You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
— Abraham Lincoln
On Facebook this morning a video popped up in my feed that made me laugh out loud … it was lucky I didn’t have a mouthful of coffee at the time or my husband would have ended up wearing it.
The title of the video was Woman Pranks Her Husband. The prank involved a coin and an open plastic bottle filled with water. The coin was placed under the bottle, which was then covered with a towel. ‘Magic’ words were said with the idea being the coin would end up inside the bottle. When the towel was removed the woman looked into the top of the bottle, saying the magic had worked and inviting her husband to look into the top of the bottle too — which he did. If you can’t figure out what happened next, feel free to come over here and I’ll show you. Alternatively, watch the video (link above).
A good practical joke can be a thing of beauty.
I am aware Abraham Lincoln was not referring to the fine art of practical joking or pranking in his quote above, but it works equally as well for my purpose.
My father was a skilled practical joker, as were many of the blokes he worked with.
My favourite story from Dad’s workdays is as follows (I have forgotten the guy’s name, so will call him Kev):
Dad worked for a firm that made ductwork for air-conditioning units. Part of his job was as the ‘truck driver’ delivering the ductwork to various building sites. He was one of the only employees licensed to drive the semi-trailers required to transport the product.
One morning there was a big delivery order. Everything was loaded on the back of the semi, so Dad jumped into the cabin … only to be confronted by metres and metres of thick rope round around and around the truck’s steering wheel, gear stick and hand brake.
This practical joke could not be left to lie without some sort of payback so, a few week’s later Kev, the instigator of ‘ropegate’ and employee in charge of the forklift, arrived at work ready to jump into the forklift to start moving materials around (or whatever you do with a forklift). He opened the shed — empty, no forklift. Several minutes were spent looking for it. Eventually he found it, sitting proudly in the semi-trailer’s locked transport cage. Dad had the only key and was out in one of the other trucks that day. He had also locked the ramp up with the forklift for good measure.
Dad used to ‘put shit’ on people all the time. It was never malicious, hurtful or dangerous, and he could ‘take shit’ just as well as he could give it.
My grandfather was also a master of practical jokes. As a kid, growing up in Canberra, Pop and his mates would throw hessian bags over the top of chimneys, smoking out the adults inside playing poker; sometimes, for effect, they would find a nice fresh cowpat first and place it on the doorstep, ready and waiting for the adults as they fled from the smoking chimney.
Pop was also in the army; ‘biggest bunch of stirrers you could ever meet’ apparently. One of his favourite ‘tricks’ was to kick under the foot of his mate marching in front of him, sending his foot flying out in front, putting him out of step (and potentially in trouble). He taught me how to do that; a trick I still use now. Sometimes it backfires though; I have suffered many a bruised toe because of a mis-kick. That, in itself, is funny.
Dad and Pop always used to emphasise the importance of choosing your target carefully. Some people are just so gullible; they fall for everything and, in the long run, are no fun to pull a joke on because they don’t get it anyway. Others are so alert and aware, they are suspicious of everything; they’re no fun either. The best people are the ones who usually fall for it, but not always. At all times, they used to warn me, watch out for the precious person who will be upset or angry afterwards; they are not worth it.
Sadly though, it appears the presence of the practical joke in the Australian workplace is dying out — people are oh-so-serious these days.
What our society needs is a good belly laugh now and then, and to regain the ability to laugh at themselves and with others.