I made my rounds through the grocery store yesterday and stopped at the Floral Studio to inquire about a bouquet of helium balloons for Hanna’s birthday.
The Florist was all Edward Scissorhands in an arrangement of lilies, bows and twigs. We did not want to disturb the artist at work but our four pack of ice cream cones (with caramel and nuts) needed to make a smooth transition to their new home in our deep freeze.
Me: “Excuse me do you have helium balloons here?”
Edward S: Did you know there is a helium shortage right now? (without ever looking away from her masterpiece)
Me: Um, no (wait, is that what I asked?)
Ed: There is no helium anywhere in town. Anywhere. None.
Ed: We have the last of it.
(So there is some)
She pinched her thumb and pointer finger together proving she had a firm grasp on the amount of helium remaining in the city. Maybe she was holding it right there in her hand?
What this shortage meant to the world as a whole, we may never know.
Me: So, are you able to use what you have left or are you keeping it in case the Prime Minister needs a foil birthday balloon?
Ed: Yeah, we can blow up a few. How many do you want, like three?
I was so tempted to say five hundred but three sounded as good a number as any.
Ed: Seriously, you could drive all over town and you wouldn’t find any.
I do love a challenge, if not for the ice cream….
After the fuss she made about the helium, she proceeded to lecture the kids about holding onto the ribbon like it was the heart of the ocean and the Titanic was sinking.
Ed: You wouldn’t believe how many kids come back into the store crying after they let go of the balloons in the parking lot and they watch them float away. They never come back you know.
I really wanted to ask, “And then what happens?” Does she replace the balloons or just document another one bites the dust in her floral journal and send them packing.
Ellie started to shake. Chloe was more eager than anyone in the history of helium balloon filling to let hers fly off and stomp out of the store like she could find helium just by running in a zig-zag pattern in the parking lot.
I tied Chloe’s to her wrist, ice cream melting, everyone was sweating, the stress of this one Hannah Montana balloon, one purple star and one pink sparkly was almost too much for anyone to handle at 9:00am. Also, I worried for the safety of the store clerk given her promotion to “Helium Keeper, Central Region.”
Ellie held the purple star balloon for less than a second. Something happened during a fumbled exchange between her and the clerk. Helium?
The balloon shot up to the ceiling of the grocery store and I nearly wet myself.
Oh. My. God.
The clerk shook her head in disgust. I thought she was going to smash her display of lilies on my foot. Luckily, I had some ice cream cones I could use to soothe any immediate swelling.
A very tall stock boy came over giggling and offered to help, but how?
He hopped up on the Florist’s counter and with the long handle of a broom started to swing at the long string at the end of the world’s last puff of helium.
What did he think he was going to achieve? Was the broom handle covered in crazy glue? How could this possibly work? Does helium have a magnetic pull towards wooden broom handles and my kids are about to learn a really cool science lesson?
Edward weighed her options and disappeared behind a hidden door behind the helium tank. I’m pretty sure it was some type of helium inspired board room where the great minds of our time had met earlier this morning to discuss the preservation and distribution of this, the last batch of helium on the planet.
She emerged with another purple balloon, kept her eyes on the floor and began to fill it up.
“I’m really sorry Mom,” Ellie shuddered. I thought she might vomit.
Me: Ellie, it was an accident, it’s no problem.
Edward remained silent.
She would later steal our ice cream.