More evidence that a.) I’m mentally ill, and b.) I really do need a vacation

Remember that whole Balloon Boy thing? I discovered today that it apparently scarred me.

As I watched what we were all led to believe was a homemade weather balloon with a 5-year-old boy trapped inside of it — or, worse, a homemade weather balloon that may already have ejected and sent plunging to his death a 5-year-old boy — I couldn’t help but imagine how I’d feel if it was one of my own children, and the anxiety that I experienced as a result of that pleasant little daydream was intense.

(And, yes, I wanted to beat the balls off Balloon Boy’s dad when it turned out the whole thing was a scam … but I was relieved that (Not Actually) Balloon Boy was alright.)

“But, Jon, why the hell are we talking about Balloon Boy now?” you ask. “That’s some stale-ass news right there, my brotha.”

Fair enough. Here’s why:

Philadelphia Zoo, 04.22.10

Today, we took the kiddos to the Philadelphia Zoo, and, upon arrival, we climbed aboard the Channel 6 Zoo Balloon, a big-ass balloon tethered by a 400 foot, winch-operated cable. (The basket is actually a fenced-in, octagonal walkway that you can walk around during the ride.)

And as we ascended to 400 feet, I took in the beautiful view on this gorgeous day while listening to the recorded female voice explaining that 55,000 people ride the balloon every year … which would lead any sane person to believe that the odds of something going wrong were infinitesimal to the point of not even entertaining the thought.

But me? I entertain the thought. I always entertain the thought.

My tendency to always envision the worst-case scenario is something I attribute partly to the fact that I’m an ex-soldier/ex-cop; it’s a hardwired instinct. But most of it? Most of it is indicative of an anxiety disorder.

Whatever the case, there I am today, hundreds of feet in the air, trapped inside a cage hanging beneath a big-ass balloon, strategizing a way to save my family and everyone else aboard in the unlikely event that the cable snapped and we started rising to the heavens.

And the Channel 6 Zoo Balloon isn’t one of those regular hot-air jobbers where the bottom of the balloon is open and practically in the basket with you; it is a completely enclosed sphere some 30-or-so feet above the basket.

“What the fuck would I do?” I wondered as I looked up to see if perhaps I could climb the rigging and puncture the balloon (using, of course, the hot-air-balloon puncturer I keep with me at all times) so that it slowly deflated and sent us drifting ever-so-gently back to earth. No dice; the basket is completely enclosed. No way to get up there.

“I guess we’d just rise and rise and rise until we got so high that the thinning air would knock us unconscious shortly before the balloon burst, at which point we’d plummet to our death … perhaps landing in a wild-cat habitat at the zoo, where some carnivorous predator would feast on our gelatinous remains … so, you know, at least somebody would benefit.”

That seemed fucked, though, so I looked around to see if perhaps there was some kind of back-up plan already in place.

That’s when I realized that on board with us was the Balloon Dude who granted us entry to the basket. Obviously, he must have been carrying a concealed gun with which to shoot holes in the balloon, thus saving me the trouble of gnawing my way through the cage in what almost surely would have been a misguided and fatal attempt to scale the rigging to puncture the balloon with I don’t know what; these fucked-up, pointy snaggleteeth of mine might work…

Philadelphia Zoo, 04.22.10

…but I’m pretty sure that gnawing through the cage would have destroyed my choppers, thus leaving me with no choice but to attempt to gum my way through the balloon’s tough exterior, and that would have been a pretty pathetic way to go out.

As I was mulling all of this over, the unbelievably strong and reliable cable that at no time was in danger of breaking began pulling us back down to the landing pad, and I noticed our descent was accompanied by the hissing sound of air being released from the balloon. I looked up and discovered that a small, round, presumably remote-controlled vent on the balloon’s underside had been flipped open. So it turns out Balloon Dude had us covered.

I think you’ll agree that they should definitely inform you of that when you board the balloon, am I right? I mean, seriously: if one of the passengers is as fucked in the head as I am, a pre-flight briefing about Balloon Dude’s remote-controlled vent would spare that person the burden of spending the entire ride consumed with the task of concocting “MacGyver”-like ways of rescuing everyone on board.

Also, we saw some animals.

