Thursday, October 15, 2009

Balloon Boy: The White Bronco of 2009

Colorado - Falcon Heene and the Weather Balloon

Well, I was gonna write a post about Bob Saget this week, but in lieu of my Twitter coverage of the whole balloon incident today, I decided to write something about this instead.

So, as I sat behind my desk today trying to be productive, I heard the d.j. on the radio mention that a 6 year old boy accidentally launched himself in a hot air balloon that his parents built, and was floating across Colorado. This was actually how the guy on the radio described it. So naturally, I got the image in my mind of a regular hot air balloon. Six year old Billy (because I didn't know his name was Falcon at the time) climbs in, drops some ballast, and pulls the uh... furnace thingy that makes the balloon go up. The parents, some distance away, turn around just in time to see the balloon carrying away little Jimmy as he looks down and waves at them. Thus begins little Ricky's adventure across the state of Colorado.

Naturally, my first response to such an image was to laugh. How does a six year old kid accidentally launch himself in a hot air balloon? Why would a couple of idiot parents allow their kid into such a situation? And what kind of family builds their own hot air balloon in the first place?

So I went onto Twitter and joked around a bit. I knew that in reality the kid would probably be pretty frightened to be up so high by himself, and that there was potential danger, but it was just such a weird and startling thing to hear. How does a six year old accidentally launch himself in a friggin hot air balloon!?

That's when I turned on the news. What I saw wasn't some some peacefully floating hot air balloon, but a bastardly mutation of a flying saucer, unstable, and careening through the sky at an insane speed. Any six year old kid aboard that thing would be petrified and in mortal danger. This wasn't at all funny like the depiction I heard over the radio. I watched for awhile, imagining what it would be like to be a six year old aboard hell's chariot. Was he still conscious? What kind of trauma would he have to recover from?

Eventually, the balloon began to slow and descend; not the high speed crash that we were fearing. On the ground, rescue workers rushed toward the mylar monstrosity and cut it open in order to free... helium. There was no boy inside. Surely he had fallen to his death somewhere along the way. And I had joked about this earlier before I knew what was really happening... stupid radio guy with your lousy delivery of the event!

But lo, Maybe he was never aboard in the first place as his older brother had claimed. The small space on the underside of the balloon was barely large enough for a six year old. If he were inside it, how would he have untethered it? And the most glaringly obvious question; how would he have gotten inside in the first place?

So, the search party expanded their efforts to the neighborhood to look for a runaway boy. But wait... there was a box, meant to hold batteries, that was sometimes attached to the balloon. Was it attached at the time of lift-off? Where was it now? A picture taken by a bystander near the beginning of the ascent showed a black speck underneath the balloon. Was it the box falling from the balloon? Was the boy inside the box?


Turns out he was hiding in the garage the whole time.

Now, Balloon Boy has anything but a typical family. Basically, it's a family of storm chasing scientists. They have even flown the kids into the eye of a hurricane. This family has a YouTube channel, and of course, we all know how narcissistic people with YouTube channels are. And they have appeared on the reality show, "Trading Wives."

So, sometime after locating Balloon Boy, Wolf Blitzer interviewed them. During this interview, he asked the boy why he didn't come out of the garage. The father repeated the question to the kid, to which he replied, "You said... we did this for the show." After a few attempts from Wolf Blitzer to get an explanation for this comment, the father became defensive and said that he was appalled at the direction Wolf was "trying to lead the interview."

Instead of answering the question, the father accused Wolf Blitzer of leading the interview. But the boy clearly said "we did this for the show", a comment which made Wolf, as well as anyone watching the interview, a bit curious. Wasn't the father curious?

On the other hand, one thing that occurred to me is that the boy wasn't answering the question at all. "The show" might have referred to the show they were on at that moment. Perhaps a parent told him, "we're doing this for the show," and that comment just stayed on the boys mind. He didn't seem to really know what was going on as they sat there talking to someone who wasn't in the room, and the boy probably had questions.

So, was the whole thing just a publicity stunt or are there a couple of truly relieved parents in Colorado tonight? Who knows. Why not just relax and get yourself a Save Balloon Boy T-Shirt?

On that note; from now on, when something's just not panning out in my mind, such as my initial reaction to this incident, I should probably pay more attention to that. I mean, sure, it wasn't exactly as I had pictured, but still, the logic just wasn't working. If we were to pay attention to things like this, instead of just accepting what we heard, maybe we would have found the kid in the attic before launching this whole massive search. All it takes is to say, "Wait a minute, how the hell does a six year old accidentally launch himself in a freakin balloon?"

The Wolf Blitzer Interview on YouTube:
Part 1
Part 2

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