April Fool’s day is one of my favorite holidays. I love to surprise people with unexpected twists, jokes and tricks. I don’t mean anything cruel or hurtful or potentially harmful. Just things to make them smile and laugh, or stay confused and bewildered for a while before realizing it was me the whole time. I like to send mystery packages or flowers to friends and see who they think they’ve come from. Or slowly move everything in their bedroom an inch or so to the left just to throw them off. However, my favorite prank, if you’d like to call it that, took place not just over the course of a day, but over a few months.
It was right before Christmas in 2012, and my friend Ross and I were sitting in my living room doing some work. My roommate Austin walked in with a package and a letter from his grandparents. He always had mail from some relative, usually with holiday themed socks and at least two gallon size Ziploc bags of cookies. Poor Ross never received any mail apart from the online orders he made himself. He loved when Austin would get these packages, although I could tell he really wished they were for him instead of Austin. So I decided to send him a holiday card signed with some random name and a little note saying they wished he would have a very Merry Christmas.
Ross came back a week later to show us the mysterious postcard he’d received in the mail. After all, who the hell were Richie and Donna? Why did they want to wish him a happy anything? He didn’t know them or their two kids. We all laughed, confused as to who these people could possibly be, but the excited look on Ross’s face told me he found the postcard to be more than just amusing. He had really enjoyed getting mail from someone other than Amazon. So the game began.
The next day I asked a friend to write a postcard for me. I’d dictate and she just needed to write it out. Richie and Donna were thrilled to be going to New York for New Year’s and Ross needed to know about it, but what he didn’t need to know was who was writing them. You see I was worried he would recognize my handwriting. I walked into town and put the post card in a mailbox. I did this 2 more times in January, telling Ross all about their holiday in New York City and Richie’s promotion at work. Each time he received a post card he became more and more confused, and yet intrigued by Richie and Donna’s lives. I liked when Ross would bring the postcards over and everyone would sit around and try to come up with just who these people might be. Then things got a little out of hand.
I began going to coffee shops and bistros further and further away and asking people to write the postcards for me. I got a lot of bizarre looks and many people probably thought I was running from the law or in some sort of protection program. I didn’t feel like explaining this was all a stupid prank for my mail deprived friend, so I made things up and even bought a couple people coffee just so they would agree to write about Donna’s new recipe and the family’s ever imminent trip to visit Ross. I had entirely too much time on my hands.
On days off, I’d drive up the coast just so I could use a different mailbox from the time before, as Ross had begun to notice the area codes repeating. I began to think up more and more ridiculous story lines for Richie and Donna and their unfortunate children. Donna’s hairdresser had accidentally dyed her hair blue and the babysitter had decided to elope with the milkman, leaving the family without childcare services or calcium. Clearly I was in dire need of a more normal hobby, but I kept sending the postcards anyway.
Come June poor Richie and Donna had spent the trip money intended for their visit to Ross on hiring an exorcist to expel the ghosts from their attic. Ross seemed somewhat disappointed that they wouldn’t be visiting, until Austin reminded him that these people were complete strangers whose handwritings were oddly inconsistent and who seemed a little off the deep end. Still, Ross was worried for his imaginary friends/relatives and wished they would remember to put a return address for once.
At this point, I still had not revealed my secret to anyone and was beginning to wonder when, or even if, to tell Ross. My perfect opportunity came when Ross announced he’d be moving to a new city and was throwing himself a going away party. When the day came, I asked Ross if I could give a little speech saying how we would all miss him and wish him the best of luck and so on. As I stood up to speak, I wondered what he would think of finally knowing the secret behind Richie and Donna. I said all the things one usually does in a going away speech and everyone said cheers and clapped, until I added, “And of course you’ll have to give me your new mailing address for Richie and Donna. They are so sorry they couldn’t be here today.” Ross dropped his glass on the floor stunned and I’m fairly certain Austin peed himself a little laughing.
“You are Richie and Donna!?!?!” I confessed that I was. Ross started laughing uncontrollably. I was so glad my prank had been a success. I was worried Ross would be upset that I’d been pranking him for so long, but he confessed that Richie and Donna had been one of his favorite parts of the past few months. He had looked forward to receiving those postcards so much and had saved all of them in a shoebox. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who needed a new, more socially acceptable hobby.