Tom Schruben lives in Kensington, Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC with his wife Ann and their youngest daughter Darcy. He's 62 years old and does consulting on environmental engineering. And he's also the symbol of his neighborhood. You see, when the pandemic hit, like with most of the country, the burden of threat and uncertainty loomed over Tom and his neighbors as well.
So, to give everyone a break from their worries, Tom started putting up a whiteboard in front of his family house every morning with a new dad joke, and the fun little initiative was just what people, including Tom himself. Its effects, however, turned out to be anything but little.
"I have been very gratified how much of an impact such a simple thing can have on the world," the man told Bored Panda. "I never imagined that my jokes would become the daily reading lesson for eager 5 and 6-year-old children. Or that I would hear from people across the country that I had lost touch with many years ago who saw my name in a newspaper or a social media post. Or that my older children would appreciate my jokes - they certainly acted like they didn't like them when they were younger, especially when I told dad jokes in front of their friends. Putting up a joke each day is a bit of an anchor that helps me stay centered in these crazy, stressful times."
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You could say it's actually Tom's wife who is reponsible for the series. "I am normally a pretty cheerful guy, but by the second week of the COVID-19 lockdown, even I was getting pretty grumpy," he said. "I couldn't go to my office and I couldn't travel to my projects," he explained. "I felt cooped up and disconnected from time and people. My wife had heard from a friend in Ohio that she was posting dad jokes in front of her house in Ohio and my wife suggested that I try doing that as well since we live across from a park and busy walking path."
Remaining humble, Tom said that he gave it a try because over 38 years of marriage, most of the good things in his family's life have come at his wife's suggestion. "I posted my first joke and within 20 minutes, I heard from my perch on our porch a passerby laugh. I was hooked and from that day on, I have put a new joke out each day."
At first, he was getting the jokes out of a book that his youngest daughter, Darcy, had gotten him for Christmas - "Exceptionally Bad Dad Jokes, So Frightfully Awful...Yet Wonderfully Spiffing" by Spiffy McChappy, but as the popularity of his sign grew, people started sending him their own jokes and links to other ones on the Internet. "We have also made some up, but most of my jokes are stolen."
"I decide what jokes to use based on my mood and what is happening in the world. We often discuss jokes at dinner and Ann and Darcy make suggestions. I stay away from mean or political jokes, but sometimes I try to reflect at least the mood of the day such as when the protests over police violence began. I keep in mind that the purpose of the jokes is to give people a short, two second break from the pressures of the pandemic, economic disruption, and social realignment that is making all of our heads spin, so I try to pick jokes that will get a groan or a laugh," Tom said.
The man hasn't made up his mind when he'll stop putting out the sign yet. Many people tell him that it has become an important part of their day and every now and then, someone even takes a picture to help them remember the joke so they can tell it to their children or grandchildren later in the day. So the jokes must go on. The neighborhood needs them.