There’s an iconic battle of the birthdays happening from Hurley to Pascagoula, and if you’ve traveled down Mississippi Highway 63 recently, you’ve probably seen it.
Tim Spiriti of Hurley has received more than 2,000 birthday text messages and almost 1,000 celebratory phone calls after his son plastered his face on a billboard and asked the public to wish him a happy birthday. The sign, which is on the south end of the Miss. 63 bridge in Moss Point, reads, “Wish my dad a happy birthday” and has a phone number below it for anyone to call.
“When I first saw the sign, I just thought it was hilarious,” Spiriti said. “And I thought that’s not my number, so I’m not too worried about it. And then they handed me a pre-paid phone, and it was ringing.”
That pre-paid phone then rang for 48 hours straight. Some of those calls were from as far away as Saudi Arabia.
His son, who is from Pascagoula and shares the same name as his dad, said the birthday prank has been an ongoing battle since he was a child and he and his father constantly try to one-up each other year after year.
“My dad always wants to play around and publish my phone number on Facebook every year on my birthday,” the younger Spiriti said. “I’ve always threatened to get a billboard with his picture and phone number on it, and this year I finally made good on the threat.”
The family had called a truce and taken a break from the birthday pranks for the last couple of years.
“Then one year on my birthday, I started getting more text messages at work and phone calls,” the younger Spiriti said. “I started asking questions to different family members, and of course, nobody would admit to who did it.”
He soon realized he had his father’s Facebook password and he logged in and saw that his father had blocked him from seeing a post announcing his son’s birthday complete with his actual phone number and asking people to call or text birthday wishes.
“I decided then to pull the trigger this year and get the billboard set up,” he said.
The elder Spiriti’s birthday is not until July 30, but his son put the billboard up on July 13 and took his prank to Facebook.
“Yes, this is real,” he wrote.”For all my Mississippi friends, it’s at the south end of the Hwy. 63 bridge on the west side of the highway, facing south. Please share this with everyone you know.”
And he did not block his father from seeing the post.
“I’ve answered every text,” the elder Spiriti said. “Every call, I’ll take. If I can’t I’ll answer the voicemail. And I even send messages to missed calls that don’t leave a voicemail.”
Both men agreed that the birthday battle is far from over.
“His birthday is in May,” Spiriti senior said. “I have plenty of time to come up with an idea.”