When did reality become stranger than fiction, and why it is that no April Fools’ gag could be more bizarre than our new normal. Elena Panayides ponders.
Usually around this time of year, you may have wondered how you might prank those nearest and dearest to you. April Fools’ traces back to the 1500s, when it was a rite of Spring linked to the ancient European trickster tradition of dressing up to fool one another. Maybe you had plans to paint the bathroom soap with clear nail polish and laugh out loud when it got indelibly stuck to a family member’s hand, or you would have snuck into the office early and filled all the floorspace with rows and rows of water cups before anyone arrived? Well hold that and many other thoughts, as this April 1st, 2020, and the universe is now laughing at us, with our everyday now akin to a dystopian Hollywood thriller, with us behaving like an OCD Mr. Bean figuring out the way the world now functions and how can we flip the switch back to 2019?
If someone had pranked me a year ago by locking me up in my flat and providing me with a permission slip that boiled my freedom of movement down to 6 activities, I would kicked them and then asked what delusional fantasy they’d been inspired by and what were they drinking earlier? Yet here we are, April 2020, in Athens and worldwide, wondering if today’s excitement will be taking out the trash or walking our real or imaginary dog? With the lockdown announcement, many clever entrepreneurs immediately were offering dog rental services on social media, but all joking aside I now truly understand why dogs are so thrilled, when they see their leash that promises their daily dose of fresh air. Getting ready for a necessary supermarket run is now like preparing for a trip to a far-off land; ID? Check. Permission papers? Check. Gloves and Mask? Check, check. Route planned? Roger that. Hurry in, don’t talk to the natives, choose your aisle carefully. Copy that.
The OCD-ers had a point
We all have that one OCD friend, who would bring their hand sanitizer on every outing and tell longwinded stories about the germ count on hotel bedcovers and bar peanuts. Well, they’re now having the last laugh, as all their once sneered at fears have been confirmed, and yes indeed it is a microscopic, crown-shaped virus that has us fearing for our futures. There’s no laughter anymore in playing a joke on them by re-arranging all their books into non-alphabetical order, as most of us are currently re-arranging our sock drawers and Marie Kondo-ing our homes, as if they’re going to be graded on cleanliness and tidiness by a global panel. Which reminds me that even the guilty pleasure of the Eurovision has been cancelled, so I guess we’ll just continue singing from our balconies for ‘nil point.’
In years past, there was a slew of Aprils Fools’ animal based jokes; Samsung pitched a new kind of wifi, ‘Fli-fy,’ to provide ‘Internet everywhere’ powered by pigeons. A Scottish tourism agency created a promotional video about a magnificent discovery in the region: Highland cows that produce whisky-flavoured milk. Linkedin switched up its home page to provide ‘cats you may know’ in your suggestions for corporate networking. Forget all that this year, even Google announced a few days ago in an internal memo to all staff, that joking around has been postponed until next year ‘which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one.’ Once again, April 2020 is breaking every mould and I believe it’s the planet and animals that are having the last laugh. We’ve had the mistaken impression for far too long, that humans and the earth are the centre of the universe, if nothing else, this pandemic is making us realise how powerless and vulnerable we can be. Thanks to our diminishing industrial harmful effect on it, the earth, its creatures and the elements are conversely to us, regaining their health and strength.
A laugh a day
With all the misinformation swirling around and the barrage of news sources we can access from home, which oftentimes aren’t practising the highest standards of journalism, it does indeed seem like there is no room for hoaxes this year. There is also a lot of fake news being distributed about coping with, spreading and fighting the virus, which is already causing enough confusion for us all. However, while being totally respectful of the tragic implications of this global pandemic, I do feel like we all need our daily dose of levity and humour to provide some relief from the awfulness. I know I have found great comfort in sharing some memes, gifs, photos and videos with friends and family around the world and have marvelled at how many ingeniously funny and witty people there are out there. We are undeniably all apart and yet together in this, and the sense of community and sharing of resources, emotions and thoughts is building day to day, in a way I certainly haven’t experienced ever before. April Fools’ and many other habitual practices will be postponed and cancelled, but my hope is that we hold on to the lessons of this time in quarantine, which is making us re-evaluate everything we used to hold as fundamental, important, funny and true.