Sunrise. I step outside my apartment and head for the parking lot. As I turn the corner, I laugh. The first car in a long row of cars is no longer visible. Every inch of the vehicle is covered in toilet paper. There is so much toilet paper covering this car that its actual shape is no longer discernible. It’s only the suggestion of an automobile.
I shake my head. “Sucker,” I whisper aloud, as I proceed down the row of cars to my own. It’s only when I reach the end of the row that my heart sinks.
That’s my car. My car is buried in toilet paper.
Then it occurs to me what day it is:
April 1. April Fools’ Day.
Half an hour later, I have removed –I later learned–exactly 100 rolls of toilet paper. And pinned beneath my windshield wipers, I find a small, rectangular block of wood inscribed with a flourish: Daughters of Triton.
I know exactly who is responsible: Sherry and Jen. Friends and co-conspirators.
Despite the frustration and difficulty of removing pounds of toilet tissue, I am thrilled with the success of my friends’ prank. It was executed perfectly. I am rightfully impressed.
I’m a fan of April Fools’ Day. I look forward to it every year. I don’t think April Fools’ Day gets the respect it deserves. Unlike the religious holidays, which divide us by our beliefs, or Thanksgiving, which requires us to visit with relatives who we’d never choose as friends, or even Groundhog Day, which celebrates the prognosticating powers of an ambivalent rodent, April Fools’ Day is a tradition that invites all comers (even those who had no intention of participating). It’s a holiday that demands creativity, originality, sneakiness, and patience. It rewards skill and strategy.
Best of all, every April Fools’ Day is different from the last. If done well, an April Fools’ Day caper is unforgettable.
The best April Fools’ Day trick ever played on me occurred the year after the great toilet papering prank of 1991. On April 1, 1992, my friend, Kate, informed me she was pregnant. She was waiting to tell people, she explained, but she had decided to trust me with this momentous news.
I felt honored. Revered. I couldn’t believe the faith Kate had placed in me.
Four months later, Kate still had not announced her pregnancy, and as far as I could tell, she wasn’t showing. I was 20 years old at the time, and I had no understanding of how and when a pregnant woman might begin showing, so I simply assumed Kate was still silently pregnant.
Then we found ourselves at a keg party on a hot August day. Kate began drinking. Thinking she didn’t understand the adverse effects of alcohol on an unborn fetus, I took her aside and whispered, “You can’t drink.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because you’re pregnant!”
It took her a second to realize what I was saying. Then she burst into laughter.
“What?” I demanded, finding none of this funny.
“I told you that I was pregnant on April Fools’ Day. Got you!”
This is what April Fools’ Day is all about. It’s the quest to make someone feel as foolish as possible, and yet special, too, for being chosen as the target of the prank. It’s a fine line that the prankster walks, but even if the joke backfires and perhaps upsets or offends the target, that’s okay.
It’s April Fools’ Day. Anything goes.
Of course, April Fools’ Day can occasionally go awry. When I began dating my wife, Elysha, 13 years ago, she and I worked together as teachers in the same school. I arrived at work early that day and ran into my principal in the hallway.
“Hey, boss,” I said. “Just a heads-up. I’m dating Elysha Green now.”
“What?” I asked.
“Like Elysha Green would ever date you. I know it’s April Fools’ Day.”
“I’m serious!” I shouted, as he moved on down the hall. “I’m serious! I’m dating Elysha Green. I think I love her!”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “You should be so lucky. Nice try.”
It took me a week to convince him we were dating. Two years later, he officiated our wedding ceremony.
April Fools’ Day can be tricky in more ways than one.
Illustrated by Sean Wang