Balloon Boy.

October 16, 2009

Ok, so last night was a child free night. Me and boy settled in to watch a movie, possibly smoke some dubious cigarettes, and at about 10pm. I checked Twitter.

The top trending topic was ‘Yo Balloon Boy’. I clicked on, expecting to find a rather dull story, about a boy and a balloon. Oh how I was wrong.

So early yesterday, 6 year old Falcon(yes, that would be his name…..)…went into his back yard, and was playing with his fathers already inflated, ready to go, hot air balloon. Yes. You heard me right. Falcon, had access to a balloon, capable of lifting the 6 year old child, and carry him for miles,  in his backyard-ready to go.

Can you even imagine being 6, daddy having  hot air balloon in the yard, and not being able to t0uch it. This is akin to leaving a child in a room, with a big red shiny, exciting button, leaving them unsupervised with it, with strict instructions not to touch. Inexperienced as I am as a parent- this surely would strike all but the certifiable, as a risky strategy?

The world took notice of Falcon the Terror Tot- when the balloon had sailed away. By the time the balloon had been brought down, it had resulted in a tv crew representative from each of the worlds major news networks, CNN, BBC, Fox, Sky, MSNBC landing on this family’s lawn.

The rolling news coverage of this balloon had incorporated into all news schedules, had been the subject of satellite tracking, NASA involvement, the National Guard being called, and had resulted in air traffic being diverted from Denver Airport….

The world held its breath, as they waited to hear the fate of the boy who was trapped in his parents hot air balloon, flying across the midwest of the USA…

Pundits lined up to ‘discuss’ how responsible it was to have a  balloon capable of lifting a child into flight, and taking them miles…tethered in the garden ready for us… They queued up to discuss strategies for taking the balloon down(NASA, military….), am sure Fox would have been discussing Obamas culpability in the Marxist left wing conspiracy to get all rednecks to tether hot air baloons in the yard. There were discussions about the make of the balloon, am fairly sure that the sales of said item, increased by unimagined percentages. Weather balloon experts queued up to discuss the merits of this particular balloon. The cost of following and broadcasting the balloon, for our viewing pleasure, ran into millions. Imagine the dissapointment, when they brought the balloon down, and it was empty. There was no frightened(or dead!) child. The world gasped. It came out that the family had appeared on Wife Swap, going on family holidays to to chase tornados..

6 year old Falcon, the poor wee mite, who had apparently gotten up that morning, and thought ‘I best not touch daddys hot air balloon, look how shiny it is…just one play…then FUCK. Dads balloon has gone up. Fuck. What do I do? Hide in the attic….?

And as the child is hiding in his box in the attic, CNN, BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, Sky…all pile on the lawn with tv crews. People on the television calling your dad a twat…NASA…THe airport, police searching the house… fuck fuck fuck.

I think I may have stayed in the attic for a long long time.

The police, the national guard, a helicopter with a plan to abseil INTO the balloon in mid air. And there are millions being spent on plans for watching, tracking, and intercepting the balloon. Fuck fuck fuck. And the story gets more absurd. THere are thousands of tweets a minute about the rapidly unfolding tale of balloon boy, the story resulted in an Anne Frank/Kanye West joke, several million hits on Youtube, and a world anxious to hear more about the mysterious empty balloon that they had just spent millions watching fly through air.

The tearful reunion with his family, from his terrifying ordeal in his attic box, while an empty balloon flew across the state, was filmed and seen by millions with seconds of it happening. His father talked about his relief at his son being home, safe and well,  and spoke through gritted teeth about how he would be ‘laying no blame’ for this incident, where the child had let go the ready to fly, hot air balloon, and an international media circus had built up around the family, in less than 12 hours.

And the story, this simple story, of a boy pissing about with his dads hot air balloon, had become one of the most finely crafted vignettes illustrating everything that was absurd about her peculiar little society. We saw with our own eyes, the speed at which ‘news’ travels on the internet, news networks creating out of nowhere a round the world sensation which required blanket coverage, with endless speculation, while keenly tracking an empty balloon.

A classic cautionary tale of what happens to children, if they  dont do as they are told(baggsy to write the classic childrens story- the boy who messed with his dads balloon.Worthy of Hillaire Belloc surely?).

In my house, there was a fine example of two slightly stoned people, completely missing the humanity of the story, and seriously wetting themselves till 1.30, at the plight of this poor child, sat in his attic, which had somehow reached my dimly lit bedroom, at just the point where anything would have made me laugh, never mind this perfectly absurd story for start to finish. Another story of a redneck family, too stupid to apply normal standards of responsible parenting, yet utterly convinced of their support by God.

A day that started with true shock and horror, at the story of Jaime Leigh Jones, and the opposition of her right to get any kind of retribution from the offshoot of Halliburton that employed her, when she was gang raped by their employees in Iraq- a story brought to the public view, not by the mainstream media, but by social networking sites. Ended with me believing, in my slightly intoxicated state, that the balloon boy was the highlight of my life, resulting in out loud, rolling round the bed, eyes streaming, uncontrollable, pelvic floor challenging, belly laughter.

I have a feeling, that tomorrow, when someone asks me about Balloon Boy, I will struggle to recall the story, never mind how absurdly funny and well crafted it was. And when the movie comes out next year, followed by a childrens book, t-shirts, and ready for christmas Toy Weather Balloons as flown by Falcon the Terror Tot, I will struggle to recall precisely what was so hilarious.

But thank you Balloon Boy, for one evening, as the story unfolded in real time, I was shown very clearly the absurdity of the world I live in, and have never laughed so outrageously. I am sorry that when the media evaporate, you will have to be faced with your dad, and that by the time you graduate, you will have been known as ‘Balloon Boy’ for at least 12 years, and I am very sorry that the nature of modern media, will mean, that two thirds of the people who helped create this internet amusement, will have forgotten the story entirely. But seriously, thank you. To those of you reading this blog, thinking ‘what the fuck’, you really had to be there.



  1. Thanks for explaining the whole Balloon Boy debarkle. I kept hearing about it and saw the hashtag, but had absolutely no idea what anyone was talking about. I now see that I missed a completely useless (if very funny) piece of news reportage, so no harm done.

  2. […] went into his back yard, and was playing with his fathers already inflated, ready to go, hot air balloon . Yes. You heard me right. Falcon, had access to a balloon , capable of lifting the 6 year old child, and carry him for miles, …Continue Reading… […]

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