The Practical Joke Goes On

The other day I was working on one of the essays for my upcoming book, A Confused Life, when I was retelling some of the pranks that have been passed down through a few of the jobs I’ve had over the years. I found myself laughing at how easily duped some people were when if they had just used a little common sense, they would have realized their leg was being yanked. I, of course, never fell for any of these practical jokes, mainly because I had seen them played on others and knew what was coming. That didn’t mean that I didn’t help set others up as the butt of these jokes. I did, and yes, I’m proud of it. It’s a time honored tradition. There’s a perverted reward when you’re able to set someone up to be a fall guy without them knowing it.

One of these jokes concerned a fictional piece of equipment, the Dough Patch Kit. The premise of the joke was that when slapping out the dough for a pizza pie, if it developed a hole because someone’s finger went through it while slapping it out or it was stretched too far and a hole developed, the Dough Patch Kit fixed it right up. The pizza making could go on. Now, common sense would tell you that if you stretched the dough together over the hole and pressed, it would seal itself back together. However, new employees never wanted to appear ignorant and almost never wanted to question their superiors, so they eagerly went in search of the make believe tool.

Most of the time when we had a sucker - er, gullible individual - on the hook, we’d let it play out until he either gave up or someone with a benevolent heart let him in on the joke. There’s always someone with a soft heart who ruins all of the fun.

How the joke would begin was first a hole would appear. The nearest newbie would then be spotted and made our target. He was sent to the back of the store to the prep area to fetch the Dough Patch Kit. Not there? Try the walk-in cooler. Still not there? Try the manager’s desk.

Someone eventually chimed in with “Hey, I loaned it to the store on the beach. Theirs broke.”

The order was then given to the new employee. “Okay, call over there and tell them we need it back.”

So the naïve, but faithful employee would get on the phone and call the other store. This is where the practical joke either ended or became funnier. If we were unlucky, the person answered the phone felt sorry for the poor individual and informed them they were being fooled. The joke was then over, everyone laughed at his embarrassment, and work continued.

However, if we were lucky - “Sorry, the store out west borrowed it from us. You’ll have to call them.” And the joke continued with New Employee being passed from one store to the next. Eventually, he figured it out and everyone had a good laugh. Everyone but the new employee, that is.

The funny thing about it all is when another person comes along who doesn’t know the joke, the one who had just been had is the first to want to play it on the newcomer. That is how a joke begun five decades or more is still around. It’s also why hazing at college campuses and secret initiations into special clubs and organizations still exist. No one wants to be the last person who fell for the joke or endured the initiation rites. Allow the next person to be the final joke. We don’t care if it ends; we just don’t want it to end with us.

Maybe it’s self-preservation. We allow it to happen so that the attention is off of us and someone else occupies the funny spotlight. Regardless, it’s kind of sad when you think about it. We remember how foolish we felt when we fell for it, but we still carry it out on some other unsuspecting, innocent sap. Our embarrassment at our hazing only means we’re going to take our revenge out on the upcoming class. We endured. Survived. It’s out right to make someone else feel like an idiot!

And that’s all it really is, revenge on those who did us no wrong because we can’t get it on the ones who did it to us. The Circle of Life. Or rather the Circle of Jokes, which is really more like a line than a circle, but I digress. Everything in life changes, progresses into a new century. Everything, that is, except the jokes. They will remain the same and continue through time as long as there are people who haven’t fallen for them. It is how some political leaders keep getting elected. Too many people haven’t fallen for their jokes, yet.

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