What’s a roomful of adults to do with their surplus of joy from watching history in action? As Hillary Clinton would say, look to the children.
Many of us who chose to linger in the convention hall had noticed the giant pit of celebratory balloons that had formed in a plexiglass enclosure right next to the stage, but it wasn’t until a little girl jumped into them and started splashing them around that we saw their true potential for turning the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention into the best children’s birthday party ever. At first, the only people lucky enough to get a balloon romp were the VIPs allowed to walk across the stage and survey the room from the speakers’ perspective. Anthony Weiner didn’t dive in, but he did take photos, while Huma Abedin answered the call of the little girl inside of her by standing at her boss’s podium and pretending to make a speech.
Meanwhile, adults from all over the arena began descending from the stands to answer the call of duty from our adorable child balloon-tossing pioneer. A crowd gathered at the barricade, where a woman security guard assured us that we’d soon get our chance — and asked if someone could please take a silly photo of her amid all of those balloons first. The gates opened, and we rushed through, kicking balloons, diving through them, pretending to do the breast stroke. I liked to sit among them, covered to my chin, to see the world at balloon level. Be one with the balloons. One guy was having so much fun he lost his phone, and a massive under-balloon search party commenced (and later ended in triumph). The little girl who’d started it all had at this point moved into advanced balloon fun; her move was to slink through them like a shark, completely covered, and then pop up with a big “surprise!” as soon as she saw legs. Jack-in-the-Balloons! (Or is it Jill-in-the-Balloons?) That little girl was. The. Best.
Now, you may be wondering, what happened to all of those balloons after we’d had our fun? I’m sad to tell you that they died, valiantly. The arena’s building-services crew took over and began whacking them with wooden sticks covered in nails with the metal points exposed — apparently the best way to get rid of 100,000 balloons, if you ever need to know that. But, even then, the balloons kept on giving. “Are you kidding? This is so much fun,” said Ainyae Stratton, a building-services supervisor who was in the midst of balloon-whacking. “I love my job.” (On a less joyful note, Stratton told me that cleanup was going to be easy because the arena was just going to tear up the blue carpeting it had laid down for the DNC — it was full of confetti and balloon carcasses — and toss it in the trash, which doesn’t seem in line with Democrats’ environmentalist leanings. Let’s hope they recycled.)
Eventually, security kicked us all out. But I did see one balloon, one of those big ones covered in stars, make it out of the arena and to a nearby bar, where I hope everyone bought it shots. Last time I saw the balloon, it was getting into an Uber. Go forth, my friend. You served your country well.