A young Kiwi man has gone global after a hilarious prank from his employer blew so far out of proportion that people from overseas started getting in on the act.
Despite being his birthday, Thursday was supposed to be just another day for West Aucklander Jack Sparrow (yes, that’s his real name).
Instead, the 21-year-old would become the butt of a prank that involved more than 500 people from across the globe.
Unknown to Sparrow, his boss Brendon Day had put up a sign in the middle of Kumeu with Sparrow’s face plastered all over it.
The sign featured instructions: “Today is Jack Sparrows 21st birthday. Text to wish him happy birthday”, with Sparrow’s number on display.
Locals decided to play along. One text soon became five and photos of the sign soon appeared online before being shared in community groups around the country.
Suddenly, a tsunami of texts, calls and voice messages hit Sparrow’s phone like a tonne of bricks.
In his own words to the Herald, he revealed he “didn’t know what the f... was going on”.
“I woke up and had the regular happy birthday phone call from Mum and Dad and a few close mates. But then I got a text from a random number which said ‘Happy birthday mate have a good one’. I messaged back saying thanks but I didn’t want to be rude and ask who it was. I thought it was someone’s number I hadn’t saved and so left it.
“But after another message along the same lines, I bit the bullet and messaged back asking who is this because he kept messaging me asking how my day was going. He goes: ‘I know who you are but you don’t know who I am’.
“Moments later I had a flood of messages from random numbers. I thought why do I have so many messages? I eventually messaged one of them saying ‘I need to know what’s going on’. The guy responded ‘Haven’t you seen the sign?’. I said ‘What sign?’ That’s when he sent me a photo of the sign.”
By this time Sparrow had close to 100 messages come through. But it was only to be the start of his humorous torment.
Some of those who had texted the 21-year-old decided to take the prank another step further.
“I had one guy message me telling me about the sign, so I asked him where it was and he said: ‘It’s by the roundabout at Dairy Flat.’
“I jumped in my car and drove all the way out there only to realise the sign wasn’t there. I texted the guy saying ‘It’s not here’ and he responded by saying ‘Haha shame’. I had driven all that way out there for nothing. I looked at the photo and eventually worked out where the sign was.”
He drove around Kumeu looking for the offending billboard. He finally found it and planned to deal with it the way he knows best – cutting it down.
As he hacked down the sign, he thought the gag was over. It wasn’t.
The police happened to drive past as he was taking to the sign like a vandal. They wound down their window and said they wanted to speak to him. “This can’t be happening,” Sparrow thought to himself.
“It just looks so dodgy because all these people have been vandalising the election signs,” he told the Herald. “So the cops seeing this young guy cutting down a sign during the middle of the day looks dodgy.
“The police slowed down to take a look. I thought, ‘Oh no here we go’. So I held up the sign, they read it, had a look at me, started bursting out laughing and sped off.
“After seeing the photo in the local community group, I worked out it was my boss behind it. I called him and he ignored me.”
For the rest of the day, Sparrow had to keep his phone off because it kept freezing and draining the battery.
By the end of the night, he had 500 unread messages, more than 30 missed calls, a heap of voicemails and a lot of “Up the Wahs”.
He had messages from all corners of the globe, some of which he said were really lovely.
“I had people from Australia, England and Asia messaging me and received some voice messages from people using different languages like Spanish, German and Chinese.
“I also had some really nice messages from some older folks, and the young ones telling me to ‘get on it’. It even got around to my army mates who I trained with and they’ve absolutely let rip at me.
“I had a handful of people singing me happy birthday, and one call had a whole office singing me birthday wishes. There are some genuine people out there.”
Day told the Herald he wasn’t sure he’d come out alive after Sparrow got his hands on him.
Even now, Sparrow is being flooded with messages from across the globe, with many poking fun at his name, which is the same as the lead character’s in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies.
Mum Michelle Sparrow clarified that the name was a coincidence.
“Jack was born a year before the [first] Pirates Of The Caribbean movie came out. I was so mortified we almost changed his name.
“Sports prizegiving, and even going to a medical centre when Jack was sick and they call out his name – people would start talking and giggling and laughing. That was a bit tough.”
Michelle is adamant she wasn’t part of the prank but enjoyed the fallout.
Sparrow also sees the funny side and has plans to take his revenge on his boss.
“All I know is he’d better watch out. We’re supposed to go fishing next week, so watch this space.”
Happy birthday, Jack!