In families, different children have different roles that they play.  In my family, mine is the role of joker.  I am told that I have my grandfather’s sense of humor and it is a real shame that I never had a chance to meet him.  However, this might be a hidden blessing for others in my family as if the two of us combined forces, there is no telling what would happen.

In my younger years, the target of my jokes was almost exclusively my mother. One time when I cam home from school I slathered my arms with my sister’s peel off face mask and ran into the family room where my mother was sitting.  I fell to the floor, started screaming, and told her that I spilled some chemicals on my arm in chemistry class. I then showed her my arms which appeared to have been peeling. Just before she got through to the hospital I admitted to her that it was all a joke.

Another time, my father took my brother Jimmy and me to the Patriots vs. Dolphins game at the old Foxboro stadium. We were treated to seats in a sky box and, in addition to being protected from the elements, we ate like kings. I called my mother from the skybox and told her that we had a flat tire, never made it to the game, and dad was so upset he decided not to feed us. I stressed that Jimmy and I were very hungry and scared of dad’s temper.

“Put your father on the phone immediately,” I was told.

Handing the phone to my father, who did not hear the exchange, he proclaims, “Hello darling.”

Seconds later I see a confused look on his face and then, shaking his head, he says, “Goddamit, we are at the game and Michael is in the corner eating a hot dog.” The old man eventually came around to see the humor in the situation.  Perhaps he still felt the sting from the joke I played on him the night before.  We were staying in adjoining rooms at the Boston Harbor hotel and I called his room pretending to be Victor Kiam, then an owner of The New England Patriots, personally thanking my father for taking his sons to the game.

“Do you know who I just spoke to?” my father asked after hanging up the phone.

“Let me guess dad, Victor Kiam thanking you for bringing your sons to the game tomorrow.”

“Yes how did you….goddammit Michael, you had me going.”

The last big joke I played on my mom was at the dinner table one evening.  Dad was on business and Jimmy was absent. In his place was my friend Chris Hart.  Mom asked me, “Michael, how come you are always going out on dates and Jimmy doesn’t?

Without blinking an eye I look at her and say, “Mom, the truth is Jimmy doesn’t like girls very much.”

Chris started choking on his food and my mother looked scared to death.  I let it hang for a little while and then told her I was just kidding.

As I matured, and I use that term loosely, my targets changed.  My wife became a target (I once hid under the bed and grabbed her leg as she was vacuuming). My kids became a target (I once hid behind my daughter’s door and scared the death out of her when she came into her room after taking a shower).  Yes, I know, I am going straight to hell (hope to see some of you there).

But what to do when the joke is on you? Last week I was the victim of a well orchestrated prank started by one of my fraternity brothers. It all started on Facebook when my father commented on a post from 3 years ago.  I told responded to my father’s comment with, “Dad, this is how I know you only go onto Facebook every 3 years, this post was from 2011.” This message immediately showed up in my news feed and one of my fraternity brothers realized that when someone comments on an old post, it immediately shows up in the feed.

Throughout the day I noticed that other people were commenting on really old posts.  My wife even sent me a note saying, “I think something is wrong with your Facebook account – all of these old posts are showing up.” Then strange pictures of barnyard animals started appearing. People were tagging me in these pictures with captions like, “I’ll never forget that Yale Bowl weekend Michael Carlon.” I was befuddled.  I thought my account was hacked and/or I had some virus.  I even posted the following as a status update, “Is there some kind of throwback Thursday virus going around or something?” This refers to the trend on Facebook to post old photos on Thursdays.

I went so far to deactivate my account only to come back on to find people tagging me in photos of old superheroes. After a few days, activity died down. Then I received a text from the man who started it all. “Seems as if the weirdness died down.” He then admitted what had been done and let me in on the entire joke.  Many of my fraternity brothers played a role.  Looking back, it was right in front of me yet I could not see it. If I had just reflected on who was commenting on my old posts, I could have put it all together.  Guys with nicknames like Conan, Thanos, Total Package, Wellin Dowd, and Scooter.  No, it was no throwback thursday virus, it was the Gul-Ible virus!

I have to admit that I had a really good laugh over the whole thing, particularly the part where I got to see all the messages going back and forth between the perpetrators.

“I can’t believe he hasn’t figured it out yet.”

“He can’t be that gullible can he?”

Yes he can!