“Hey, good morning, Rich. TGIF, am I right?”
“Can it, Marjorie,” he barked. The receptionist balked and tapped her pen on the keyboard.
He backtracked but maintained his dour expression. “Sorry, it’s just that I had the worst day yesterday and I do not, under any circumstances, want a repeat.”
Before stalking off, Richard Robinson glanced furtively around the room. Seeing no one except a deflated Marjorie, he hurried to his desk, careful to stay well within the worn track in the center of the greige-carpeted hallway. He slowed as he approached his cubicle, peering warily into the makeshift room. He waved his hand through the doorway. Feeling nothing but air, he stepped into the space and scrutinized the items on his desk. Computer, coffee cup full of pens, fishing calendar, inbox/outbox baskets, Newton’s cradle. Everything looked normal enough, but he eyed the cup of pens extra carefully. Yesterday someone had nabbed all the black ones and all he was left with was blue. Rich hated blue pens. It seemed that today the culprit had had a change of heart and returned his precious black ballpoints. Good. Satisfied with the state of his office, Rich dumped his sand-colored jacket on the black swivel chair and dropped into the seat.
“And today’s Thursday,” he shouted back towards reception.
“As if she’d forget,” he muttered to himself, shaking his computer mouse to wake up the screen.
Maybe it was because banks are inherently boring and the employees felt the need to let their hair down, but the employees at this branch of Providence Savings and Loan were known for really going all out for April Fool’s Day. Although everyone got pranked at least once, they seemed to take particular joy in poking fun at Richard Robinson, MLO.
His first year at Providence, someone changed his screen saver to a Nicolas Cage slideshow and stuck googly eyes on the photo of his twin baby daughters. Still trying to make a good impression, he took it in stride. Rich wished he had put his foot down right then and there. The next year, Hannah from IT swapped his computer cords for rubber snakes and his telephone handset for a banana. Amusing, but irritating. He spent hours tracking down all the correct cords and technology, then was forced to call a hysterical Hannah to reinstall everything.
But last year, his coworkers took it to the next level. Someone wrapped Rich’s entire cubicle in Saran Wrap and filled it up with rainbow-colored balloons. He went to town on the balloons with one of his trusty black ballpoint pens, but it wasn’t long before someone in the middle of an important meeting shushed him. When he finally finished quietly untying all the balloons and releasing all the air, he discovered that his entire desk had been coated with glitter. HR had to pull him aside for a refresher on anger management after that.
Rich told himself that he didn’t know what he did to deserve it, but deep down, he knew that if he could just laugh along, they’d leave him alone. He harrumphed as he prepared for the day.
When the boxy old computer finally booted up, Rich breathed a sigh of relief. Yesterday, the desktop was stuck on the blue screen of death. No matter what he tried, he just couldn’t get it working and was finally forced to call IT. “Did you try turning it off and on again?” Hannah had asked. Richard said he had, but of course he hadn’t. When he leaned hard into the off button, the screen darkened, and when he pushed it again, the computer revived itself as if nothing ever happened. He hung up on IT before he was forced to admit that restarting it had worked.
Now Rich settled in for the morning, fitted his plain black mask over his ears, and consulted his page-a-day fishing calendar. Yesterday, March 31st, he remembered seeing a gorgeous picture of a muskie with glittering green scales. Today, the calendar was turned to a hand-tied peacock feather fly fishing lure. Friday, April 2nd.
He forced a laugh loud enough for Marjorie to hear, even though she was on the phone. “Ha ha, very good, Marge! Flipping my calendar, that’s a good one. You almost got me, but I’m staying.” She waved her hand irritably and turned away.
Everyone knew that Providence Savings and Loan closed at noon on Fridays. If she thought she could convince him to leave early on a Thursday, she was sorely mistaken. He wasn’t about to incur the branch manager’s wrath.
