Yesterday, on my way to the gym, I thought I saw a 50-krona bill in the snow on the pavement. I stopped to check – of course – and realized that it was, indeed, a mustard yellow bill with the singer Jenny Lind on it. I quickly picked it up, and then, before slipping it inside my red mitten, I looked to my left and to my right, to see if somebody was watching me.
I’d like to say I did so to find the poor old lady who had dropped it so I could return it, but that was my second thought. That did come before “I can’t believe my luck!” My first thought, though, was: Who’s pulling my leg?
Now, I’m a joker. I sometimes tell a joke, although I can’t seem to remember very many of them at the same time so I mostly do puns, wordplay, and sarcasm. In fact, I monitor my development in Swedish by seeing Wife’s reactions to my puns. Ten years ago, she used to say she’d heard my puns before. In third grade. These days, I seem to be making 7th grade puns.
My Dad, on the other hand, is a prankster. He’s the kind of guy who hides eggs in other people’s pockets, or sticks pepper inside a chocolate bar.
One summer when I was 14, and I had buddies staying at our house, he hid an alarm clock somewhere in our room, and every night, for about a week, the alarm went off in the middle of the night. One of my friends spent hours every evening trying to find that clock. He fell asleep, convinced that Dad hadn’t hidden the clock anywhere that night, but sure enough, at 3.15 am, he’d wake up to the beeping sound of the alarm. I’m sure Dad woke up, too, quietly laughing.
He’s a guy who’s called his buddies, changed his voice, and told them that there had been an accident and that a crane had fallen on their car. Or that the cops just towed it away. For years, he sent his old books to a friend with a cover letter from a “book club”, thanking him for joining, and for collecting all those points so he’d reached the silver, then the gold level. He always added a line about somebody calling them soon to discuss the books.
This is the man who used to hijack the family bathroom for hours to work on trick photography. And he’s someone who loved Candid Camera and now has hours of Just for Laughs episodes on his DVR, and who doesn’t mind sitting at home alone to watch them.
So you can understand that when we, years ago, one Sunday morning noticed something strange outside the kitchen window, as if a groom was leaving his bride at the altar, Dad was on the case like bees on honey. It was probably him who first noticed that there was something strange going on at the church right across the street from us. The bride had run away from the church, he told Mom and me, and the guests were now standing outside the church.
The groom took off in a cab, leaving the bride behind. She was hysterical, and finally, she walked to the bus stop, and sat down.
“Oh. My. Goodness,” said Mom. “Can you believe that?”
“Wow, this was interesting,” said Dad, as he walked to the bedroom so he could get a little better view, with the kitchen counter stopping him from getting as close to the window as he would have liked to.
People stopped to watch, and some of the guests were stopping cars to get help.
“And we got the best seats in the house,” Dad shouted, even though he didn’t have a seat.
Then, suddenly, a camera crew – and the groom – appeared, and everybody, including the bride, was laughing it up.
“Hey! It’s Candid Camera!” Dad yelled, beaming.
Mom and I were dumbfounded. Not disappointed, but a little shocked. All that drama had been just a hoax? Dad, in turn, was elated. For him, the fact that it had been candid camera made it even better.
After all, he had just witnessed a great prank.
I didn’t see any old ladies, or kids anywhere, so I did slip the 50-krona bill into my mitten, and continued walking to the gym. When I felt the bill with my fingers, I thought the paper felt a little rough, and it reminded me of the one prank I’ve pulled in my life.
One winter, a hardware store had printed out five Finnish markka coupons that looked exactly like the real five-markka bill. Well, except that it was three times as big. However, if you folded it, and rubbed the edges a little, it looked just like a folded fiver. Some kids told me that some other kids – or maybe their big brothers – had actually gone into a store, got loads of candy – because back then five markka got you a lot of candy – and run out the door before the lady at the register had unfolded the bill.
My friends and I only did the old bill on a string classic. (Nobody went for it).
I pulled off my mitten and looked at the 50-krona bill in my palm. There was something strange about it. For one, there were two of them, but also, my hand looked huge in comparison. I looked at the image of the “Swedish Nightingale” a little closer, and realized that the bill was one third of the size of a real one. On the back, it also said “PLAY MONEY”.
And just like Dad was happier when he realized the runaway bride had been a Candid Camera episode, seeing those two tiny bills made me happier than if it had been one real 50-krona bill.
After all, I had just got myself a story.