I’m often surprised how people can take me seriously.
Or, should I say I’m often surprised how gullible some people can be?
I think it’s the latter. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s actually somewhat sweet.
I’ve mentioned in these pages before about how some readers actually believe the outlandish things I’ve written. Last year, some people really thought I was quitting my job and moving to New York City to become a mime after I wrote that in this space. Many folks think my adventures with Vurl are non-fiction (although Vurl decidedly is not non-fiction). And I noted a few weeks ago that some of you thought Nancy Pelosi really did throw her underwear at the President during his State of the Union speech.
I can sort of understand folks taking my writings somewhat seriously -- particularly if they just started reading my stuff and/or they don’t know me too well. But what I can’t understand is when my friends and family believe some wild tale I’ve concocted just to see their reaction.
Last week, when the power was out throughout the area, the two women in the Arkansas Weekly office asked me if I knew how the blackout started.
“Oh, man…You didn’t hear?” I said as I sadly shook my head. “A dude was hang gliding in the Melbourne area, and he flew into some transmission lines.”
The women let out gasps. “Oh, no!” one said. The other looked as if she was about to cry.
“Yeah, horrible,” I said as I moved on down the hall silently laughing to myself.
I suppose a freak accident like that could happen, but the tale still seemed too outlandish for folks take seriously. And of course, there’s the question of whether the doomed hang glider story was even funny once it was determined I made up the thing. Based on the ladies’ reaction when they later discovered the tale was a joke, I would say “Yes.”
Now, I know it was funny the other night when I blurted out in front of a bunch of friends that the University of Arkansas had just hired Bobby Knight to replace the recently canned basketball coach, John Pelphrey.
As we all sat around a fire, I made the proclamation while pretending to find the story on my iPhone.
“The Hogs just hired Bobby Knight!” I screamed.
“What?” a few collectively said. Then another said: “No! That can’t be right!”
“That’s what EPSN dot com is reporting,” I said.
The wife of one friend let out a big “All riiigggghhht!”
“This is just what the Razorbacks need!” yelled one pal.
Only one friend that night didn’t believe me, but he had to switch the television to ESPN just to be sure.
However, none of these tales compare to the one I successfully passed off to one particularly gullible friend a few months back.
“Oh my gosh,” I said, “have you been watching CNN?”
“No, why?” the friend asked.
“It’s scary stuff. They’re breaking in with news that a lethal virus has escaped a chemical lab in Russia. The virus kills people, but then their bodies come back to life, and then they eat other people. And they can’t contain it. It’s spreading like wildfire across Europe!”
“Are you kidding?” she asked.
“No! I’m serious! I mean, it’s like zombie stuff. Their bodies are dead, but they move and walk and eat other people!”
“Oh my gosh, Rob. What are they going to do? They don’t think it will come to America, do they?”
There was genuine fear in her voice which filled me with amazement. What started as a stupid little joke that I thought would be immediately laughed off had turned into a testament to one person’s extreme naiveté.
A nice person would have let my friend down easy, saying something like, “Oh, you know I was kidding around. There are no such things as zombies.”
But, obviously, that person was not me.
“Yes,” I said. “They think there are people on flights and ships heading this way that unknowingly have the virus. The government really doesn’t know how to contain it. They’re really scared.”
After a few moments of my friend’s stunned silence, I had to give up and let her in on the joke. My tale was growing more outrageous by the second, and I finally burst out laughing at the concept.
“You really weren’t that gullible were you?” I asked.
She didn’t answer me. And she never has answered my question.
Because that friend hasn’t spoken to me since.