This Epic College Prank Isn't Possible Today

April Fools story

Once upon a time, we lived in a world without cellphones and instant gratification. Friendships were based on face-to-face encounters and bonding with people who knew how to have fun. That was definitely my experience back in my college days when I surrounded myself with pranksters — we made every day feel like April Fools' Day. You never knew what we would all do to our friends (or to each other) next; a subscription to an inappropriate magazine addressed to the house next door or a half-pound of olive loaf mysteriously turning up in the refrigerator. Good, playful fun that defined the essence of youth and life in the 1980s.

It was my good fortune to attend college only an hour away from my two favorite practical jokers, Scott and Eric. We would take turns visiting (and pranking) each other, but my trips to Syracuse University inspired our most unpredictable antics. During the spring of our senior year, with our entry into “the real world” growing ever closer, my friends became inspired to outdo themselves — at my expense, of course.

Reliving an experience where I play the role of the fool brings back nothing but laughter.

In true college fashion, we stayed up all night watching movies and enjoying a few glasses of wine. As someone who loves my sleep, I never pulled an all-nighter for schoolwork, but friends were a different story. I didn’t want to miss a moment of fun, but by 7 am, I was running on fumes. I just wanted to get in bed and sleep for a few hours so I could enjoy the day ahead without feeling like a total zombie.

Somehow, as the sun began to brighten the morning sky, a scheme simultaneously came to light. "Let’s change all of the clocks in the apartment and take Shari to the big parade in the center of Syracuse. We’ll make her think she got a few hours of sleep when she actually got about 10 minutes." And so the prank began.

Even My Watch

After they moved all the clocks ahead three hours (including running out to the car to change the time on the dashboard — and somehow the watch on my wrist), the make-or-break move had arrived. From my perspective, I felt like I had just put my head on the pillow when they told me it was time to get up.

"But I don’t even feel like I slept."

"Of course you did. It’s 10 a.m. Time to get ready for the parade!"

To say I was in a daze would have been the ultimate understatement, but that was exactly why their plan worked so well. Add to that the fact that I don’t drink coffee and I was a zombie. Missing the announcements of the time on the radio as I could not stop yawning and declaring in the whiniest of voices, "I’m sooooo tired. Why am I so tired?"

Their biggest test came when we actually got to the parade. As we stood on the sidewalk, in full view was a giant bank tower with the time not only boldly displayed but flashing. Over and over for the entire time, we stood watching who knows what go by. To this day, I remember none of that parade, and yet, somehow this story lives in infamy even three decades later.

I can only imagine what it felt like to be on the other side of this prank. Watching me struggle to function for the next few hours as they created an actual time warp. My own watch displayed time moving normally … 12, 1, all the way until 3 p.m. as I remained oblivious, apparently missing every opportunity to catch them in their deceit. Every time I yawned, they would exchange glances and laughter, clearly enjoying the fact that they had picked the perfect victim. 

By 3 p.m., I think the boys were hit by some uncharacteristic remorse. We always pranked each other, but this time they could see that it had been mostly one-sided. So with some underlying chuckles, they shocked me with the news that it was actually noon. Plenty of time to nap was all I could think to myself. So instead of being mad, I was thrilled!

Clearly, the advancement in technology would make this prank completely impossible in today’s world, which is what makes this story such a treasured memory. Going back in time can feel antiquated, but in this case, it feels comforting. We enjoyed simple fun without phones or social media to draw our attention away from each other. Even reliving an experience where I play the role of the fool brings back nothing but laughter.

This post is part of a month-long April CircleAround series, tied to April Fools' Day. We've all made memorable mistakes and embarrassing gaffes that still make us cringe. But what did we learn from those moments of foolishness? We asked writers — and readers — to share stories and advice on what we gained from some of our cringiest memories, and how those became teachable moments. To see all the posts in the series — including relevant news stories — visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to info@circlearound.com or post on our "2021 Inspiration Wall."


CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves adult women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

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