The Joke’s in the Mail

Italy postcardThe best mailed prank ever played on me was in August rather than April. My father sent me a postcard from Italy with an oddly disjointed message. Individual words made sense, but sentences trailed off while new subjects leapt forth with no introduction. Granted, my mother usually wrote the family letters, but I always assumed that Dad knew how.

A month later the answer arrived: three more postcards from Italy. Dad had laid them out in an overlapping line on his hotel desk, writing one long message across all four. The Italian postal service upped the joke factor by delivering that single card weeks before the rest.

As for the best prank ever—Britain’s Guardian newspaper created one of the world’s most elaborate, and longest running, April Fool’s jokes in 1977 when they published a seven-page supplement about a fictional island named San Serriffe. Years before choosing fonts for desktop publishing, most people didn’t recognize the term “san-serif,” missing a vital clue about why one of the islands looked suspiciously like an apostrophe.

In the decades since its creation, San Serriffe has inspired fans to invent a virtual infrastructure for the mythical nation, and the island’s president (for life) now writes an annual letter to the Guardian on April Fool’s Day. Read a 2012 Guardian article about the newspaper’s most successful prank. And check out my dad’s best joke below:

4 italian postcards

3 thoughts on “The Joke’s in the Mail

  1. Susan Lendroth says:

    I’ve had a request for a deciphering my dad’s postcard-letter so here it is. First, let me explain that he was a high school photography teacher, leading a group of students to Europe for the first time. That’s why he mentions over 20 “children”!


    We arrived in Rome this morning at 3 AM. We left the Port of Portos, Greece at 10 PM Wed. night on a fairly large size ship after two stops (one long one at Corfu). We docked at Brindisi on the Adriatic side of Italy at 6:45 PM Thur. The last trip was great but the bus ride (8 hrs) was murder. There are 29 of us and the bus had exactly 29 seats (for midgets). All the times that we have had buses they have been 55-60 seat ones. We could always stretch out. There is only one shower for all of us so I was up by 6:15 (we were supposed to sleep late — 9:30 breakfast) to make sure I’d get a hot one. Then took a two hour walk for pictures. It’s a pleasure at times to get away from the kids and get off by myself because then I don’t have to make sure I’ve got all my children along. I just have to remember the landmark so that I can find my way back. By the way, the hotel we’re staying at is only one block from the Trevi Fountain so that was my first picture taking session this morning. I received your letter for Rome. I’m sorry I’m not a profuse letter writer. I’ll communicate further when I get home. Think my camera is working now OK. Enjoy reading this. Love, Dad
    P.S You helped me win (?) on letters total.

    • Susan Lendroth says:

      I’m afraid you lost me on Earth’s orientation — because he turned the postcards upside down before writing?

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