Ahh, April. It’s finally here — or is the warm sunshine and long-overdue melting away of a slow cold winter just a cruel April Fool’s joke?
Mark Twain said, “The first day of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” Be that as it may, I’ll bet most of us have a memorable memory of some sort of April Fool’s foolishness.
I remember one year when the rotten kids were little I told them their school (Joseph Welsh Elementary) was going to be torn down and replaced with a shopping mall. This was when they were young enough to really like their school and I managed to keep them wound up about it for most of the day.
Another April Fool’s Day, I managed to casually mention to my young son and daughter that the city was going to paint the big green water tower with a huge smiley face, to cheer everybody up.
I got a fantastically animated rise out of them for about an hour before they figured out what day it was.
Remember Ferbies? Those fuzzy teddy-bear-size toys that looked like cute gremlins and were computerized to move and talk and do silly cute things? They were all the rage years ago, like the Cabbage Patch Doll or certain Star Wars Lego sets — a must-have for every justifiably spoiled kidlet at Christmas.
Which of course, meant there was an acute world shortage of the must-have toys at exactly the wrong time.
Due to some serious detective work, bribery and properly aligned planets, both our rotten kidlets got Ferbies for Christmas that year. And the following April I had to break the bad news to them that all Ferbies had to be returned due to a serious (unspecified) defect.
They both bought it hook, line and sinker, and were ready to escape to foreign countries, taking their beloved Ferbies with them on the lam. I didn’t have the heart to keep that April Fool’s one going very long.
But, of course, karma is a two-way street. When my rotten daughter was a performer on a cruise ship. fresh out of high school, and a couple of thousand kilometres away from home, I got an urgent, emotional text message that said she had seriously injured her ankle and could no longer dance, and I would have to somehow come to Miami and bring her back immediately.
It’s a good thing I didn’t tell my Better Half before I figured out it was April Fool’s Day.
And my oldest rotten kid has gotten me back April Fool’s-wise, times 10.
Turns out, even with my advancing life-experience, I’m even more gullible than they were when they were rotten kids. But, of course, they were well trained.
But April is about much more than fools, and messy street rivers, muddy, dripping cars and muddy, dripping pets. For many, it’s a time of unprecedented stress. And this time I’m not talking about Tax Time, which certainly falls into that April anxiety category.
No, I’m talking about the weight that crushes multitudes of our college and university students. April is final exam time.
Across our educational landscape, post-secondary students are hunkered in, oblivious of the outside world or the weird weather, stressing out with last-minute term papers and assignments and studying so much that they only party four nights a week instead of the traditional six.
Although it wasn’t as bad as falling asleep during my Grade 12 Biology departmental final exam (true story, resulting in a mark of 32 per cent), I remember some excruciatingly stressful university finals.
In those days, believe it or not, you were allowed to smoke in class, and I clearly remember the exam room completely enveloped in a dense fog. These were two-hour exams, and smokers used to carry little portable ashtrays with lids on them that would sit on the desk.
By the end of the first hour, everyone in the room had involuntarily inhaled about three packs, and the exam papers were already stained nicotine brown from the thick toxic tar hanging in the air like syrup.
But one of my worst final exam experiences, started out with a bang. A big bang.
While on the way to my English 310 final, roaring along in my $100 Ford station wagon studentmobile with a head crammed with an entire term’s worth of literature, a van blew through a red light and T-boned the passenger side of my car.
It sounded and felt like a nuclear explosion, and when my crushed Ford spun around and finally came to a stop, I was facing the wrong way on the wrong side of the road, and the entire night’s worth of course cramming had been knocked completely out of my noggin.
Long story short, I managed to get to the exam on time by talking the tow truck driver into dropping me off at the college, and wrote a 10-page exam with my hands shaking so much even I couldn’t read my own writing.
The kicker? It turned out that that English exam was my highest mark of the year. The prof obviously couldn’t accurately read my writing either.
But that’s April for you. A foolish, unpredictable, stressful month if there ever was one. But April is also supposed to be springtime, and springtime is a time to enjoy renewal, rebirth and really deep puddles.
As Bill Shakespeare once quoth: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”
And what with Tax Time, Final Exams, the 2011 Wacky Weather Phenomenon, and all of the April Fool’s foolishness, having a “spirit of youth” this month might be a pretty good idea.
Or, put another way, there’s a Japanese proverb that says it all: “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”
Harley Hay is a local April Fool’s prankster, freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.