I’ve never really thought of myself as gullible. In fact, I’m one who over-analyzes, questions everything, and NEVER shoots from the hip with a knee-jerk reaction. If something is questionable, I sense it more than know it and that kick starts the whole “think-everything-to-death” process. That, in turn, means that I am rarely surprised or fooled by much of anything.
It was the morning of April 1st quite a few years ago now. My son was about seven years old and we were going through the motions of a typical school morning routine. He was dragging his feet. I was flying around like a chicken with its head cut off fussing about his being late and risking missing the bus, which in turn would make me late for work and classes of my own.
As always, the radio was on with my favorite, local station so as to listen to weather, the latest news, and some tunes to start the day. Nothing out of the ordinary. Smart phones didn’t exist. Neither did tablets and the internet was something one dialed into and waited fifteen minutes for a connection.
Suddenly, there was a break in the song and an official announcement:
“We interrupt our program with the following news. It has been brought to our attention that a malfunction in the space shuttle has disrupted scheduled plans and it has been diverted to our local airport for landing. It is anticipated that touch down will take place in approximately forty-five minutes. Local air space is being cleared as we speak, as is everything around the runway. Because of its size, the shuttle will be clearly visible to local residents and it will be an historic event to observe.”
First, you need to understand that we were living on campus less than a mile from the runway and on a hill that put us in a very good position to observe just about anything coming and going from the airport. I ran to my kitchen window in anticipation, thinking I would see military fighters and a flurry of activity in preparation for this grand event. Nothing. Okay, well, the announcement did say that it would be another forty-five minutes.
Secondly, what an absolutely AMAZING opportunity for my little guy! He was going to see the space shuttle land – up close and personal! OF COURSE I was going to load him in the car and drive down to a point closer so we could see it even better. I know I was screeching by now for him to hurry so we wouldn’t miss a single moment of the excitement as I quickly wrote an excuse to take to school in order to explain why he was tardy. I was sure there would be no questioning because so many other parents would be grabbing their kiddos and making a dash for the airport too.
Thirdly, I was, at the time, studying to be an educator myself. This was going to be such a wonderful asset to my teaching repertoire – something I could use as an additional instructional tool – a first-hand view of an event that was part of NASA’s shuttle program and America’s race to space.
How exciting! This was going to be amazing!
Finally, we were ready and heading out the door. At the last minute I thought that maybe I should call my mother and make sure she knew. She worked on campus and her office was only a few hundred yards from our house. Maybe they hadn’t had the radio on to hear the news. It would be a shame if they missed it. A quick call would only take a minute more.
“Hey, Mom – did you guys hear? I wasn’t sure if the news had reached everyone over there. It’s really exciting! I’m taking John down to the field at the end of the runway to watch and then I’ll drop him at school. I’ve got my camera and we’re just leaving now.”
“Hello? Did you hear what I said? The Space Shuttle has been diverted and is landing at OUR airport in about forty-five minutes! It was on the radio and I just wanted to be sure you knew so you wouldn’t miss it.”
I heard a small snicker on the other end of the line.
“What’s so funny?”
I then heard the undeniable sound of someone placing a hand over the phone, a quick exchange of words, and muted voices howling in laughter. I was confused.
“Julie, what’s today?”
“No, I mean what’s the date?”
I spun around to the calendar to be met with the glaring reality of my idiocy. Not only was it Tuesday, but it was Tuesday, April the 1st – April Fool’s Day!
After my laughing hysterically mother and her guffawing coworkers hung up on me, I attempted to gather my wits and legitimize my actions.
I could not. I had been had, plain and simple, and there was no attempting to justify it otherwise. All that was left was to suck it up and take the ribbing that was sure to come. Sigh…
First, I made a bee-line to the elementary school in an effort to try and minimize any explanation I would have to give in the office. I was going over and over in my head what I would say and how I would say it so that I wouldn’t be characterized as the village “crazy lady” who makes up stories about aliens and flying monkeys. It also didn’t help to know that these were the people with whom I would be teaching in a few short months. Luck was with me, however, and while we did miss the bus, I got him to school before the final bell and so no “excuse” was necessary. Whew!
On my way to work and class, I had the radio on in the car. What a hootin good time they were having. Apparently, their April Fool’s joke had been a big hit. I’m not sure if that made me feel better or worse. After all, a fool’s a fool.
I was talking to myself. (I do that when I have to work something out in my head.) “Girl, you are thirty-one years old! You have a clear head on your shoulders and are not known to lose it to the inane . What in the world were you thinking?!?!”
More crickets… Myself didn’t answer.
Had I been learned at the time with regard to the logistics and scientific nature of the station’s claim, I would not have fallen so easily. I’d like to think that I would’ve, at the very least, had the presence of mind to question the whole thing. If anything, my gullibility has increased my knowledge exponentially about the shuttle and our airport. (yeah, we’ll run with that)
You see, even though our airport carries the title of “International,” it is, frankly, a little po-dunk plot of land that runs along the Susquehanna River and is woefully inadequate for the likes of a space shuttle. While there are international flights coming and going, it is a training facility for the National Guard, transport for the likes of Fedex and UPS, a hopping off point for a pair of antiquated A-10s, and a practice pattern for Air Force One. No space shuttles allowed.
My now husband (the Navy pilot) still laughs hysterically when I tell him this story. He can! He gets it! He knows that space shuttles can’t land at little airports – even if they are called international. He knows that shuttles require huge amounts of land (as in vast deserts) away from civilization to safely touch down no matter the reason. He knows that shuttles are not like planes in the sense that they can’t be diverted somewhere else just because. I didn’t, but, well, I sure do now.
I can say that I was teased mercilessly for a long time following that day. And, rightfully so. I fell for it, lock, stock, and barrel and, had I not made that phone call, it would’ve been a lot worse! (I can still imagine me standing in the principal’s office trying to explain that my son was late because I was the victim of an April Fool’s joke or explaining to airport officials why I was parked in the middle of the field waiting for NASA’s space shuttle to arrive.)
In the end, all I can say is “kudos” to the radio station for pulling a real humdinger on me. It doesn’t happen very often that I fall into the trap, but this time I did – boy, did I ever.
Fun is good for the soul. Jokes keep us smiling. Laughter at oneself is both humbling and healing. A clever radio station with a silly premise. A half-awake, busy Mom who heard it and took the bait. A good laugh that still brings a smile and a shaking of the head after all these years. Laughter is still the best medicine and I’m okay with the memory of having been an April Fool.
God has given me cause to laugh, and all who hear of it will laugh with me — Genesis 21:6