Ballooning Out of Control

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As he made his way to the table, I tried to avert my gaze.

I didn’t want to be rude, but at the same time I didn’t want to encourage his advances. I knew what he wanted. It just wasn’t what I wanted. Perhaps on another evening I would be more in the mood. It had been a long day and, among other reasons, I didn’t want to have to make small talk.

It didn’t seem to faze him that he could be the object of my swift rejection. He must have known that the risk of rejection was pretty steep, though. He continued walking confidently in my direction, closing the gap between us.

A warm smile dominated his face as he approached our table.

The colorful latex was hard to miss. Exuding from the black apron tied around his waist.

It was too late. The kids spotted him and excitedly asked, “Can we get a balloon!?”

Saying no to a balloon twister is like driving past a lemonade stand with kids waving their sign, or politely declining a group of eager Girl Scouts at a cookie-filled table as you enter the supermarket. You feel like a party pooper.

Some balloon sculptures really take the cake. Don’t try this at home.

It was my own fault.

Just as going into a biker bar, you have a good chance of mingling with leather-clad Harley riders; eating at a restaurant where mechanical apes beat their chest and manmade elephants trumpet over the sound of simulated rain and thunder, you can bet your bottom dollar you will be mingling with a balloon man. And that bottom dollar – you will be handing it to him before you know it.

In the case of balloon art in restaurants, I get the concept. It provides entertainment for the kids, making the time waiting for the food to arrive seem shorter. The only bummer is, they use balloons. That uniquely irritating rubber on rubber sound when being twisted is the worst part of the entire encounter.

Back in the day, before ballooning was a legitimate career with conventions and conferences (seriously), there were two main choices – a wiener dog or a giraffe. But balloon sculptures have evolved into very large projects still under construction as dessert is being served.

On more than one occasion, the elaborate balloon hats that my kids wore home from a restaurant have obstructed the views in my review mirror.

Next time a balloon artist approaches my table, I am going to turn it. They all take requests, why not give them a challenge? These guys can make a sword or monkey hanging from a palm tree in their sleep. Let’s see what happens when I request a map of Latvia in the colors of the country’s flag. Or a bust of the likeness of each of our children, or how about the Great Wall of China. Now that would be worth shelling out a few extra bucks. And certainly put me in the mood.

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