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December 08, 2009

Choking Hazard

Balloon animal My husband's company sponsors a Christmas party for the children and grandchildren of employees in early December every year. The party is held at an indoor amusement park at the mega-mall on the west side of Edmonton. In addition to the unlimited access to rides, there is dinner, presents for each child and a chance to visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause. 

There is also The Balloon Man.

Balloon Man wears a construction belt bedecked with a rainbow of colored balloons that he will fashion into nearly any shape a child might imagine. He even mounts it on a hat. When not disguised as Balloon Man, he is a small business owner, but my husband and I have only ever seen him in the creative mode and his propensity for sharing details of his personal life and his opinions about anything under the sun with parents as he creates makes us glad of this. He patiently endures every year until the last child has the balloon animal of his/her dreams and this usually means working overtime for free, which he grumbles about to parents too.

Reluctant as he may be to speak up for himself when his contract his violated, Balloon Man is a rabid activist on the subject of child safety where his product is concerned. Woe to the parent of a baby or toddler who steps into line expecting a puffy plastic play toy for their wee one.


My daughter and her two friends were happily choosing varying shades of pink and purple for their teddy bear hats when Balloon Man spied the family behind us - a young father, mother and a baby about 10 or so months old who was gnawing her fist with the ferocity of an animal in a trap, drool lapping her chubby wrists, her eyes mesmerized by the man twisting the colored latex.

His eyes narrowed, Balloon Man said,

"I don't make balloon animals for children under the age of three. It's a choking hazard."

The young parents looked at each other with amusement as though they were telepathically sharing a joke at the expense of Balloon Man's overzealous safety Nazi attitude. They were the parents, after all, and knew best.

"You'll need to step out of line," Balloon Man got the joke and was clearly not amused.

The mother stepped out with a roll of her eyes, but the husband stayed.

"I don't make balloons for children under three," Balloon Man said again.

I should point out that throughout the confrontation, he is twisting away at a hat for my daughter, and my husband is standing, uncomfortably, between Balloon Man and the offending parents. I was off to the side a bit watching the exchange and feeling as though anywhere else would be the better place to be standing right at that moment,.

"Well, what if my husband wants a balloon animal?" she asked, smiling at her husband who thought that was quite the clever comeback and smiled right back.

Balloon Man didn't quite sneer, but it was clear that he'd encountered smug first time parents before and he said,

"He will give the balloon to the baby, who is clearly teething, and it will end up right in her mouth. Do you know what happens when a balloon breaks in a child's mouth?"

Mom isn't smiling anymore but her husband continues to grin cluelessly.

"It deflates," Balloon Man continues, "and the force of the air sends the balloon to the back of the throat where it adheres to the membrane, and there is no way it can be removed. The child suffocates while you watch. Do you want to watch your child die?"

Dad is now only half-grinning and looking from Balloon Man to his wife with a "what do you want me to do now" look and Mom is clutching their baby was though she is afraid Balloon Man might snatch her away.

"Seriously?" Dad asks.

"Get out of line," Mom says.

"That doesn't really happen like that, right?" Dad says - mostly to himself because everyone else is trying to pretend that he hasn't just been lectured on the safety of his baby daughter by a guy wearing a hat made of Christmas colored latex.

"Get out of the line!" his wife commands.

And he obeys, though he is clearly confused, and he slinks out and trots to catch up to her as they head towards the coat racks by the carousel. 

"Balloons are a choking hazard," Balloon Man intones with the authority of a prophet to the rest of us in line.

Amen. And Merry Christmas.


This is an original 50 Something Moms Post by Ann Bibby of Care2 and anniegirl1138.

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