I’m a terrible practical joker. There are a bunch of reasons for this:
- I do not have near the patience for a good practical joke. It takes the patience of Job. I have the patience of a fruit fly. Hey, look, a squirrel!
- I am way too impressed with my own sense of humor to ever wait long enough for the joke to play out before I do something that in essence says “look at how funny I am!” and alerting the jokee to the joke.
- I’m not smart enough to realize that what I think is funny isn’t always as funny to others.
- I have 0 poker face. Like really, <0. A negative poker face. And I can’t bluff. It’s like a character flaw. And when I do bluff (like the 1 or 2 times I’ve ever done it), my total lack of a poker face guarantees that my bluff gets called. Immediately. Usually with some derision by the caller. Or callers, as everyone at the table knows I’m bluffing.
- Last but not least I am the dish it out but can’t take it guy. Or more accurately when talking about practical jokes, I’m the can’t dish it out or take it guy. Since I never do them I never suspect them. And since I don’t really have that great of an attention span anyway, I tend to fall hook, line and sinker (appropriate fishing metaphor). I think the term is “an easy mark.” So when I learn I’ve been had, I can get a little irritated. Again, I understand that it is a character flaw, I just can’t do anything about it. Like getting mad on the golf course. It’s hard wired into my psyche.
But while I utterly suck at all aspects of a practical joke, I do appreciate one when I see it. Kinda like I appreciate anyone with a talent I can’t fathom (like Stephen Hawkings in physics or Lebron James in basketball). I look at it with a combination of respect, disbelief, and awe.
The best practical jokers are almost never the people you would expect. It’s very rarely the loud, bombastic type that are good at it, though many of them try. The patient, quiet, plodders are the guys you have to watch out for. The joke below was started by one such type. He will literally set jokes up for months. I think it would be an honor to be the recipient because of all the time he is willing to dedicate to making the recipients life hell for a while. And he does take a sadistic pleasure in putting the recipient through hell.
An old friend of mine in Texas used to set up this big fishing trip every year. Usually between 10 and 20 people on a fishing camp that was behind a barrier island off the coast of Louisiana (trip stopped years ago as Katrina and Rita really did numbers on the islands). The trip generally lasted 3 days of great fishing and better food. There was almost always at least one new guy on the trip, and typically some sort of joke would be played on him. This one was a bit elaborate.
A couple of months before the trip, Byron (the joker) would start sending out emails with trip details. In the first email he added the following line “there has been a lot of cyclospora around this year, so everyone needs to remember to bring their condoms.” New guy almost immediately emails back saying “what’s the deal with the condoms?” “Well, cyclospora are these tiny organisms in salt water. They are not dangerous, but if they get in really sensitive areas they can itch like crazy. Since we will be wade fishing a lot and it is way too hot for waders, we all wear condoms to keep them out of our urethra’s.” New guy says “ok”.
Never one to overplay his hand, Byron knows he can’t really talk about it much, but what he starts to do is send out reminders once a week and adds fishing reports from the area to add excitement for the trip (the trip was called FTOL-Fishing Trip of a Lifetime, a title which was really accurate actually). He would edit each trip report with something like “the cyclospora was really thick, don’t forget your protection” or something similar into each report.
So the day of the trip arrives and everyone starts to arrive at the camp. Some by float plane and some by boat. They arrive in the afternoon and the rest of the day is filled with beer and food. No fishing takes place until the next morning. The next morning arrives and everyone is gathering to get in their boats and head to the fishing grounds. Byron doesn’t know if the guy has totally fallen for it, so gets his friend to say in earshot of new guy “hey Byron, I hate to ask this, but I totally forgot my condoms. You got any extras?” New guy makes a beeline back to his room and they know the hook has totally been set.
