Did You Get Pranked?
April Fools’ – It’s the one day of the year where businesses across the country dread the excuse given to the office joker to unleash havoc.
Fake telephone conferences with the local sandwich shop have to be met with tight-lipped smiles and due to the unfathomable social contract of the day, irritating pranks must be accepted with good grace.
If like most, the thought of the office prankster having unfettered reign for one day fills you with dread, then just know you are in good company.
The tradition of April Fools’ dates back centuries, possibly even to the Roman festival of Hilaria, with good documentation of the tradition found from 16th Century European writing.
The first English reference is from the writer John Aubrey who in 1698 referred to April 1st as Fooles holy day and in 1698 numerous people were tricked into visiting the Tower of London to see the lions washed – setting the irritation level that would plague us for the next three hundred odd years.
The Spaghetti Harvest
There have of course been some benchmark pranks that have left their mark on the British public, lasting longer than the somewhat unsophisticated staples of switching salt for sugar and convincing apprentices to visit hardware stores to collect sky hooks and tartan paint.
In 1957, the BBC screened a segment during Panorama of the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees leading to the BBC being deluged with interested viewers requesting information on how to grow their own spaghetti trees, a fabulous insight into the innocence and sheltered world of the viewing public at the time.
In 1965, those pranksters at the BBC were back at it once again, this time telling the viewing public they were trialing new technology to transmit odour over the airwaves prompting thousands of viewers to contact the BBC to report the success of the experiment, a prank repeated by Google in 2013.
The Netherlands broadcaster NTS warned their viewers in a 1969 April Fools’ prank that special vans would be patrolling the streets to capture those who had not paid their TV or radio tax and the only way to defeat the scanners was to wrap their TV’s and radios in aluminium foil, resulting in aluminium foil being completely sold out across the country and a massive rise in the tax being paid.
However, not all broadcasters have run successful April Fools’ segments.
In 1980, Boston station WNAC-TV aired a bulletin reporting of the eruption of Great Blue Hill in Milton, Massachusetts – splicing in segments of an earlier volcanic eruption in Mount St. Helens and remarks by then President Jimmy Carter sent the residents of Milton into a mass panic, fleeing their homes and inundating both the police department and civil defence agency.
The telephone conference calls that followed reached the highest level of government and ended with the station forced to make a humbling apology and the executive producer of the news looking for new employment.
It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, not knowing if the conference call you’ve been called into is going to be genuine or not, if your food is a potential target or whether that new client you’ve been asked to call is in fact called Sandy Beeche or yet another hilarious prank you will have to smile graciously at – just remember, at least it only lasts for one day!