April Fools’ Day – it’s one of my favorite days of the year, and I try to celebrate it by pulling off a prank that may trick a few people.
Last year I tried to convince my students that Anna Kendrick and Ben Affleck were coming to Villanova to film a scene for the movie, The Accountant, and the producers had asked me to get some students to volunteer to sit in on a class that Anna and Ben would be part of. It seems like a few students fell for it, so in my book, it was a successful prank.
And here is my prank from 2015, which involved telling my students I had to change the grading scheme for my class because of a “scathing letter” from the Dean. As a result of the change there was a limit on how many students could receive an “A”, and I had to assign at least 10% of the class an “F”.
This year I did not try to trick my students, but opted instead to try to get some of my neighbors, using the great site, Nextdoor.com.
One of the more popular uses of the site is asking for suggestions for various home repair and remodeling contractors, so I thought I would try something in this category.
Here is the message I posted:
I have the opportunity to teach a class at NYU in the Fall, but unfortunately it meets the same two days I teach my classes at Villanova. However, NYU has told me that it would be willing to send a helicopter to pick me up each day so that I could make it to NYU in time, and to make it even easier, would even split the cost of putting a helipad in my backyard.
I’ve checked all the Radnor Township regs, and I did not see anything that would prevent having a helipad in a residential neighborhood. I’ve also checked the minimum size requirements, and there are helipads small enough that could fit in my backyard.
So I am looking for a contractor that is capable of building a helipad sometime this summer.
Thank you for your help.
I even posted a picture of a helicopter to accompany the message.
I actually thought of this prank several months ago, and I couldn’t wait until yesterday to try it out.
Well, it’s hard to say how successful it was.
Some people replied with funny comments of their own, several people liked it (at least the Nextdoor version of a like), and fortunately, a few people (three actually) seemed to be fooled by it.
One person shared the name of a contractor which he highly recommended. Another person commented, “Guess I know why college is so expensive” (I’m not really sure if he was serious or trying to be funny, but I’m going to count his comment in the category of being pranked). And one other person asked if this was an April Fools’ Day joke.
The message was sent to almost 3,000 people in the surrounding neighborhoods, but there’s no way of knowing how many people actually read it. And of the people who did read it, I wonder how many people thought the message (or its sender) was:
- too obvious a prank
- kind of funny
- outrageous; someone would dare to build a helipad in their backyard (this was the response I was really hoping for)
It probably didn’t help that the first response to the message was “Happy April Fools’ Day – good one.” That probably took away some of the potential outrage that I was hoping would ensue.
But perhaps what I was most grateful about is that no one picked up the more subtle April Fools’ Day joke inside the message. I was worried that someone might say, “I knew it was a joke as soon as I read that NYU had invited you to teach a course.”
And that person would have been right; in reality there’s probably a better chance that I could get a helipad built in my backyard than ever being invited to teach at NYU.
Anyway, I’ve already started trying to think of something for next year.
In the meantime, here are a few other April Fools’ Day pranks, including, of course, Google’s annual offering:
- Russia’s alleged foreign ministry shared “a new answering machine for Russian diplomatic missions abroad” in a dummy Facebook posting. “To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent, press 1,” the fake switchboard message suggests. Your other options? “Press 2 to use the services of Russian hackers”, or 3 “to request election interference. (the English version starts at about 28 seconds.
- Google introduced its Google Gnome, with the tagline, “The smart yard has finally arrived — Meet Google Gnome. See how Gnome can transform your yard.”
- Google also introduced Google Play for Pets, Google Wind and Google VR.
- Zappos, in a move designed to prevent package theft, revealed the world’s first ever unstealable box.
- IKEA introduced Bigland, an adult playground with a bar and a Swedish massage station.
- Virgin Atlantic introduced the Dreambird 1417, a new aircraft that flaps its wings like a bird.
- And another airline, Emirates Airlines unveiled plans for the world’s largest commercial aircraft. The triple-decker APR001 includes a swimming pool, games room, gym & park.
And Adweek has kindly compiled a long list of all the corporate April Fools’ Day pranks it could find.
It seems like I’m not the only one who like a good prank…