Weaving the tangled web of deception: confessions of an April fool
Well, it's the morning after (or, rather, the afternoon after). And in the sober light of a non-April Fool's Day, as I reflect back on my little prank of yesterday, I'm chastened. Chastened, but still a neo-neocon.
I had no idea so many people might think, even for a moment, that yesterday's post was true. I feel a tiny tiny bit like Orson Welles after his "War of the Worlds" radio show stunt.
When I was quite young, my mother had told me all about Welles's hoax, which she vividly remembered. Welles asserted he had never meant to fool anyone into thinking the Martians had actually landed. And in fact there were disclaimers at the beginning of the show and at an intermission, but (at least according to my mother) most people missed the beginning because they were listening to the end of another very popular radio program (if memory serves me, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy). And later, people were too panicked to hear:
Welles had no idea of the consequences of this seemingly innocuous choice of entertainment. The play used the names of actual places well known to most, especially those on the east cost, and was set in current time with its use of apparent live and remote announcers in the field,; tales of fiery meteors falling to the earth... of strange metallic cylinders embedded in the ground emitting unearthly noises and the subsequent uprising of monstrous, mechanized Martian war machines bent on world conquest. The play became all too real for hundreds of thousands of Americans who were apparently glued to their radios aghast. Whether they missed the introduction and the intermission, both of which stated plainly that what was being broadcast was merely a radio-play, or whether holiday spirits enhanced the naturally alarming elements of something dreadful and terrifying coming from another world... we'll never really know. But it became known as the night that panicked America.
As I said, I only feel a little bit like Welles. And, speaking of which--at the time of the Halloween hoax, Welles was only a little bit like the Welles he later became. Take a look:
Definitely--most definitely!--hotter than John Dean of Watergate times.
I had another "interesting" April Fool's experience yesterday. I was at the customer service counter ( a somewhat Orwellian designation, in this case) of a major chain store that will remain nameless. I was having one of those experiences I often have there, in which something that was supposed to have been put on hold was nowhere to be found. While I waited, and waited, another employee was dealing with the somewhat easier business of a youngish man next to me. The customer seemed a trifle spacey; he seemed to think it was Friday, not Saturday. The clerk told him what day it actually was, and added--with a great big smile--"And don't forget to set your clocks forward tonight!"
Now, I'd somehow missed the fact that it was time to reset the clocks again (how, I don't know; perhaps I'm the space shot). But because of the clerk's huge smile (I even imagined I'd seen him wink conspiratorially), I was sure it was an April Fool's joke.
This placed me in an uncomfortable ethical dilemma. Should I remain silent, let the prank stand, and allow this poor young man to go home, set his clock ahead, and bear the consequences? Or was it my duty to be a party pooper and to warn him that his leg was being pulled?
Ah, the stresses of trying to live the moral life. I mulled the quandary over a while, deciding to remain silent, but after a few minutes more of guilt (that poor man! He'd wake up tomorrow and he'd miss church, or brunch with his mother, or whatever, and it would be my fault, all my fault!) I could take it no more. I blurted out that it was April Fool's Day, and added that it was not the day to change the clocks; that that had been a joke. This time the clerk looked at me with a big, broad smile (no doubt thinking that I had decided to make a rather clever and convoluted April Fool's joke). Transaction over.
I went home that evening feeling the warm glow of self-righteousness. Duty had called, and I had not shirked it. I had saved that young man from the dire consequences of the cruel hoax the clerk had been trying to play on him. And I basked in that warm glow of the doer of the good deed, right up until late that night when I turned on the TV and discovered that it was in fact time to set the clocks forward--and felt myself to be quite the April fool, indeed.
Glad it's the 2nd.