April 1 is no laughing matter. Because back in 1992, the joke was on me.

I was graduate student in New York City, almost done with my dual-degree master’s program in journalism and Near Eastern Studies.

In fact, in my briefcase at the time was a recommendation letter for a job I was applying to—my first real writing job—at the Homer News in Alaska (which just yesterday reported the first case of coronavirus in the city of Kenai. I note this because that’s what got me started writing these daily pieces in the first place.)

I was also in the midst of an internship at The New York Times, in the old building on the 10th floor (op-eds and letters to the editor). That very recommendation was from one of the journalists there.

It was about 8 p.m., and I had just finished dinner with a friend and was walking back to my dorm. I was crossing Eighth Street and Broadway when I heard the sports car even before I saw it. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my back in the middle of the street, my briefcase thrown about 20 feet away.

The car had rammed into my left knee, and I was in shock, right there on Broadway, headed for the East Village.

I vaguely remember being loaded into an ambulance and taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, clutching my briefcase, which the very kind police officer at the scene (he said it was his 10th or 11th “pedestrian hit” of the day) handed me after my rambling plea to grab it off the street.

It was a good recommendation. And on hard-copy paper.

The worst came later, all bruised and bandaged up—I had torn ligaments, so I needed crutches, not a cast—when I had to make calls to my roommates, as well as my not-yet-husband, that I’d been hit by a car, needed to leave the hospital, and could someone please get me because I wasn’t allowed to go home alone.

Remember, this was April Fool’s Day.

One of my roommates had the good sense to come, and the not-yet-husband did, too. He figured it was a no-brainer: If he arrived and it was a joke, well, he could handle it. If he didn’t come and it wasn’t a joke, well, the “not yet” would be “never.”

The call to my folks came later. Funny, they believed me right away.

So there you have it. Ever since, on April 1, I try to stay indoors as much as possible. The first few years, I actually took the day off. The fact that I am home today makes complete sense in the scheme of things.

Eleven years later, well-ensconced as managing editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, I got an early-morning call from my boss, the editor in chief, that a colleague had been in a terrible car accident driving back from New York and was in the hospital. He recovered, thank goodness, though it took months, just as it took me in ’92 to literally get back on my feet.

So there you have it. Car accidents, corona …

I have a much better time on July 4.

Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.

This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).

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