Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools' Prank - No Laughing Matter

April Fools' Day
Traditionally April first is a day marked by the commission of hoaxes and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible.

It is now after 12 noon local time as I write this post. If you haven't been fooled by now, perhaps you are safe. At least you should be in many countries around the world. If someone plays a trick after noon they are called an "April Fool".

If you've been reading the news lately, you've no doubt heard about the Conficker worm that some reports say was scheduled to strike on April 1. Information Technology departments around the world have been scrambling to make sure that all PCs are adequately protected to defend against any attack by this worm. If you think about it, simply the fear of the problem and the amount of work being expended to check computer systems could be the desired effect. Let's hope so anyway. Either way, a computer virus (real or imagined) is no laughing matter.

I mention this only as a lead up to an April Fools' prank that I experienced while on a Carnival Cruise many years ago. Shortly after 5 AM on April 1st we were awoken by an announcement from the bridge. Actually, that coincided with being awoken by the noise created when the ship threw on its thrusters and made a sudden turn.

It seems that someone reported a "man overboard" and the captain had immediately put the ship into rescue mode. The ship "turned on a dime" and went back to the spot where this was to have occurred. The captain also ordered a door by door search of the entire ship to account for all the passengers and crew. There was a knock at the door and a crew member asked that all passengers in the cabin come to the door so he could "count heads". No sooner had we gotten back to sleep, and there was another door knock. My husband stayed in bed, but the crew member insisted that he get up so that they could double check the count.The local navy also joined in the search and rescue mission.

After about an hour, presumably after getting the confirmed passenger and ship count, the rescue mission was called off and the ship changed course back to our original heading. We arrived about an hour late in our next port of call, seriously impacting all the passengers and crew, as well as the local tourism companies that had been awaiting the ship's arrival.The good news is that noone had gone overboard. The crew didn't speak about this event, so I can't say if there were any charges made against someone for what appeared to be an April Fools' prank.

Cruise lines, the captain, and the crew take safety very highly. I know that you hear about incidents from time to time and rarely do we get all the details. When you look at the number of passengers that sail in a year, and the number of real incidents that occur, the safety record is very impressive.If you happen to be on a ship on April 1, please do not consider a prank such as the one I described here. This was no laughing matter.

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