01 April, 2006

No foolin'

Given this has been posted after midday, everything you're about to read can be taken as solemn truth. Well, hopefully not too solemn. But it's 100% safely fool-free, if not totally foolproof.

I mention this for the simple reason that I have fallen afoul of this ostensibly rigid midday cut-off before. Quite where this "rule" about when you can and can't "fool" on 1st April came from is conveniently shrouded in mystery. But I didn't think it important when, in my previous job, I decided to continue a tradition started by my predecessor and write a totally bogus news story for the home page of one of the company's websites.

The substance of the story was, of course, just the right side of preposterous to confound the gullible and to entertain the self-aware - the latter of which I assumed to be in the majority. But as it turned out this latter did not contain a couple of well-known national magazines who, after the story appeared online, rang up the publicity department of the company wanting to know all the details concerning where and when the fictious event about which I'd written was due to take place. And wanted to know right away, for they were looking to run with the story forthwith.

Now I hadn't told publicity what I was up to, for the simple reason I couldn't be arsed. And because they never told me what they were up to, which as far as I could see was their job. And besides, they of all people should have been able to see through the tissue of lies in which my story was neatly wrapped. But no. I was wrong. Rather than dismiss the enquiries, the publicity department, the stupidest people in the world (fact), fussed and flapped and promised to ring the magazines back with "an official line" and "an explanation" concerning the story and the television programme to which it referred.

They then rang me up and started chuntering on about what the hell I was doing peddling these sorts of untruths online and why they hadn't been informed and what precisely did I think they would now have to tell these national magazines. Well, on the last point I had no intention of doing their job for them. They were the publicity department after all. But as for the rest of it, I was overwhelmed with utter despair. I really couldn't be dealing with that kind of joyless pedantry.

Nonetheless I politely drew their attention to the date. And the day. And how when you combined the date and the day you came up with 1st April.

"Oh yes," they replied, "I see. But look, it's after midday, and you know you really should have taken it off the website now. Because after midday, it's wrong. You can't fool after midday. Because then the fool is on you. You're the fool."

They actually said that to me. They actually called me a fool. So out of spite I left the story up online for the whole day, regardless of etiquette and convention and manners. I just wanted to wind up both they, and those dimwitted magazines, even further.

Nothing came of the whole affair. Well, the publicity team were never likely to call more attention to their incompetence by pursuing the issue or referring it to a higher level. Aside from this one incident, though, I've never gone in for, or had done to me, anything in the way of April Fools. The closest I came to personally identifying with the day came in a diary entry from somewhere in the wilderness of my adolescence and which began "April 1st. A day for me: a fool." Ahem.

Anyway, unsurprisingly nothing was planned at my new place of work to commemorate April Fool's Day. But as a footnote to the above tale, when I think of it, I actually NEVER took that original offending story offline. It's still there. Right now. You can take a look for yourself, if you want. There are enough clues scattered through this site for anyone so inclined to work out which company and which programme and hence which website I'm talking about. That's the truth - and in the words of Homer Simpson, no foolin'.


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