April Fools’ Day jokes gone wrong are one reason many New Yorkers plan to go easy on the gags this April 1.
Lise Keeney, 28, still regrets the April Fools’ Day prank she pulled at age 17, refilling Oreos with an icky mix of water, salt and baking soda she then offered to friends. Her best friend gobbled an entire cookie – and then ran to the rest room to vomit.
“It was like an exorcism. The way the school nurse put it was – you know how you make those volcanos with baking soda and vinegar in science class? Her stomach acid was the vinegar...It was horrible and I still feel terrible,” about having made someone so sick, said Keeney, a publicist who lives in Harlem.
New Yorkers don’t suffer fools gladly - and many workers aware of litigation possibilities don’t have the time or inclination for the nonsense associated with April Fools’ Day, said Sydney Moshette, 45, who lives in Floral Park. Moshette said the holiday is dying a deserved death because there is no social pressure to participate in shenanigans as there is, say, to honor Valentine’s Day.
“If you don’t plan for that, there are consequences,” noted the married accountant.
Conversely, no one is likely to kvetch on April 2 if you did not tie their shoe laces together while they were napping or failed to redirect their computer home page to a Rick Astley video.
Too, some New Yorkers are still smarting from April Fools’ Day stunts that hurt.
Actor and bike messenger Eddie Robinson, 32, can never forget walking into his kitchen as a 9-year-old boy and seeing his beloved uncle on the floor, covered with blood with a bloody knife nearby. “He pretended he was dead,” and only popped up to carol “April Fools!” as Robinson was tearing up and family members grabbed the phone to call 911. His uncle died (for real) in 2010 and Robinson couldn’t help but think that the man who “was like a second father to me” might be resurrected again.
“He went for the jugular and it worked,” recalled the Crown Heights resident, but “pranks dealing with death are bad pranks.”
Similarly, Lucien Codner, 52, an MTA collecting agent who lives in Flatbush, was not thrilled when a family member called him on April Fool’s Day a couple years ago to announce, “your father has gone back to Jamaica!”
“Why would he go back to Jamaica and not let me know?” gasped Codner, who spent two hours trying to track down his missing dad, his puzzlement amplifying along with his anxiety.
“I don’t have time for that!” said Codner, who would be happy if no one celebrated the day of mischief.
New Yorkers are sitting ducks for such hoaxes because “we’re so busy, we don’t even have time” to realize it IS April Fools’ Day, he explained.
While everyone thinks they have a sense of humor, what one person finds hilarious another person may deem insensitive or offensive – especially if the joke is at their expense.
Stunts seen as amusing by pranksters can be interpreted as threatening or mean-spirited, noted Dr. Janice D. Yoder, a social psychologist and research professor at Kent State who has written about pranks in the work place. Pranks that emphasize “the target’s difference and exclusion,” or which are seen as deliberately hurtful, can be interpreted as telling their target they aren’t wanted, she said.
“Pranks have become performance art,” as a result of social media and sometimes outrageous stunts such as those depicted on “Punk’d,” “Jackass” and YouTube videos, said Juan Olmedo, a Union Square psychotherapist who yearns for the days of wittier, innocent jests such as those on “Candid Camera.”
“You really have to know who you’re pranking: You get a much better laugh if it’s something they enjoy,” Olmedo said.
It’s never cool to pull pranks that involve a threat to health or safety, or engage in shenanigans that might be humiliating or hurtful to someone, Olmedo said.
Perhaps New Yorkers are making progress in that regard: While a spokeswoman for the NYPD could not say if false 911 reports on April 1 were a problem because “we don’t track to that level of specificity,” an FDNY spokesman said the Department sees “no uptick in false alarms on April Fools’ Day.”