Now, an interlude to describe how we fished in Louisiana. It was all wade fishing, typically around waste deep. You are far from land much less a bathroom on these big flats. So if you have to pee, you pretty much just pee where you stand. As you can surmise, a condom might be a bit of an issue for this. So after an hour or so in the water, Byron notices new guy has stopped fishing, has started to wade behind everyone a ways. Everyone is trying to watch as unobtrusively as they can and not laugh out loud as they watch new guy fumbling in his shorts to do his business. I truly wish I had been there for this moment, it would have been hysterical. But I’m sure I would have laughed out loud and ruined the whole thing. Anyway, he finishes up and no one says anything.
So they let the joke go for the rest of the day before telling him. Always a tricky part if you don’t know how the guy will handle it, but he really laughs and all is good in the world and I have a great story to tell. That as it turns out is far from over.
This fishing camp has a bunch of university aged students, all male, who act as deck hands, fish cleaners, gofers, you name it. During the trip, a couple of them go home on a shift change. After one gets home, the camp owner (lives in New Orleans I think, was not at the camp) gets a frantic phone call from a mother “Isn’t it all men on those fishing trips?” “You bet” the owner replies. “Then WHY were there condoms in my son’s suitcase?” “I have no idea” says the owner while thinking furiously “but give me a minute, I suspect this is some sort of joke.” It turns out that obviously everyone at the camp knew about the joke. The camp manager, knowing who was leaving on shift change, put a package of condoms in the kids suitcase thinking the kid would have a good laugh when he opened it. He didn’t consider the possibility of the person opening the suitcase to do laundry would be his mom! I don’t think the mom was all that impressed by the joke (and as an aside-sorry to all the female readers here. My wife tells me that guys find this story way funnier than women. Not sure why that would be as this shit should be funny to anyone!) .
So that concludes the cyclospora story. Oh wait, no it doesn’t.
A couple of months later Byron and Mel would do a trip to that same camp to fish without the stress of making sure 20 other people had a good time. While at the dinner table, they hear one of the guys, a outdoors writer, trying to tell the cyclospora story. Mel tells them “That was Byron’s practical joke”. “Seriously, holy shit man, that story is all up and down the gulf coast. You are famous!” Not as famous as he would get however.
Sometime after that trip, I moved to Canada and fell in love with fly fishing. I became friends with the owner of a fly shop (I say friend, the owner calls me “customer”). I tell him the above story, but I can’t for the life of me remember what Byron called the organisms. The word vermiculite pops into my head (yeah, I know that it is a mineral. At least I know it now) and I call the organisms vermiculites. The owner is a practical joker himself, and in no way troubled by stealing other peoples jokes, so he trys to pull it on a fishing guide from Australia. He doesn’t take the bait (I need to get some new metaphors), but he also finds it funny so tries to pull it on a number of his friends and clients, both in Australia and in Canada. One day, I’m in the fly shop and both the owner and Aussie are in the shop. I’m talking about going fishing one August day and the guide asks me “you wading wet?” (meaning no waders because the water was warm enough). “Yep.” “Well, you know about the vermiculites, right?” I say “Listen man, don’t try to pull that shit on me.” “Hey buddy, I don’t know what shit you are talking about, I’m just trying to warn you about the vermiculites that are bad this time of year.” “Dude, I told that story here a couple of years ago. And it isn’t vermiculites, I screwed that part up. They are cyclospora.” The Aussie laughs and says “there is no telling how many people I’ve pulled that joke on.” So Byron, if you are reading this, your joke has been literally around the world. You should be proud. Never try to pull one on me, though I’ll just get mad.
Note: The picture accompanying this post is of my son wade fishing in Texas, not Louisiana. I used it for a couple of reasons:
1. I don’t have any pictures from Louisiana because we didn’t have camera phones then so didn’t take pictures of absolutely everything
2. I really like this picture. It does show what wading is like and can give you a mental image of what the condom wearer was faced with come pee time and
3. It’s a bit of an experiment. Seems that stories that have fishing pictures are getting more views than those without. Not like any of my stories are truly fishing stories, but I thought I would put a fishing cover shot on this one as an experiment of view patterns.