Archived Story

April Fool’s Day just isn’t the same

Published 9:06am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

It was an odd April 1.

I spent the day watching a loved one play basketball.

That’s not odd in itself, but typically, I’m speaking at some gathering on April Fool’s Day. When a conference is looking for a fool to speak foolishly on some foolishness, they call me. They dial 1-800-IMA-FOOL. Please don’t call that number. I have no idea if a fool will answer.

The populations of some small towns have become so depleted that the residents have to take turns being the village idiot. I am proud to say that I’m not only able to perform the duties of being my hometown’s village idiot, but also serve several other villages as a part-time or substitute idiot.

Being a fool has its benefits. No one is surprised when I do something stupid. No one is surprised when I say something moronic. It would be foolish to expect anything else from a fool.

A fool can get by with playing an air banjo while singing, “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley. Hang down your head and cry. Hang down your head, Tom Dooley. Your necktie is caught in your fly.”

They don’t sing that at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, although I wouldn’t put it past Warren Buffet.

Times change. That’s what they do when they’re not busy marching on. “Times were different then,” is an oft heard refrain.

They were different when I was a boy. We weren’t on Central Time or Central Daylight Saving Time. We were on something called Wasting Time.

We played pranks. It was a way of wasting time. We were taught not only by older generations who had called drugstores to ask if they had Prince Albert in the can, but by “Candid Camera” who punked people on TV before anyone knew that people could be punked.

April Fool’s Day was a day that kept a fellow on his toes. On “Candid Camera,” the one who had been made a fool of heard, “Smile, you’re on ‘Candid Camera.’” On the first of April, someone somewhere was waiting to say, “April Fool’s” after I’d been made a fool. That wasn’t easy. It’s difficult to fool a fool.

There was a catalog called Johnson Smith that advertised in serious learning tomes like comic books. The catalog came to the nearest shopping mall — the mailbox. It was filled with magic tricks and gags. Most of us weren’t interested in the magic tricks. Each class had a magician that disappeared for days, yet still passed all his classes. What caught our attention were the gags.

Johnson Smith offered the things that frequented a boy’s dreams. Things like itch powder, rubber dog poop, red-hot gum and fake vomit. A boy couldn’t help but laugh as he read the descriptions of each gag. Cartoon bubbles over our heads filled with friends falling prey to our clever stunts. Hilarity, no doubt, abounded, thanks to Johnson Smith.

I remember April Fool’s Days fondly. I pretended to put up a Fool tree and decorated it with gags ordered from Johnson Smith. I’d shop for gifts like chattering false teeth, joy buzzers, rubber hotdogs that were better than fruitcake, X-ray specs that couldn’t see through a mist, devices that allowed a boy to throw his voice (where to, no one knew), and the height of hilarity — the whoopee cushion. The whoopee cushion was for those who had cultivated a refined sense of humor. I’ve heard that Miss Manners has a weakness for whoopee cushion humor.

Old guys gave each other exploding cigars. If tobacco was bad for them, exploding cigars might have been good for them because it curtailed their smoking.

Those were good times. Good times change just like all other times.

Other than some wacky morning radio shows that prank call some poor souls or make-believe newspaper headlines, there isn’t much April foolishness on April 1.

Most of the extremely foolish things I hear uttered are by career politicians, but they don’t limit their verbal inanities to just one day a year. To be fair to them, no one limits such expressions to one day.

There are those who claim that we are well rid of all the goofiness and assorted shenanigans of April Fool’s Day. These are people who are lacking the gene that allows them to convulse in laughter when seeing a lemonade drinker discovering a fly in his ice cube. Jocularity at its apex.

I miss those things.

I can’t remember the last time I chuckled over some well-placed fake vomit.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.