I don’t care much for April Fools’ Day. I think it’s a little juvenile, frankly, and so I don’t participate – not as a trickster and not as a fool (if I can help it). So there’s no gotcha waiting to get you at the end of this post. Really.
But I’ll tell you two true stories about April Fools’ Day, once when I was the trickster and once when I was the fool.
I have no memory of this first story. I’ve heard it a number of times, though, and I trust the source. My mother tells me that when I was four (maybe five; I forget), someone explained the whole April Fools’ concept to me. Being a juvenile, I thought it sounded pretty cool, and I announced that I would be putting salt in the sugar bowl by way of joining in the fun.
I was a very good child and my parents just chuckled, being certain I would do no such thing. Until Dad had a bowl of cereal on the stated morning. He just looked up at Mom and smiled and said, “He did it.”
Years pass. I go to a small Midwestern university (“Little College on the Prairie,” as one friend memorably called it — hi, Wayne). My roommate, Bryan, and I were attending our thrice-weekly astronomy class. It was in one of the larger lecture rooms as it was pretty popular. The professor was a nice guy. I liked him. He wasn’t scintillating or dynamic, but he was a good teacher. And he always started his lecture with a cartoon on the subject.
One morning he comes in with a newspaper folded to an inside story. And he consults it occasionally as he tells us that astronomers have discovered a star that’s blue-shifted.
A (very) little science here: All the stars in the universe are traveling away from us, so when you look at a spectrograph of their light, it’s shifted toward the red end of the scale. It just is. Google it if you want details.
So the prof is telling us that a star has been discovered whose light is shifted toward the blue end of the spectrum, meaning it’s coming in our direction. He continues with this for a few minutes, and we are literally on the edges of our respective seats with excitement.
And then he says, “No, this is just Ann Landers. And it’s April 1st.”
I’m pretty sure anyone walking by the building heard our collective groan. We had all been suckered in. We all eventually got diplomas, too, for whatever that might mean to you.
Despite my disappointment, I was impressed. I didn’t think he had it in him. Of course, after that I took a lot of what he said about nebulae with a grain of salt.