take too much talent to simply call practical jokes.  Many of their more famous hacks have to do with putting the most bizarre things atop the university’s Great Dome.  In May of 1994 it was a police car complete with flashing lights, a lifelike policewoman, and a half-eaten box of donuts. Other hacks constructed atop the MIT dome include a working phone booth, a dorm room allegedly set up to relieve overcrowding in the dormitories, and a life-size fiberglass cow with a mortarboard on its head.      

Let the hilarity ensue!  Heretofore, I thought foolishness was reserved for those who actually believed there were weapons of mass destruction, voted for Dennis Kucinich, or applied for a sub-prime mortgage.  (I’ve got a 30-year fixed at 5.65%.  Who’s laughing now?)    Noted author John Updike is quoted as saying “Looking foolish does the spirit good.”  Really?  What about those celebs who were foolish enough to leave the confines of their home –and their cars – without their lacy underwear again and again and again?   Do Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen think their foolishness (which was caught on tape) does a spirit — or a body — good? 

Me?  I’m nobody’s fool!


2 responses to “Nobody’s Fool

  1. Wow, so much to digest. For starters I don’t think I’ve ever left the house w/ my lacy underwear on. Does that make me a celeb? For myself I like to think of an April Fools joke as more than short sheeting a bed or the saran wrap over the toilet. I prefer something that is completely unexpected. Something that makes the person think, how could this possibly be happening on a day like today? There are some rules though. There can be no damage to personal property (i didn’t say emotional property). No damage to the physical person. It must be legal in the lower 48 states.

    My all time favorite was calling an auto glass shop and getting a box of broken glass and spread it around my bosses passenger door. I had rolled down the window so the unsuspecting eye would immediately think they had been vandalized. I wasn’t able to keep a straight face so I had left the crime scene. The goal is to get the car all the way to the auto repair shop before the victim finds out what really happened. So far to date I’ve just gotten to the police report.

    For us in the north the real meaning of April Fools came today. We thought it was spring and then BAM APRIL FOOLS!!!! There’s four inches of snow on the ground and more on the way.

  2. I can’t believe you are leading your readers to believe you don’t pull practical jokes. I remember a slew of them you did in college that left many of us with red faces. Like the time you told me our English test was moved to a different room (when it wasn’t) and I was late for the exam and barely able to finish it with the time remaining. OR the time you said you would drop off my research paper and you intentionally gave it to the wrong professor. Or the time we did our papers together and you intentionally mislead me to write the wrong interpretation and then you changed your paper so you got a good grade and I almost failed. These are just a few of the “April Fool’s” jokes I can remember from you. Oh…. and in case you’re shaking your head in disbelief….APRIL FOOLS (a little late).

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