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Pins And Needles: April Fish And Left-handed Whoppers

Gloria MacKay offers a seriously enjoyable article for this non-serious day.

Mark Twain defines April first as the day we are reminded of what we are the other three hundred and sixty-four. Along the same lines, another streetwise American, Will Rogers, complains that the trouble with practical jokes is very often they get elected.

April Fool’s Day was a tradition long before America happened along. In Europe, until the middle of the sixteenth century, the beginning of April was not just a heyday for jokesters, but the end of a week long new year celebration. Yes, New Year. When Pope Gregory decided to redo the calendar, New Year’s Day landed on January first. Not a problem, except for the French; here some folks continued to celebrate the new year in April, claiming they hadn’t received their new calendars or they forgot, or they simply refused to change their ways. In return, these recalcitrants were given silly gifts, invitations to nonexistent parties, and referred to as April Fish; French children today still run around secretly taping paper fish to the backslides of their friends. However, the classic 'Kick Me' sign on someone's backside most likely started in Scotland.

In England, traditionally, jokes are supposed to be played only in the morning; if zealous tricksters persist after noon their victims sing out, 'April fool's day is past and gone. You are the fool and I am none.' One of the classic April Fool capers—the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest of 1957—was immortalized by the British Broadcasting Company who announced on a news program that the Swiss were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop thanks to the demise of the dreaded spaghetti weevil. After watching Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees, viewers called wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC responded with typical British restraint. They should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

Even in America, big business has a sense of humor, at least one day a year. Being that the two Steves, Wozniak and Jobs, formed their Apple Computer Company on April Fool's Day 1976, it should come as no surprise the following press release was issued on April first 1992:

Apple Computer, Inc. made a major addition to the software that runs the Macintosh computer today with the release of the Caffeine Manager, an extension to System 7.0 that allows all Macintosh computers to interface cleanly and easily with such devices as coffee percolators and soda machines ... Available immediately from Apple’s DTS (Drink The Soda) department is a plug-and-play interface to Mr. Coffee machines and clones as well as a network containing soft drink vending machines available from a desktop, all with the familiar Macintosh mouse-driven interface. The statement concludes, "Apple Computer, founded fifteen years ago today, is one of the world's major consumers of Mountain Dew.

Not to be out-jested by techies, in 1998 Burger King introduced their newly designed Left Handed WHOPPER®. The trademark build of lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup and 4-ounce flame broiled hamburger patty, has been reengineered to fit more comfortably in the left hand, by rotating all condiments 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk will skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger.

In a subsequent admission that this was a hoax, Burger King noted that thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to order the new sandwich, some even requesting their own 'right handed' version.

On April first, 1992 America's National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation program announced that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again, and that his new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Only when enraged listeners flooded the show with calls did NPR confess the voice was really that of comedian Rich Little.

Four Aprils later, Taco Bell (a fast food Mexican restaurant) announced it had bought the Liberty Bell from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. When White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale, he added that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold, though to a different corporation, and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial. It took a retraction to quell the outrage.

Nobel prize winner Anatole France (from the land of "April fish") reminds us, "If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." He’s right, of course, but for one day a year what harm can it do to bow to the Japanese way of thinking. "We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."


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