As we approach April Fool’s Day, it makes me think about how, as a teenager, I loved practical jokes, especially at work. Now I think back, I cringe at the lengths I went to make it as convincing as possible. These are just some of them:
My mum was a foster parent, and I worked on a company switchboard as a telephonist receptionist. In those days we had plug boards and we had our main telephone number plus each extra phone lines, which had their own numbers. I rang Mum and told her I was from Social Services and the sibling’s mother wanted to take her children out overnight for a special occasion.
“What? Now?” Mum asked.
“Yes, now,” I replied, she will be there within the hour.
I was also on reception and hoped that no one would along to hear me talking in such a posh, high-pitched tone, as I disguised my voice. I then took great pleasure knowing my mother was frantically packing a bag, changing the children’s clothes, and generally running around like a madwoman. It was half an hour before I rang her back. She was not amused.
My reception area also housed the company’s telex machine. This was like a very large typewriter that communicated with other offices. I discovered that when you dialed the number, just as it connected with your company name, you could stop it and type in something else. I addressed it to the Managing Director’s secretary, who I was friendly with, and replaced our name with Littlewoods Pools and gave her a number to ring.
It was the same number I had given my mum, and I used the same posh high-pitched tone to inform her she had won a million pounds. Once I had given her enough time to ring her husband, parents, and friends, I rang her back to break the April Fool’s news. It took her a long while to get over that, I’m not even sure she spoke to me again, after that.
The last one I’m going to tell you about wasn’t an April, it was a Friday 13th joke I played. I was friendly with a couple of girls who worked for a different company on the same floor and office block as me. We had spoken the day before about how creepy the date was and how we must be very careful. I went down to their offices with no clue as to what I would do until I got there. I went through the door of an empty room and to the adjoining door and peered inside. They were sitting at their desks typing. I turned to look at what was on hand to spook them and settled on a pen, which I threw across the room. They both stopped and looked up.
“What as that?”
“I don’t know.”
When they settled down again and stifling my giggles, I threw another. It took one more attempt before they took flight and ran screaming down the corridor. One girl had brought her dog to work. So the dog joined them, thinking it was a game, and barked frantically enough to bring out other people to see what was going on. It was chaotic.
Last year, I was clearing some boxes from the loft, and inside were some old typewritten manuscripts. Amongst them was one called Friday 13th. It was a ghost story, and what also made it interesting was that it set it in a 1981 office. The workplace, as we now know it, differed completely from what it once was back then. These were the days before the fax machine made an appearance. The days of filing cabinets, typewriters, carbon copies, telex machines, and where you addressed your boss by their title rather than their name, and most were male.
I submitted it for a Ghostly Rites anthology produced by Plaisted Publishing of New Zealand. It has eleven other stories. From some stores it is free to download.