Personal Musings

My Mom Once Tried to Levitate in Our Backyard, an April Fools’ Day Story

My mom once tried to levitate in our backyard. She attempted this maneuver due to a rare gravitational pull in the earth’s atmosphere as a result of the planetary alignment of Jupiter with Earth.

This isn’t a joke. My mom did indeed attempt this back in 2007 — April 1, 2007, to be exact, otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. So yes, technically it was a joke, only my mom didn’t realize it at the time.

Jupiter’s planetary alignment with Earth which resulted in a human being’s ability to momentarily levitate has its origins in a BBC newscast from 1976. I learned about it through the Internet, which I had the high-speed version of in Charlottesville seventeen years ago. My mom, standing in the backyard of my childhood home in Phenix, Virginia, with the palms of her hands open to the sky, did not have home Internet. Smartphones and cellular data weren’t a thing then either.

It could be said I have a genetic predisposition circulating through my DNA for pulling pranks. My grandfather on my mom’s side was the ultimate prankster. His arch enemy, during his life, was the creation of caller-ID — an invention my Papa Hamlett hated with a passion. Before Comedy Central aired its first episode of Crank Yankers, he was the original Crank Yanker.

Over the years, I’ve pulled my fair share of April Fools’ Day jokes on unsuspecting friends, family, and co-workers. In the same way caller-ID ruined prank phone calls for my grandpa, the Internet has had a similar effect on the ability to catch someone off-guard with an April Fools’ Day joke. The built-in calendar even announces it on your phone.

April Fools' Day on iPhone calendar
What happened to catching someone by surprise?

But I have memories, and where would we be without them? Here are a few of my favorite April Fools’ Day pranks I pulled back in my glory days.

Out of Order

I’d get fired for this now and was fortunate I didn’t get fired even back then. To quote my dad who was hospitalized with leukemia at the time: “What the hell were you thinking?” As a side note: my dad pulled a prank on my mom at the hospital that day by pretending he was going to s—t himself in bed.

But back when I worked for a health care insurer in 2009, our offices were on the top floor of a building owned by a prestigious known entity I will not relinquish for the sake of this story.

I gave my director and our VP, who were out of town on business, a heads up I was going to pull a prank right before we closed for the day. It was a please don’t fire me for doing this gesture, you could say.

“Hell, yeah. Do it!” they both said.

Permission granted, I thought.

Here’s what I did.

I made three signs. One sign read, “Out of Order: Use Stairs.” The other two signs were for our stair exits. We had two: one on the left side of the building and one on the right. The signs read, “Out of Order: Use Elevator.”

I didn’t want to throw off my scent by posting the signs early. I waited patiently for the bulk of staff to leave for the day. My goal was to catch my co-workers who didn’t bolt for the door right at 5 PM.

Once the coast was clear, I taped the “Out of Order: Use Stairs” sign to the elevator. I then taped the “Out of Order: Use Elevator” signs to the doors of our corresponding stair exits.

Then I stuck around in the lobby next to our secretary’s desk while my peers exited work for the day. Every one avoided the elevator. No rides attempted. Most walked back and forth between the two until they ultimately chose the right side stairs. Quite a few went together in a group as if the Three Musketeers, i.e. all for one and one for all.

But there was one woman, in particular, who got the brunt of it all. She always worked a solid 15 minutes over. And her mind melted down at the predicament she found herself in — and she was all by her lonesome out there in the guessing game that was “The Stairs or the Elevator.”

She walked to the elevator per usual. No dice.

She walked to the left side stairs.

She passed the elevator again and walked to the right side stairs.

She returned to the center of the lobby again, shaking her head side to side. In a state of panic at being trapped inside, she picked up her phone and called someone.

Honestly, I felt a little bad here. I did. I considered coming clean and telling her it was all an elaborate ruse of an April Fools’ Day prank. But her emotional state made me think better of confessing. Instead, I walked away because I couldn’t stop shaking with laughter.

