While in Florida, we took Simone and Nadia to Walt Disney World for a day. They went on rides, met Disney characters, and otherwise had a ball. Of course, they wanted souvenirs. They asked for Minnie Mouse ears, Tinkerbell wands, and balloons. The girls love balloons. I wish I knew why. Balloons are colorful and fly but don’t do much else.

Two years ago, Ken and Simone had a falling out over a balloon. If I remember correctly, Ken had told Simone she couldn’t have one. Not surprisingly, we have a picture of Simone  holding said balloon and wearing a scowl on her face.

On this trip I had promised we would get balloons at the end of the day. Disney balloons are not like ordinary balloons. They are huge and apparently well made. We have taken them home before, and they lasted a week. An entire week. We drove home in those cases. I started to think about how we were going to get the balloons home this time. Would we be able to take them on the plane?  It didn’t really matter if we could get them home. I had promised. Besides, children don’t necessarily grasp all the nuances of an issue. All they know is they want a balloon.

I kept my promise. The girls faces lit up, and they gladly posed with their new toy. The next day I called the airline and asked whether we could bring the balloons onboard.

“Balloons filled with helium?”


“Those balloons are filled with a combustible gas. You will not get through security with them.”

It turns out helium is an inert gas. Still, I had visions of Simone and Nadia screaming as a security officer confiscated the balloons. That could not happen. I gathered the girls and took pictures of them with their balloons, and then I explained the lady on the phone said we could not take the balloons on the plane. Instead we would let go of the balloons before we went to the airport and tell them good-bye. I had gotten this idea from Simone. We had watched her purposely let go of them on more than one occasion.

The girls clutched the balloons while Ken and I packed the car. When we finished, I announced it was time to say good-bye. Ken cut the strings, and all of us waved and said good-bye as they floated away.

We never heard another word about the balloons. No tears were shed. I, though, felt uneasy. While we had solved this problem, passed this test, there are countless more, waiting in the wings.

3 thoughts to “Floating Away

  • Blanc2

    The airline employee was full of it. Helium is one of the most, if not the most, inert gasses in the periodic table. That’s why it’s used for balloons and such. The airline was just being an asshole.

    Hydrogen, in contrast to helium, is highly flammable and volatile. During WWII, the US controlled the lion’s share of the world’s helium supply. Thus, the Germans had to fill their airships with hydrogen. Airships develop static electricity on their skins during flight. This was the cause of the Hindenburg disaster — a large static electricity spark (released when its mooring ropes grounded — like touching another person’s ear in a dry winter climate and shocking them) in the presence of a large reservoir of hydrogen gas.

    • Percola

      I figured as much, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing any balloons at the airport in all the times I’ve been there in the last few months. So, they floated away.

  • Nikki

    I love this story. 🙂 and I love that picture!

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