In the course of my real estate business, I have developed an intimate knowledge of helium balloons. They’re an integral part of our marketing after all, those things we tie to Open House signs on Sundays to distract drivers and small children. I know more about balloons than most people want to know: they don’t float worth a snot when it rains, they burst readily after hitting the Open House sign they’re tied to after only 400 times, and they’re an absolute joy to transport in the back of your car.
Back in Real Estate School they taught us to tie several balloons to each sign. “More is better! You want to make a statement, be noticed!” the instructor would exhort, displaying a shiny new sign with a half-dozen balloons tied to it like a centerpiece at a six-year-old’s party. In a separate class, that same instructor taught us to use a prodigious number of Open House signs as well. “More! You want buyers to follow your signs like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs!” Sadly, we never did the math until just before our very first open house.
So even after experience and a small car taught me to pare down the number of helium balloons I used on Sundays to about a dozen or so, I still went through the ritual of stopping by the local Dollar Store before each open house and putting down coin for a selection of colorful balloons, the hues dictated by the company I was representing, much like suiting up in team colors for a Sunday football game. Wrapping the strings tightly around my hand, I left the snickering clerk to wrangle the bobbing little beasties through the front door, out into the wind and through the all-too-small doorway of my waiting car.
We have two puppies in our family who just love car trips to the local doggie park. They seem to know when there’s a trip coming and where they’re headed, and their excitement grows exponentially from house to car to park. It is inside the car that their boundless joy, bounded by the small interior, is most evident. Anyone who’s transported puppies for any distance knows this for a fact: putting them in the back seat and keeping them there are mutually exclusive concepts. They wind up on the center console. On the front seat. Paws on the dashboard. In your lap. Back to the rear seat, only to start the carousel all over again.
I’ve never transported puppies to an open house, only balloons. But you’d never know it from the experience. No matter how becalmed the day, no matter how carefully I tuck 18 balloons into the back end of the car’s interior, as soon as I tap the gas they all start behaving like a kennel of Schnauzers headed to a screening of 101 Dalmatians. First they inch toward the front, tapping my ears and shoulders, testing the air currents. Then a massive surge follows as they slip between the seats and try to make themselves at home over the gear shifter. I bat. I swat. I hold my arm out until it loses circulation from the strain. I mutter choice words best heard by no one else on a Sunday. All to no avail.
Every time I transport balloons I think of my puppies. And every time I transport my puppies I think of big, fuzzy, yapping balloons, nudging me and trying to be one with the front seats. Puppies behave that way because it’s in their genes to be goofy and excited. Why balloons behave that way in the breezeless interior of a car is beyond me. If there is some scientific principle that can explain why balloons move forward inside a car like demented moths driven to the lights of the dashboard, I would most certainly like to have it explained to me. In the meantime, I’ve taken to planting my Open House signs sans balloons next to my competitors’ helium festooned ones, figuring that if buyers can see their signs, they can see mine as well. And mine are prettier.