Does this make me an a-hole? In writing this scene as it played out just now, yeah, maybe it does. Maybe I should have stepped in and said, “Hey, the elevator and stairs all work.”

At the same time, I figured she would catch on that it was a joke. To this day, I have no idea which option she chose: left side stairs, right side stairs, or elevator. I would not bet on the elevator.

The next day, April 2, when I arrived at work, building maintenance and an elevator repairman were in our office lobby. Our secretary, Jeena, knew what I had done but was keeping her lips sealed. She looked at me like, “You need to fix this situation and not involve me in it.”

I should add here: I never took the signs down when I left. My bad.

“It was an April Fools joke,” I said to our maintenance man. He was a nice guy. He reminded me in ways of a mix between my Papa Hamlett and my Papa Pillow. I’d never seen him angry before.

“You son of a bitch!” he said. His face turned red. “Do you know how much it costs for me to get this guy out to Charlottesville? He’s based in Richmond. I’ve already logged this. [Name of prestigious entity] is going to kill me.”

The elevator repairman had serious eyes going on, then he started smiling. I mean, who doesn’t love a good April Fools’ prank?

Then Jesse, that was our building maintenance man’s name, started laughing.

I wasn’t sure if I should laugh in the moment because I thought maybe his laugh was a sinister laugh, so I apologized.

“I’ll take it out of my paycheck,” I said. “No matter what it costs. I’ll pay for it. You can tell them it was me.”

“Oh, I’m going to tell them,” he said.

The next morning, April 3, Jesse awaited my arrival in the lobby.

“Twenty-eight hundred dollars is the tab,” he said to me.

My stomach dropped to the floor.

“I’m just kidding,” he said. “[Name of prestigious entity] actually got a kick out of it. ‘No harm, no foul,’ they said. They had an elevator out in another building in the city and the repairman had to be here anyway. You lucked up.”

Printer Malfunction

On the same day I pulled the elevator prank, earlier in the day I took one of our admins, Debbie, for a whirlwind of a morning. Her main job was printing important documents for clients.

As the resident graphic designer in the company, I started my morning by opening Photoshop. I dropped in a TIFF image of a paperclip in the corner of a document and printed 250 copies. I then placed the printed pages with the paperclip in the printer tray of our B/W copier.

For the next thirty minutes, everything Debbie printed had paperclips in the upper right corner.

My desk was roughly ten feet away from the copier room and I could hear her brain externalizing.

“What in the hell?” she said, and “Where is that damn paperclip?”

She fiddled with the printer trying to find out where the paperclip was on the scanner and the copier to no avail. She called me in and asked for my help. Then she opened the paper tray down below. I thought I was going to be had. But she left a few inches of the tray embedded in the machine and only flipped the bottom corner of the paper.

Phew. A close one.

To solve for the problem, she transitioned to printing all her documents to our color printer which should have no issues with paperclips. Unfortunately for her, the color printer was malfunctioning.

Not really though.

Figuring she’d switch printers at the paperclip fiasco, I had also created multiple documents in Adobe InDesign with a variety of messages pertaining to a printer malfunction with various warning symbols on the paper.

I printed about 50 copies of this document and inserted it randomly into the color printer tray.

The more copies she printed, the more dire the warning.

We shared the same manager and she went to her.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” she told her. “If I print on the black and white printer, I get paperclips. But I can’t find the paperclip causing it. If I switch to the color printer, it malfunctions. I don’t know what to do.”

All good pranks must come to an end; so finally, after printing one unusable document after the next, the last document popped out of the printer and said, “Warning: Printer is melting down. Step away from the printer. Step away from the printer!”

“Who the hell did this?” Debbie said.

And I burst out laughing. I couldn’t contain it any longer. My face and cheeks were killing me from trying to hold it in.

“You a—hole,” Debbie said. But then started laughing. “I thought I was going to have to run to KInko’s.”

Uncle Butch and the Box of Lollipops

This is one of my favorites because I didn’t think it had a snowball’s chance in hell of playing out the way I had schemed. Like the levitation prank with my mom, it seemed too ridiculous to work. I was wrong.

