Home > Monday Minute > Monday Minute: James Takes On The Dang Balloon Man

Monday Minute: James Takes On The Dang Balloon Man

Perhaps you remember my memoir on Central Park and its amazing assortment of balloon vendors from last year, aka The Day James Ran Around Screaming For 4 Hours. Well yesterday, the kids and I went to meet the very same friend in the very same place, almost 2 years later. Though we’ve been to the Central Park zoo dozens of times since then, it has often been sans-James because we usually go while he’s in school.

From the moment I mentioned that we were going to the zoo the following morning he began campaigning hard for a different one – Brooklyn, Bronx, the Coney Island aquarium. “The Central Park zoo has the most balloons,” he was able to clearly explain when I asked why he was so worked up. “I think there might be less balloons in the Spring than in Summer,” I replied carefully. “Besides, we’re not buying any balloons and the zoo doesn’t allow balloons inside because the animals could choke on them.” With that information in hand James perked up a bit and we were able to get to the zoo the next morning with fairly little issue.

The day was sunny and beautiful, just warm enough not to need jackets. We exited the subway and followed the windy path toward the zoo entrance littered with vendors – the Nuts for Nuts cart, a hot dog and soft pretzel man, and the obligatory half a dozen stands with peddlers trying to convince me that they could sketch all four of my children before they got restless. James cheerfully announced, “No balloons! You were right, mom!” I was feeling rather exuberant about how smoothly the day was going until I finally spotted him. The lone balloon animal man, stationed right at the southern entrance to the zoo, offering “free” balloons animals to passing children for a token donation.

I hoped that by enthusiastically noticing each and every vendor on our left, James would be able to ignore THE ONE to our right, but no. That’s not the way this works. Behind me I heard James mutter, “that dang balloon man.” And before I knew what was happening:

Balloon Man (henceforth referred to as BM): (calls out loudly in halting English, smiling) Would you like balloon?

Margaret: Sure!

Me (panic-stricken): No! (in a calmer voice) No balloons are allowed in the zoo, remember?

Margaret (unfazed): Oh yeah.

James heads over to the balloon man (What?!).

BM: What kind of balloon?

James (politely but borderline shouty) No.   Thank.    You. Balloons are NOT allowed at this zoo.

BM (to Adam and Margaret): Balloons?

James: No. You will choke those animals! Those dang balloons are dangerous!

BM (to me): Free balloons? They are free.

Me: No, thank you. (lightly) My son is not a fan.

James: I am not a fan. You should not make balloons at this zoo. Something could happen.

BM (half amused, half alarmed): No balloons, no balloons. No disturb.

James: Balloons are disturbing.

Me: James, come on. Let’s go in.

James (back to muttering, finally moving): That dang balloon man…

Upon standing in line to enter the zoo James pointed to a large sign which clearly stated “No Balloons,” complete with a picture inside a slashed-out circle. “Mom, when we get home I’m going to make a sign for my entrance,” James announced. “Oh, yeah? What will it say?”

“I’m reading so don’t disturb me with any balloons in my room.”


Embarrassing? Yes.

Progress from last time? YES.

Better than chasing a hysterical child in circles through Central Park? YESYESYESYESYESYES

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