“Today’s Friday, man,” said Lorrie as he poked his head above the cubicle. Every day, he wore a new mask more obnoxious than the last. Sometimes it was just a loud paisley, but today’s mask sported a lewd pair of smoochy red lips. It was almost as bad as yesterday's: a custom-printed image of his own nose and mouth. Whenever anyone scolded him to cover up, Lorrie pulled down the custom mask to reveal an N95 underneath.
“You’re in on it too, huh? Alright.”
Rich made a sarcastic noise and gave an exaggerated wink.
Lorrie squinted. “You okay, Rich?”
“No, I’m not okay!” he burst. “I hate this fakey holiday! And after all the rotten things that happened to me yesterday, I didn't get any sleep. Not a wink! And I am not in the mood to be the butt of anyone’s joke. You people always take April Fool’s way too far and I’m sick up to here about it!” He held his hand horizontally a few inches above his head.
Rich couldn’t see Lorrie’s expression behind those stupid red lips, but he hoped he was chastised. Lorrie sank down into his own space, leaving Rich to deal with this on his own. “Okay, man, calm down. Hope you have a better day today.”
He tried, but having a better day isn’t easy when you spend the whole time looking over your shoulder. Who knew what kind of nasty tricks they had planned this year?
When nobody was looking, Rich locked his lunchbox in the bottom drawer of his desk, knowing full well the tuna salad would turn. It was better than eating whatever strange inedible ingredients his coworkers would force on him. He imagined biting into a sandwich of office supplies and shuddered.
Confident that his lunch was safe, Rich checked his shoes before he stood up to get his first cup of coffee. Good, his laces weren’t tied together. His eyes darted left and right as he made his way down the hallway, then opened the door to the breakroom slowly, sure somebody had perched a bucket of water on top of the doorframe.
He grabbed his coffee mug from the cupboard and preemptively cleaned it. You just never know what these kinds of people were capable of. He poured the coffee first, then sprinkled a few grains of sugar into his palm. He tasted it. Yes, it was sugar, thank goodness. He must have accidentally grabbed the salt last time because yesterday’s coffee tasted like bilge water.
He eyed the donuts in the Krispy Kreme box on the community counter. No way. Rich was certain the glaze on those donuts would be mayonnaise or something equally vile. And even if he trusted his coworkers with snacks today, he generally questioned their food safety abilities: yesterday's red velvet cake in the break room had the distinct flavor of uncooked beets and the cream cheese frosting was vaguely Swiss.
Donut-less, Rich wandered back to his desk just in time for a meeting with a client. He logged on to Zoom, grateful that yesterday’s cat-face filter had disappeared. What settings he changed, he didn’t know, but he was stuck with whiskers all day. When your face looks like a cat, there is no way to look professional while telling a young couple that their loan has been denied.
And so the morning went, on high alert for any shenanigans. Nobody bothered him, thank goodness, and all of his calls were legitimate. Nobody asked if his refrigerator was running and nobody none of his email links redirected him to that Rick Astley video.
At exactly noon, Rich felt safe enough to eat lunch at his desk. Sure enough, the tuna had turned. His eyes watered and reminded himself to include an ice pack next time.
Mouth full of sandwich, he nearly choked when fellow loan officer Shoshanna called his name. Rich whipped around in his swivel chair, spinning just a little bit too far. He re-centered himself in time to see her shrugging into a lightweight jacket.
“Staying late, Rich?”
“Ha-ha,” he said through a mouthful of sour fish.
She buttoned her coat. “It’s noon. You’re not heading home?”
“Yeah that’s what Marjorie and Lonnie tried on me, too. But fool me once...” he laughed.
“I don’t get it.” Shoshanna peeked at the clock in his cubicle, then checked her watch. She shook her head.
“Okay then, have a nice afternoon off,” Rich snickered.
Shoshanna gave up and hiked her purse onto her shoulder. “Yeah, you too, Rich. You too.”
He grinned and turned his swivel chair back towards his desk. After a few minutes, the vacant bank's motion sensor clicked softly. The outer tracks of overhead fluorescents dimmed. Richard Robinson chuckled as he wrapped up his lunch and returned to work. He had won. He didn't fall victim to a single prank all day.