In Like a Lion and Out Like a Practical Joke

It’s a beautiful spring morning and a coworker shows up at work with a box of doughnuts to celebrate. Isn’t that nice! You take a big bite out of one and discover it’s filled. You love filled doughnuts—except when they’re filled with mayonnaise. April Fools’!

     Whose idea was it to dedicate an entire day to practical jokes anyway? There are no other holidays designated specifically for bad behavior—except maybe New Year’s Eve. Some blame the Romans. Some blame the Celts. Some blame the adoption of the Gregorian calendar and the ensuing change of the New Year. But I think April Fools’ pranks have been around as long as April has been around—even as long as seasons have been around. Spring weather is Mother Nature’s equivalent of pouring a bag of Skittles into a bowl of M&Ms.

     After a long cold winter, you walk outside one beautiful morning and say, “Spring is here.” And the next day, you slip on the freezing rain. April Fools’! That’s how spring is. It’s here! No, it’s not. Yes, it is. No, it’s not. March is in like a lion and out like a lamb. Then the lion comes back and chases the lamb around until the lamb goes into hiding for a few days.

     Spring has been making fools of human beings—and lambs—since time began, and humans have followed suit. Luckily, we confine our tricks to one day. Civilization couldn’t survive an entire season of mayonnaise in our doughnuts and thumbtacks on our office chairs.

     I’ve endured a few April Fools’ Day pranks in my life. There was the fake fire alarm that got me out of the shower with the shampoo still in my hair. And there was the false claim that I had a flat tire, which caused me to panic unnecessarily. I retaliated by telling the prankster she had spinach in her teeth. She might have fallen for it too, were it not for the fact that she hadn’t eaten spinach in a good long while. It was the best I could do on short notice.

     Spring weather has played far worse tricks on me. There are springs I’m forced to use my umbrella and my snow shovel in the same week, and run my air conditioner and my heater on the same day, and eat ice cream and soup in the same meal. Actually nothing forces me to do that. I do it of my own free will, and not just in the spring.     

     Many a cool spring morning, I ransack my house looking for a jacket—any jacket—and find none. I finally have to do without. I get to work cold and late, only to find the jacket and three others hanging on the back of my office door, right where I left them yesterday because it was too warm to wear one when I went home. The jokes on me.

     In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Or so said poet Alfred Tennyson. A middle-aged woman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of spring sweaters and cropped pants, which isn’t nearly as poetic. Either way, it all has to wait until the shoveling is done.

     Despite it all, spring is still my favorite season—except in the fall when fall is my favorite season. And autumn has one big advantage over spring; there’s no October Fools’ Day.