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The “Up”-side of Delivering Balloons

27 August 2009 Stories and Appreciations 7,502 views 3 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

Balloons represent happy times.  Celebratory moments in our lives.  We bring balloons to hospitals when someone has just had a baby. We string balloons on mailboxes to announce a party.  Clowns twist balloons into wiener dogs, bringing smiles to young children.  And an Ed Asner-voiced character in Pixar’s film “Up” used balloons to find adventure.

In my winsome and innocent youth, it was happy connotations like these that decided me to get work delivering balloon-o-grams.  I believed I could bring cheer and happiness right to people’s doors.  But would I up the ante by delivering the balloons as a singing “Petunia, the Pink Gorilla.”

Delivering balloons as a mammoth-headed furry creature was much more complex than I expected.  First, consider the costume.  Once you put on one of those oversized sauna-like outfits, you completely lose all sense of self.  The alien-sized head, with its netted eyeholes, robs you of your depth perception — and combined with massive fur covered mittens, the costume leave you unable to open doors or even to grasp the bouquet of balloons .  Walking up steps or driving a car with Herman Munster-sized feet is no easy task, either.

Another difficulty one encounters in wearing the costume is simply being heard.  No matter much noise you make in there, no one is going to hear you.  I learned this when I was sent to a sweet sixteen party (at a Sons of Portugal Club, no less) where I was instructed to deliver the balloons and get everyone in the room to sing to the birthday girl.

(For some odd reason, I was instructed to sing “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” rather than “Happy Birthday,” the more obvious and logical choice.  Perhaps my boss felt “Happy Birthday” was too commonplace for such a special delivery.)

I sang my guts out from inside my gorilla costume (whose head was so big I had to look out the nostrils rather than the eyes).  I even conducted wildly with my arms.  And while I sang “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” the partygoers sang a rousing version of “Happy Birthday,” completely unaware of the counter melody of well wishes echoing in my anthropoid head.

The same day of the sweet sixteen party, I was to also sent to deliver balloons for a woman’s 10th wedding anniversary dressed as “Huggy the Bear.”  You would think that I would be ready for anything at this point, but there were still surprises yet to come.

After batting balloons from the windshield during the entire drive, I stood around the corner from my destination assembling my costume.  I was instructed to do this so as to not spoil the illusion for anyone.  As if anyone truly believed a Yeti-sized upright walking bear in a t-shirt, carrying a dozen multicolored balloons, was real.

Devoid of normal tactile sensations, grasping the balloon strings was a nearly impossible task.  My bloated plush fingertips just couldn’t hit that that tiny target of a doorbell and the muffled knocking I could barely muster was useless. Eventually a tired, middle-aged woman came to the door.  Little did she know I was about to make her day!

She made no effort to welcome me in.  Instead, she stared blankly at me from the other side of the glass door, moaned, “Oh, God,” and walked away.

Undeterred, I stood there for a good five minutes pawing at the door, my engorged Muppet hand unable to fit inside the handle. My opposable thumb was pretty much useless to push the release button as well.

When I finally got inside I had no idea where the woman had gone, but in front of me stood a long staircase.  I clumsily tackled the stairs, falling at each step, desperately trying not to lose grip of my balloons.  At the top of the stairs, I became aware of a yipping sound, the sound a very small dog might make. I could not see the dog, but he was there.  I used my feet as feelers, trying not to squash the little bugger, but once he attached himself to my leg with his pit bull jaw lock I needed worry no more.

I turned the corner and there she was, sitting on her couch, smoking a cigarette.  I smiled inside my cavernous paper mache head and stuck out my bouquet of heart shaped balloons. The woman didn’t budge, so I placed them on her coffee table.  She continued staring at me, then took a long, deep drag of nicotine and muttered, “Let’s get this over with.”

So I sang her a quick ditty, and left the shiny, cheery balloons as a memento.  Then I showed myself to the door, just as awkwardly as when I arrived.

I lasted a total of one day delivering balloon-o-grams.  The whole experience left me somewhat…deflated.  I turned in my helium tank and rubber ape gloves, wondering if I had set my expectations too high.  But I knew I made the right decision a few years later, when I was the recipient of a balloon delivery myself.

I was performing at a theatre in Key West, Florida and the women from the show were put up in a boarding house exclusive to women.  For my birthday, my brother, who just so happens to be named Dyke, sent me a balloon bouquet.  It was delivered to the common room of the guesthouse, with a card attached, open for everyone to read.

I suppose the card should have read, “Happy Birthday.  See you soon. Dyke.”  But instead the balloon company had written, “Happy Birthday.  See you soon, dyke!”

I guess some things are just not meant to be.  But I’m certainly happy Ed Asner got the ride of his life from a bouquet of balloons.  Maybe I’m even a tad jealous.

Kobi Shaw

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  1. Love it!!

  2. Awesome! Keep writing, you gave me my daily dose of endorphins. :)

  3. Dosen’t need much wind for balloons to be tangled or blown away… and if you don’t sweat enough in a costume, the pressures of trying to deliver a smile might draw every drop of liquid out of your body !

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