Philadelphia Zoo, 04.22.10

T-minus 18 hours till we arrive at Secrets Maroma Beach Resort. Can’t wait to get there and suck down a margarita; clearly, I’m going to need a drink after spending four in-flight hours strategizing how to save the plane.

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  1. Janet
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey, one of those MacGyver-like rescues ~could~ have worked, but thankfully, we’ll never know 😉 Hope you guys have a great vacation, and don’t worry about all that $$$, plenty of time for that when you get back home and start to feel guilty, lol…seriously though, have a wonderful time together!

  2. Catherine McP
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Honestly I would never have gotten on that death trap. I cant even be on the second floor of a mall, what with their fancy see through glass railings. I had to shimmy across the store side walls. I say “had” because I just plain quit going to malls. But hey, I have no problem on a plane..go figure.

  3. Gullible
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Lordy, but you must be hard to live with. Seriously, hot air balloons at sunrise in the Australian Outback near Alice Springs? Primo! And the basket isn’t enclosed, either.

  4. Posted April 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    After three years of being forced to carry all my husband’s crap every time we leave the house, because he is waaaay too afraid of what people might think of him if he carried a “man bag”, the way I finally convinced him to get a camouflage messenger “man bag” was by telling him that he could carry all his Macguyver type tools in it. You know, in the event we ever got stuck in a big-ass weather balloon thingy and were floating out into space . . . And, ignore the grammatical errors in that above. I am tired. From all the nagging.

  5. Posted April 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    You’re a better man than me. No way would I go up in any damn ass balloon. No siree bob.
    .-= jwoap´s last blog ..What I Wanted To Say… =-.

  6. Bree
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I have plans for every situation I can be in that may go badly: home invasion(mine or someone else’s), carjacking, zombies(yes, I said Zombies), etc. My Dr’s call it anxiety, I call it Being Prepared :o)

  7. Posted April 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Dude, I’m so sorry.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..20, 50, 80 =-.

  8. Posted April 22, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Gulliables comment made me laugh as the whole time I read through your post I was thinking “Man,This dude must get hard to live with!”
    Sad thing is…..I am You!!!! Oh yep the whole anxiety thang….Yep thats me,Guess my Hubby then is like Your superwoman,But he has much more facial hair and “Things” Than your gorgeous supportive wife would have! lol!!!

    Enjoy your time away and avoid all Hot air balloons whilst there

  9. justmeinnc
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Give up on the anxiety thing. Really. Be a damn man. Yep, I said it. You can and will handle any emergency that arises. If not, WonderWoman will!

    PS Buy a Leatherman pocket tool, just in case. 🙂

  10. Posted April 23, 2010 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    The wire cage would have totally freaked me out. I would have felt claustrophobia along with my vertigo. (There’s a mix for ya.)

    After that terror, ‘Also, we saw some animals.’ LMAO

    (BTW – some of us are hoping you’ll be joining in for Wicked Girls Think It’s “NPD” on April 24th. Ok, well I’m hoping. But I’m sure there are others. See my post for details 🙂
    .-= Kernut´s last blog ..Embarrassing Moments in Underwear – I’ll show you mine… =-.

  11. Posted April 23, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I was completely with you until the end – dude, you trust that flap thing to work? I mean, what if at the same time an escaped rhino runs into the cord, shredding it into tiny pieces, the flap gets stuck, or the operator decides life isn’t worth living after his skanky girlfriend dumped him for the lion tamer and breaks the remote?

    In those scenarios, it’s clear you’d need to have an escape plan ready. May I suggest a travel sized pair of plyers?

  12. Posted April 23, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I completely understand where you are coming from, and I consider myself “normal” haha. Anyway, I too think about plane safety and am VERY supersticious. If I was stopped from touching the outside of the plane, as I enter, I don’t think I could sit in my seat and allow the plane to take off. The ritual is a must. Oh and a prayer at take off… cause really that’s a time when it’s all up to Him. I could never save everyone during take off. haha…

    Enjoy your much deserved vacation!
    .-= Jeff Brown´s last blog ..How to take a photo of you and your son, without the aid of another person =-.

  13. Posted April 23, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Since I live in the Philly suburbs I am always thinking of worse case scenarios. I think it is a Philly thing.

    oh and Batman would carry a hot-air-balloon puncturer
    .-= William´s last blog ..Big Nipples =-.

  14. Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Oh my…I don’t see how you did it…35 and not affraid to admint…that I’m am SCARED to death of heights…BUT…that would be such a RUSH…that and sky diving…but I’m sure I’ll never do it…I’m too chicken…LOL…

    Have a GREAT vacation…can’t wait to see the pics and read the post!

  15. Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Yeah. This describes me to the letter. So much that we go to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo regularly – there’s a sky ride thing similar, but older and more zooish, which is a basically a bench seat with a bar across it. It takes you over the rhino enclosure, the monkeys, the tigers. Since you must be 2 and up, only one of us can take the 3 year old at a time and he ALWAYS CHOOSES ME. I hate heights and I hate this thing even more. Over the course of a year I have come up with so many strategical exits and escape plans and rescue efforts that I could literally write a procedural manual on what to do if the system fails. I also do this on roller coasters, driving over bridges, walking alone in parking garages, and when buying or selling anything from someone on Craigslist.

  16. Gail K.
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Dear Wonder Woman,
    In addition to the sunscreen and swimsuit you are packing for your WELL deserved vacation, please pack the following for Daddy:
    2 Paperclips
    a rubber band
    a pen (fountain preferably)
    a 2″ x 2″ square of aluminum foil
    and a Prozac.

    Enjoy your trip!!

  17. Posted April 23, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Ok, was totally following along until I got distracted thinking about how I would MacGyver my own way out of that situation with my chewing-gum meets business-sized-envelope brilliance because my next thought was, “How did he get a tiger in the basket?”

    I have attention span issues.
    .-= Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points´s last blog ..I’m just like Van Gogh. =-.

  18. Posted April 23, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    When I was 12ish, we got to go up and do a tour of town in the Goodyear Blimp. To board it they drive it down into the ground and a team of men run up and grab all the ropes that hang off the thing and hold it down. Then we ran over, up a little ladder and were thrown aboard. Its a cozy little cabin, bench seats, no seat belts and the windows are huge, like clear down to the seat level. And the thing rolls from side to side when it turns, for that fun “I’m gonna fall out and die!” effect. I got the seat right behind the pilot, so I was reading the instruction card on what to do if he dies or something…..oh that helped a lot. Sadly just as I was over the panic and fear the ride was over too. Found out later there is another compartment in the back and the guy back there can come fly the thing too.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Wee Green Fairy Doll =-.

  19. Kelly
    Posted April 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Heh, then you probably don’t want to read what happened in Baltimore with the same kind of balloon ride. It was located next to our childrens museum — Port Discovery — and one day several parents and kids were abroad when an intense wind storm kicked up. They were slammed into the building over and over again. Thankfully, the balloon did not pop, and the injuries were not life-threatening, but the balloon ride was grounded for good. Hey, maybe they moved to Philly?

  20. Posted April 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Seriously, next time you come to Philly and hit the zoo and don’t call me? I’m agonna kick yer ass.


  21. Posted April 25, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    And once again we are reminded that remote controls are God’s little gift to us.
    .-= Kate at And Then I Was a Mom´s last blog ..I’d like to thank the Academy. Of Bad Parenting. =-.

  22. Gail K.
    Posted April 26, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that at our MOMS Club End of the Year banquet a couple of years ago I was presented with “The MacGyver Award” because I always seemed to have whatever was needed (from duct tape to markers to string to bobby pins) in my van.

  23. Posted April 28, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I am neither an ex-cop nor am I ex-military, but as a fellow member of the Anxiety Club, I, too, plan for events that are Highly Unlikely but Entirely Possible. I can easily pass the time spent in construction traffic envisioning how I will survive the crash when the bridge my car and 12 others are parked on collapses and we all plummet into the water below. Hey, it could happen.

  24. Posted April 29, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Love it!! that is exactly the way my head would have been working too. You wouldn’t get me on there without a whaling harpoon gun and very lengthy rope, that way i could fire it at the ground and pull us down 🙂

  25. Posted May 4, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Seriously Dude. Are we related? Very funny… and somehow eerily familiar. I understand there are support groups for people like us.
    .-= Suzanne´s last blog .. =-.

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