April Fool prank goes very wrong

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel

In five days, it will be that most dastardly of holidays.

It will be April 1. April Fool’s Day. The day of mischief and mayhem.

In year’s past, my community has pulled some very good pranks for April Fool’s Day.

And there have been years where the pranks have fallen flat. There have also been years where there were no pranks.

Those were disappointing years.

So I’m looking for something spectacular this year. I know there are those out there who have a mischievous little elf on their shoulder, and I’m asking them to help me out. Give me a reason to bust a gut laughing because half the town falls for something that is just close enough to possible to raise their hackles.

I’ve been involved a few decent pranks over the years, both here and elsewhere, and I hope I have time this year to get involved in another one.

I’m not into the anti-agency schtick. I don’t want to put the Blue Hole up for sale or announce the installation of a toll booth at the islands west ends.

Let’s face it. Those are so ludicrous that they aren’t believable. I get no truly horrified phone calls from such things.

And I guess that’s what I’m looking for…a prank that makes my phone ring off the hook with frantic people aghast that such a thing could happen in their town.

Some of my own pranks over the years have fallen short of that mark, but I tried.

There was one prank that would have been an absolute hoot if Murphy hadn’t intervened and made it impossible to carry out.

There was a fast-food seafood chain in a town where I used to live. They put little thought into their changeable sign messages, rarely changing them, and never seeming to notice what was on them.

For two weeks, the sign read “Fish battered daily.”

That was an open invitation for me.

I went to a friendly manager from another establishment with almost the same sign and “borrowed”some extra letters so I could add the words “You catch it-we thrash it.”

I figured every animal rights activist in four counties would be rushing their door on April 1, complaining about their practice of battering fish. Maybe I’d even get the health department to come out and cite them for serving bruised fish to customers. Hey, you never know what twisted soul will be willing to jump on the bandwagon after it leaves the garage.

So the day before I gathered my letters, laying them out carefully in the bed of my then small pickup truck. I tossed in an extension ladder so I could reach the sign and a black sweatshirt (it was a more northern climate after all and just early spring) to hide my too white face from the casual passersby.

The joint closed at 10 p.m.

The crew was gone by midnight. (I could stay up later in those days)

I set out.

I reached the scene of the prank and began unloading all my paraphernalia from the back of the truck. I had placed the “borrowed” letters in a knapsack (look that one up young folks)  that went over my shoulder on top of the sweatshirt.

I hauled out the ladder and extended it out to full size.

It didn’t reach.

Not be be stopped so easily, I backed the truck up under the sign and put the ladder in the bed. It reached. I had some emergency duct tape (after all, if you can’t fix it with duct tape) and used that to hold the ladder in position in the slippery metal bed of the truck.

Over the tailgate and up the ladder I went.

I got about 10 letters into my quest when a nondescript sedan pulled into the parking lot. To prove that the attention span of the human race hasn’t changed that drastically in the last few decades, the driver didn’t even spot me silhouetted against the white of the sign in my all-black outfit.

The interior light came on, and the driver began looking at a map. I guess he needed more space to unfurl the map (this was the days before cellphone GPS apps) and got out of the car. He unfurled the map on the hood and shone the flashlight on that to read what he needed to.

All the while, I hung precariously about 25 feet in the air on a rickety aluminum ladder, unwilling to make more noise putting fake letters up lest I draw the driver’s attention and give myself away.

He must have been really unsure where he was or where he was going because we remained in that position for the next 10 minutes or so while he perused the map.

Then it hit me. I had to pee.

Murphy had taken charge of my escapade.

Finally the sedan driver decided he had a good idea of what came next so he got back in the car, leaving the interior light on.

The local police patrol picked that particular instant, on that particular commercial strip to glance that particular direction and see this sedan in a closed establishment’s parking lot well after midnight.

And he flipped on the lights and screamed into the parking lot, facing the sign to block the other driver from making an exit.

His headlights lit me up like a neon bar sign.

I know my goose was cooked.

But neither of them saw me despite being outlined by a high-powered spotlight against the white sign face, clinging to a rickety aluminum ladder about 25 feet off the ground from the back of a bright blue pick up truck.

The officer conducted his  business, discovered that the driver was simply lost, and then they decided to have a friendly parking-lot chat.

I still had to pee. I still couldn’t move.

It was quite the animated conversation. And since time is relative when Mother Nature calls depending on how hard she calls, they might have chatted for three minutes or 30 minutes.

Finally the officer drove off, lighting me up twice with his headlights. The sedan driver pulled off as well, leaving me somewhat relieved, but not really since I still had to pee.

When they were out of sight, I shimmied quickly off the ladder, puled it down, tossed it in the back of the truck, squealed the tires charging out of the parking lot and headed to an all-night gas station to abort one of Murphy’s minions.

And I gave up. I was cold, it was approaching 1 a.m. and I had to work the next day. As I pulled away from the scene I looked in my rear-view mirror and realized the total inadequacy of my prank.

My portion of the sign read “You catch it.”

Not quite the level I was seeking. Do better my friends.

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