Monday, April 02, 2012

April Fools!

"Never believe anything you read on the internet."  -- Abraham Lincoln

"If you're going to do something wrong, do it right." -- Randall's Rule

The players: Me (Facebook & Twitter links) and my son Brandon (Facebook & Twitter).
The inspiration: Several months ago while browsing funny stuff on the interwebs, we saw that, as a prank, someone had changed their birthday on Facebook to April 1, just to see the birthday greetings roll in from his friends on that date. Simple, but funny and generally harmless. Then I discovered an app that allows you to spoof your location on your Android smartphone (called, cleverly enough, Location Spoofer), meaning you can then trick Facebook and other apps that use your location into thinking you are anywhere in the world. We put them together, and...

The plan: For April 1, we would pretend that (1) it was Brandon's 18th birthday (which is not actually until November) and (2) he was being given a dream trip by his parents to a Broadway show (he's a huge theater tech guy). He and I would travel to New York City, posting (photoshopped) pictures from our travels throughout the day.

The setup: Knowing that the prank would play better if it was realistic, we actually checked airline schedules and picked a flight, found out the time and location for the April 1 matinee of Wicked on Broadway, located and planned other activities and transportation -- in short, we set up a full, actual, and realistic itinerary, everything short of actually spending the money! Knowing April 1 was a Sunday this year, Brandon also got himself scheduled to work all morning behind the scenes in our church's video production room so he wouldn't run into friends. (I wasn't so clever, and ended up being scheduled to be in the Praise Team and sing a solo, which blew the joke for several people! Still it was fun having people at church ask me, "Hey, aren't you supposed to be on a plane???") 
I used GIMP (think Photoshop, but free) to create pictures of Brandon and me at each of our locations (I tried to make them realistic, but also used the exact same pose of the two of us in each pic as a clue for attentive people that it wasn't real), and then we set up a posting schedule for each of us to check in or upload pictures throughout the day -- with a special twist ending to cap off the joke (or give it away to anyone who hadn't yet caught on)!

The execution: So here, in order, are the actual posts and pictures from our April 1 virtual trip to New York (all times Central; notes in italics). Enjoy!

March 31, 11:45 pm
Brandon changes his birthday on Facebook to April 1. This is a little more complicated than we expected. He had to submit a request to FB with a reason for the change -- but it was approved and changed by 2am! Changing it back might be interesting now... 

April 1, 7:05 am
ME: Happy birthday to my oldest son! Enjoy what Mom & I have lined up for you! Love you! 

7:30 am 
BRANDONSurprise trip for my birthday from my awesome parents! Headed to New York City!!! Would like to know more details though... — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

7:58 am 
BRANDONHave to put my phone on airplane mode now, NYC here I come!! — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
I reply, "Me too!" The flight was American Airlines #708, if anyone is curious.

11:34 am 
ME: Made it to New York City safely with Brandon. Kind of crazy to do a whirlwind trip like this, but hey, he only turns 18 once! — with Brandon Randall at American Airlines Terminal - LaGuardia Airport

11:51 am 
BRANDON: Yes! Dad finally told me what we're doing here. We have matinee tickets to see Wicked!! excited!! — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall near New York, NY

1:35 pm 
BRANDON: At the Gershwin waiting for it to start!! Can't wait! — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Wicked: Gershwin Theater
(Slight glitch here -- Brandon forget to upload the picture, so I jump in...)

1:37 pm 
ME: Awesome theater! — with Brandon Randall at Wicked @ Gershwin Theatre, Broadway.

4:35 pm 
BRANDON: WICKED WAS INCREDIBLE!! Fantastic lighting and other special FX, great music too...sooo many songs stuck in my head... — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Wicked: Gershwin Theater

(This posting was a slight mistake -- the show wasn't supposed to be over until 4:45, and this post was scheduled for 4:53, not 4:35. But we figured that if someone went through the effort to look up show times and show lengths to check our timing, they'd deserve to find out the truth!)

4:48 pm 
ME: Wicked is amazing!!! First time to see a show on Broadway, and it didn’t disappoint! Now on to the next surprise (and braving the subway)! — with Brandon Randall at Wicked @ Gershwin Theatre, Broadway.

5:44 pm 
ME: We’re in Times Square, heading for the Hard Rock CafĂ© for supper! — with Brandon Randall at Hard Rock Cafe Times Square NYC.

6:46 pm 
BRANDON: Yes! Adding to my pin collection! — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Hard Rock Cafe Times Square NYC.

(Brandon really does collect Hard Rock pins. Fortunately it's easy to find pictures of them on the internet! Our only regret in this whole prank is not actually buying one off of eBay for him to wear to school and further confuse his friends!)

7:41 pm 
BRANDON: Times Square!! — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Times Square in NYC.

8:20 pm 
ME: In Herald Square to go to Empire State Building, ran into ventriloquist (& fellow Baylor ’86 alum) Jeff Dunham! So cool! I ♥ NY! — with Jeff Dunham and Brandon Randall at Herald Square.

(Why? Herald Square was kind of a boring picture, and we thought it would be funny to throw in a celebrity encounter just to mix things up. Why Jeff Dunham? Well, not only was Jeff just off-the-wall enough to be believable, but [1] he and I do have the Baylor connection in common and [2] I'm friends with him on Facebook -- he's my token celebrity friend -- so I could tag him in the picture, adding to the realism! Judging by the comments, it did fool some people.)

8:46 pm 
ME: with Brandon Randall at Empire State Building.

9:14 pm 
BRANDON: What a view! Never seen so many lights before... — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Empire State Building.

9:43 pm 
BRANDON: Headed back, it's been a great day, but I probably have to get back for that thing I have tomorrow at 9am... — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall.

(Brandon figured that after such a great trip, he wouldn't want to mention "school" by name...
Okay, how to wrap this trip up? I did look for return flights to Dallas, but [1] there weren't any this late on a Sunday night and [2] we figured the prank needed a punch line. So...)

10:35 pm 
ME: Ran out of money in NYC, snuck onto a flight. Wound up in China, working as tour guides until we can earn enough to come home. Hope to see you all someday. — with Brandon Randall at Great Wall Of China.

(Yeah, we know we couldn't actually get to China that fast, but frankly we weren't going for realism any more at this point -- although if anyone had pointed that out, we had a response ready: "China's over the International Date Line, so it's already tomorrow there!"
But we weren't quite done...)

10:41 pm 
BRANDON: In China...long story. But I've got a new pin! See you guys at school...sometime — with Brad 'Wombat' Randall at Beijing, China.


Thanks to the handful of you who were in on the joke and played along -- and for the rest of you who were fooled, we'll pretend you were playing along, too. No one has to know. :-) 
Happy April Fools Day!

P.S. Brandon received over 80 birthday greetings!