Saturday, July 05, 2003

A plea for sanity
Last night watching the Fourth of July celebrations it occurred to me that we are entering a certain season and that a warning is in order. Think of this as a public service announcement.

In the next few months hundreds of state and county fairs will take place, this will be followed by the football season, and even before the Superbowl, the election season will be in full gear. What do fairs, football, and elections have in common. Helium balloons. Not many people think of gaily-colored helium balloons as a threat, but they are.

Think of how a helium balloon works. The helium gas inside the balloon has a much lower density than the surrounding air down here on the surface of the earth. When you release a balloon, it rises seeking its own pressure level. It continues up through the various thinning layers of the atmosphere till it reaches a level where the pressures inside and outside the balloon (with some adjustments for the weight of the balloon) are in equilibrium. There, the balloon stops rising.

But it’s not alone. At that level—the balloonosphere—it meets up with all the tens of millions of balloons that have made the voyage before it. With each supermarket opening, political convention, and homecoming game the balloonosphere gets thicker. Soon the day will come when enough balloons are collected to create a solid canopy over us all. Then, with the warming rays of the sun cut off, the temperature will plunge. Survivalists with guns and libertarians with silver dollars will run amok in the streets. Government services will be overwhelmed and the government will collapse. Riot will turn to revolution. Neighbor will turn against neighbor. Brother will turn against brother. Civilization itself will collapse. And then in our most vulnerable hour, the penguins will make their move. For the love of God do not buy your child that balloon. Stuff them with cotton candy and take them home. Just say NO to helium balloons. The civilization you save will be your own.

We now return you to your previously scheduled political commentary.

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