On Learning Experiences

Let me preface this story by saying that I hate balloons…

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Let me preface this story by saying that I hate balloons.  I hate them with a violence that most would consider wholly unreasonable.  I tend to threaten bodily harm to anyone who introduces large numbers of balloons into my environment.

Balloons make noises.  They make that straining, stretchy noise when blown up, they make that nails-on-chalkboard scratching noise when rubbed, and they pop.  The popping is particularly upsetting.

That said, I was checking out at the grocery store today when a small child (who could not have been more than two) at the next register popped his balloon.

I flinched.  The cavernous store with its vast concrete floors amplified the sound such that it more resembled a gunshot than a measly little rubber sack rapidly losing structural integrity and deflating.  That is to say, it was really freakishly loud.

Normally, my next reaction would be something borne of extreme agitation; yelling obscenities if in the company of friends, giving the stink eye to strangers.  But I’m on such a cute-baby-high from the latest set of pictures from my brother, and the mother was so mortified, and the kid looked so bewildered with popped balloon bits in one hand and his mother’s keys in the other… I just couldn’t help but smile.

The mother started frantically apologizing to anyone within earshot, and then turned to the kid.

“Why did you do that?”

I smiled and responded, “Because you gave him something shiny!”

Obviously, he felt an innate desire to test what happens when Material A (shiny key) was applied to Material B (bright red balloon), andgot some very conclusive results.  More importantly, he learned something from his experiment, and I suggested as much to his mother as he vehemently turned down a shiny new blue balloon offered by an employee.

…and even more importantly, I now have one more soldier in my war against those bad, evil, noise-making balloons.

On Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

You may be wondering, “What in God’s name were you doing in Atlanta?”

Well, you see, I am generally in great need of a vacation of one sort or another by this time of year.  In 2008, a certain hurricane was nice enough to pay my hometown a visit, try to wipe it off the map, and in the process get me a month off of work.  Barring further hurricanes, I’ve opted for taking a long weekend in the Smoky Mountains at my parents’ house.

In early August, the tiny town of Burnsville, NC, puts on a craft fair, where its adorably traditional town square is transformed into a veritable Mecca for people who appreciate hand-crafted goods.  The streets were lined with hand-blown glass, pottery of every possible shape and size, jewelry, and pretty much anything else that can be made in those hills.  The wood work was especially breathtaking this year.  I met a guy who was a master joiner, recently retired from ship building, who was selling stunningly elegant boxes.

Between the scenery and the craft work, I was in heaven.

My aunt came up for the weekend, just so she could watch me shop.

I take these vacations very seriously.

Unfortunately, the cheapest airfare between here and Asheville required a stop through Atlanta.  Then the airline decided that my hour-and-a-half layover just wasn’t long enough, and bumped that up to four hours.  On the plus side, I had no need to hurry to my gate at the far end of the terminal, and had plenty of time to enjoy the spectacular view of at least two of the airport’s five runways.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Dance of the Giant Flying Machines that plays out at major airports.  When I was little, I wanted to be the guy with the brightly-colored wands that directs the plane into the gate.  Now I just satisfy myself by sipping on a Frappuccino and pondering the technical components of continuously shuffling over-sized tin cans off the ground and safely back down again.

Hartsfield-Jackson, known alternately as the World’s Busiest Airport, or the Traveler’s Scourge, provides ample entertainment.