Through a series of text messages, I somehow convinced my uncle Butch that he had a package of lollipops awaiting him at the Charlotte Court House post office that were meant for his daughter-in-law Emily. Unfortunately, she was unable to pick up the lollipops but if he could, that would be a big help.

I then texted Emily and said, “Butch is going to pick up your box of lollipops at the post office. If he calls you, don’t answer. I’m playing a prank on him. I need you all-in.”

“Lollipops? What are you talking about?” she texted me.

“Just don’t answer him if he calls,” I replied.

Butch doesn’t live in Charlotte Court House, so it was an unusual ask. But he nonetheless went to the post office. He asked the Postmaster if he could sign for the package of lollipops for his daughter-in-law Emily. The Postmaster didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. And that’s when Butch realized he had been had.

So if you see him anywhere in Charlotte County, at a Board of Supervisors meeting, wherever, ask him if he has any lollipops.

If he tells you he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, he’s lying.

Kenny Chesney at Cattle Annie’s

I don’t know much of anything about country music. But fifteen years ago, I knew enough to know Kenny Chesney was still popular enough with people back home where I grew up to warrant a prank.

There was once a music venue in Lynchburg called Cattle Annie’s. It’s somewhat close to where my sister and her friend Courtney Hunter live — but not super close. It’s a solid 45 minutes drive there.

I let them know about a Kenny Chesney performance taking place that night. It was meant to be a hush-hush performance that only a few hundred people would be witness to: first 300 in and that was it. So get there early.

Being a loving brother, I took it upon myself to inform my sister Jennifer about this Kenny Chesney on the down-low performance. In turn, she texted her friend Courtney who was all about it. Courtney was determined for them to be the first guests at the door.

And they were.

And they were also the only ones there.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the doorman said.

“Joke’s on you,” my sister texted me. “Kenny Chesney will be arriving at 7 PM.”

“Did you really go?” I asked.

“Yeah, we went. You sounded too serious about it. I should have known better. You and Papa.”

Gwen Pillow: First Female to Levitate in the History of Mankind

Which brings me back to my mom levitating in our backyard on April 1, 2007. I genuinely had no idea my mom would fall for this — or should I say, levitate for this. I mean, sure, I sent her a detailed news article about the planetary alignment and the momentary magic that would occur at a precise time in the day. But that she would attempt this? No way.

“What the hell are you doing?” my dad asked her. He was standing on the back deck looking down at my mom in the backyard.

“I’m trying to levitate,” she said.


“Jeff said there’s a rare gravitational pull taking place in our atmosphere at this very moment. You won’t levitate much but you will rise from the ground at least six inches.”

“Do you know what today is?” my dad said to my mom.

I then received a text from my mom’s phone which read, “This is Daddy from your Mama’s phone. Your mom tried to levitate and now she is 300 feet in the air and can’t get down. I’ve called emergency personnel to assist.”

There’s a part of me, the mischievous side that loves nothing more than getting someone good, that wanted to hold off sharing these stories. If I held off, I figured, I could potentially catch someone off-guard on April Fools’ Day. Maybe they’d forget my genetic predisposition of mischief inherited from my Papa Hamlett to prank someone on this day.

But then I realized, it would be futile. At this point in my life, every friend and family member I have knows better than to answer any text, phone call, email, SOS, or morse code I send their way on April 1 of any year.

Hopefully nothing bad ever happens on April 1 because they won’t believe me for s—t, which is a shame. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. I mean, now I have to do my hijinks at random intervals throughout the year when no one is expecting it — like that time I convinced my buddy Dwayne who’s a musician that Eric Clapton was signing copies of his autobiography at Barnes and Noble in Lynchburg.

Thanks for reading. I write personal stories about every day life with a touch of humor and nostalgia. Subscribe to get updates of new posts by email:

If you’d like to show your support for my writing, use this link to drop a tip in my virtual hat. Your contribution helps me pay for the operating costs of this blog and keeps it ad-free and free for everyone to read.

Share this: