We arrived in the vicinity of the American Museum of Natural History, which serves as the staging area for the giant balloons, in the late afternoon. We were still a couple of blocks away when we ran into a wall of people. I’ve never seen so many people shoved into such a small space. Everyone was trying to inch their way forward, but no one was moving. We joined the crowd – and once we were in, we were in. There was no getting out. It was a sea of humanity, barely flowing in any direction. It took us hours, but we finally made it into the main line and around the Museum to see the balloons. By then, all the balloons were inflated and pinned down on the ground under heavy rope nets to keep them from flying away.
I can’t say it was enjoyable. I would definitely not characterize it as fun. And unless your idea of a good time is to spend several hours standing shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers who are jostling for every inch of ground they can gain, then I would probably recommend that you not add it to your bucket list.
There was one bright spot, however. Most of the balloons were posed in rather indecent positions. By that, I mean that a couple of superheroes, some cartoon characters and an elf were all packed tightly together, one in front of the other, and arranged with faces down, butts in the air. You couldn’t help but giggle. No one could. So, I shared a laugh with several thousand people in line with me. And when the humor of balloons’ unfortunate poses wore off, we were all left to shuffle towards the exit, one inch at a time.
I was writing Inland when my husband and I made that unpleasant trip to see the parade balloons. I knew, as I stood there staring at Charlie Brown’s head shoved up against Kermit the Frog’s backside, that this scene would have to make it into the book. Full disclosure: I wrote about the chaos of the crowd -- not the lewd balloon positions. Sorry!