It was a Sunday. Joe Novacek, a Kansas dad of four (3 boys ages 12, 9 and 7; and 1 girl age 4), had been to yet another kid's birthday party.
Joe (see picture above) often played practical jokes on his neighbor Mike Muckerman--also a father of four (3 boys and a girl)-- because that's what guys do, right?
So, when Joe found himself in the presence of a kid's Mylar princess birthday balloon, he did what any good, friendly neighbor would do.
He taped a sticky note with his neighbor Mike's cell phone number on it and sent it into the blue skies. It got stuck in a tree right away, but Joe was determined. He freed the note-carrying balloon and it soared.
Joe didn't tell Mike (also pictured above) what he had done.
A few days later, a guy named James Garity was jogging out in the country when he found a balloon--still slightly inflated--in a ditch. There was a note taped to the balloon. And a number.
James felt a little weird calling the number, but he did. He'd hoped someone would answer. They didn't. So he left a voicemail.
And the voicemail is just as awkward and hilarious as you would imagine.
Hear the voicemail message!
When Mike heard the voicemail he wasn't sure what to think.
"I thought it was a scam and someone was going to try and steal my social security number," Mike said with a laugh.
"That. Or Joe Novacek was behind it," he added, still laughing.
A quick map search says Helenville, Wisconsin, is 545 miles from Overland Park.
All involved can't believe the balloon made it from Overland Park, Kansas to Wisconsin. All involved laugh when they talk about this experience--a princess balloon connecting three guys hundreds of miles apart.
In a world where conversations tend to happen instantly online or on a phone, there's something very comforting about a message, on a balloon, which took four days to travel more than 500 miles, and bring strangers together for a good laugh.