I am 33 years old now and am not what most would call a gullible person. Over the years I have been the butt of many jokes from friends and relatives. However, it is a rare occasion that someone can truly say that I was “fooled.” I am a cynical person, so I always try to be aware if someone is trying to rip me off or make a fool out of me. Many of my friends have attempted boring prank phone calls over the years, usually involving angry customers at work or similar jokes. However, if I had to search back through the years, I would have to say that I can remember the day that I became a cynic.
April 1, 1994
I was a young man of 16 and my mother, father, and I were taking our first family trip to New York City. We had a week packed full of plans including Broadway shows, art museums, building tours, and we even had tickets to be in the audience of “Late Night With David Letterman.” Our itinerary for April 1 included a tour of the Statue of Liberty. I was most excited about this part of the trip. So early that day, my parents and I took the ferry to liberty island. The statue tour that followed was fun and informative, but it was what happened on the ferry that changed my way of thinking forever.
In order to properly explain this prank, I have to tell you about this little game that my father and I used to play. Throughout my teen years, any tine my Dad and I were in a public restroom together, we would say crude things to each other while we were urinating. Since this is an obvious breach of public restroom etiquette, we would find that the other patrons in the restroom would be made uncomfortable by our quips. For example, my father might fake a glance over at the urinal that I was using and then say something like “Wow, that’s it? You call yourself a man?” – causing other patrons to make faces, or sometimes, retreat as soon as possible. This went on literally for years and was something that my father and I always did just to be silly.
Which brings me back to the ferry. About halfway to Liberty Island, I found myself in need of the restroom. My father said that he needed to go as well. So we weren’t looking for the facilities on the ferry boat. Upon finding the restroom I entered first, assuming that my father was right behind me. The restroom had one urinal and one stall. I immediately walked up to the urinal and began to relieve myself when it occurred to me that although Dad and I were alone, there was no reason why we couldn’t say a few rude things to each other for our own entertainment. So I attempted to start the banter.
“Hey buddy, I’ve never seen anybody only shake it with two fingers before.”
Even though I could hear rustling in the stall, there was no verbal reply. Since I was still completely oblivious, I continued in spite of being ignored.
“What’s the matter pal, you’ve never seen a real man before?”
There was nothing but silence. And although I thought it seemed strange, I simply zipped up, washed my hands, and headed for the exit. Upon leaving the restroom I saw my father leaning up against the wall with the most satisfied grin on his face that I had ever seen. It took all of a millisecond for the horror to set in. My father had never entered the restroom and I was saying those rude things to a complete stranger, in a strange city, on a boat, from which there was no easy escape. So without waiting for the unknown man to exit the restroom, I retreated to the other end of the boat and tried to look inconspicuous for the rest of the trip.
Before you judge my Dad, and trust me, my Mom did, please understand that he was nearby the whole time to make sure that I was not hurt or that things did not get out of hand. I was embarrassed to no end by this prank. But I have to admit, it was pretty funny. Nearly 17 years have now gone by and I don’t think that I have visited another public restroom with my father since that fateful day. Believe me though, I have been waiting for years for a similar opportunity, and one day my Dad will reap what he has sown.
I wouldn’t say that I was “scarred” by this prank, but I can say that since that day, I have been much more aware on April Fool’s Day.