Monday, July 28, 2008

Balloon Legislation a Big Bust

Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon, Congratulations, Over the Hill, Farewell, Happy New Year, and I Love You; all simple well wishes. But like the band Extreme says, sometimes we want, we need, more than words. We each need to see how much we are loved and appreciated; and nothing transforms simple words into displays of affection quite like a shiny Mylar balloons. Whether they float high above an office cube alerting coworkers of an important birthday or as the exclamation point declaring the purpose of an otherwise mundane bouquet of flowers, a single Mylar balloon can send a deeper and longer lasting message than other methods of occasion communication. A law proposed in California aimed at banning the use of Mylar balloons might help the environment, but how much would we lose in exchange for Mylar-free landfills?

California is often the frontrunner in environmental laws, so a law here would soon trickle and affect the rest of the country. First California will lead the charge banning Mylar balloons for electrical safety (if someone electrocutes themselves with a foil balloon we should thank Darwin)and environmental concerns, then legislation will certainly balloon out of control (pardon the pun), leading to a ban on all balloons. What a travesty! Balloons are as American as baseball and apple pie. Banning balloons is like banning turkey at Thanksgiving. Can you imagine birthday party, a circus, a trip to Disneyland without balloons? The landscape of Main Street USA just wouldn’t be the same without bursts of color flying high above a “cast member” defying the laws of physics, somehow remaining grounded despite a fist full of helium filled Mickey Mouse ear balloons. Latex balloons are already banned in most hospitals nationwide, ban Mylar and fewer people will gain the therapeutic benefits associated with a get well soon message.

It is estimated that the sale of foil balloons generate $100 million in sales each year in California alone. Add the add-ons that come with Mylar balloons; flowers, cookies, pretty little weights, and suddenly foil balloons generate $900 million in California sales. Opponents to the balloon legislation argue that the banning these balloons will cost jobs and tax revenue for the state. Ban balloons and the balloon guy at Disneyland will lose his job; someone has to protect the balloon guy’s career!

Balloons help us learn valuable life lessons from a very early age. We begin to understand disappointment when the balloon we begged our parents for floats away due to our own carelessness. We learn the importance of holding on to something tight when it is important to us; never let go of the things we love. We combat stage fright and fear of public speaking by sucking in helium and singing “Lollipop Guild” from The Wizard of Oz in front of all our friends. Tying the ribbon with a square knot around our wrists is the first step in earning scout badges, an early lesson of how to tie stuff to the top of our cars, and if we are lucky, priceless in the bedroom.

I am happy to report that foil balloon supporters and opponents reached a compromise in their fight, but it is important to remain vigilant in protecting our fundamental right to say it with helium. People who oppose the sale of helium balloons are not environmentalists; they are communists who threaten the very fabric of our culture. Save the balloons.


Drew said...

Banning random crap for dubious reasons is also as American as free speech zones, random bag searches, and the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment. Someone needs to step up and take on "Big Mylar" and their environmentally destructive practices. Surely, in light of new regulations, the invisible hand of the free market would shake out the balloon industry and advance new technologies to replace the dangerous polyester film.

firefly said...

I doubt that it is 'banning random crap for dubious reasons,' but more like trying to curtail the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an estimated 6 pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton, swilling around the Pacific gyre and killing birds and other sea life.

And how does it get there? Umm ... little kiddie lets go of balloon, it floats way, way up, finally loses pressure and drops ... on the ocean? Well, what's a little sea life in exchange for teaching a child all about disappointment?

Plastic does not biodegrade, and it often doesn't make it to landfills where it is supposedly 'safe.'

Plastics also have the ability to leach endocrine disruptors into the environment -- which affects everyone, directly or indirectly.

I'd give up the human-centric Mylar balloons for a little bit of environmental rehab, myself.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Perhaps it's because I was once employed by "Big Mylar" so I'm sympathetic to the cause, but I think I am just sick of a culture that works on banning things rather then teaching people to be smarter about using those items or working to make them better for the environment. If it's not balloons there will be something else to target; hair bands, condoms, plastic bags, inner tubes, party hats.

An even better idea; how about enforcing litter laws? We can ban what causes litter or we can remind people that they aren’t supposed to litter in the first place with some big, fat fines. Take that a step further and encourage people to pick crap up they see lying around. I don’t know if I’m super sensitive to it, but I am noticing more and more people using our environment as their personal trashcan.

Steve and Stepher said...

How do I get through the day w/o knowing that such legislative fights are being fought? I'm amazed by this on so many levels.

1. There is a Balloon Council? Who knew?

2. Latex balloons are banned in many hospitals? WHY? How about they ban latex gloves (or have they already done so?) then, hmmm? Unless I'm missing some HUGE gaping hole of reason that makes no sense at all.

3. Banning mylar balloons - so THAT's the big problem in California these days??? Wow, again I am amazed. I would have bet good money that jobs, the economy, hell - even immigration would rank somewhere higher than banning mylar balloons.

I totally agree. Responsible use is KEY. Passing outrageous laws to be enforced by (?????????) seems less than trivial.

I can just picture the Mylar Balloon Police now.