If you were like much of the nation Thursday, you were fed loop after loop of what appeared to be a giant Jiffy Pop bag floating down to the ground where it was quickly corralled and harpooned by sheriff’s deputies.
It was a very important bag of Jiffy Pop, we were told, because there was supposed to be a 6-year-old boy named Falcon Henne taking the ride of his life on it. At least that’s what his brother said, and when your giant homemade weather balloon and your son disappear around the same time, maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to believe what he says. And really—let’s break it down, here—you named your son “Falcon” and then decided to construct a giant balloon in your yard. That alone is inviting fate to knock on your door with its pimp hand. Name your next kid Boomer and cart in a nuclear warhead, why don’t you.
So the news ran with it, bigtime. Even after it was revealed no one was in the balloon when it landed, the cable networks dumped their “Michael Jackson is still dead” stories to keep with developments. Heck, they even cut into some of their “President Obama is still president” time! Someone made a little icon of the silver balloon to put on Wolf Blitzer’s giant “Situation Room” touch screen so he could drag it back and forth over a map of Colorado. And boy, did he ever! Yeeeer-owww! Go, mystery balloon, go! The Internet helped in the best way it knew how: immediately setting up a “Where Is Balloon Boy?” page and making #saveballoonboy a top trend on Twitter.
Sadly, Wolf had to hang up the icon and the Internet shut down its meme machine after it was discovered little Falcon never flew the aviary at all: he was located in a very grounded, non-helium-filled cardboard box in the family garage. He was hiding scared, just as about every person who knows or had once been a 6-year-old boy surmised when no 6-year-old boy-sized stains were being reported anywhere along the balloon’s path.
As far as possible outcomes go, this is by far one of the best—yet it still puts the family in a tricky spot. When the world was initially receiving word that a boy was playing an unintentional and potentially fatal recreation of Flight of the Navigator, there was a collective holding of breath influencing the atmosphere as the crumpling balloon swirled downward. After the balloon was found boyless, hopeful optimism collided with fearful dread to form a tornado of intrigue. And then, as the world waited… the boy was found never to have been in danger. It slowly dawned upon people that they had basically wasted several hours of their afternoon. This, with the added tragedy of the bloggers running out of weather metaphors, led to a strange disappointment even after all ended well.
And in that disappointment, a question: Had we all been had? The family vehemently denies it.
“That’s horrible after the crap we just went through,” Falcon’s father Richard said following some inquiries. “No.”
But I don’t know, dad. It seems there’s kind of a history of attention-seeking:
- You’ve taken your family on storm chasing trips and posted them on YouTube.
- You agreed to feature your family on “Wife Swap,” a show that seeks stable, laudable family structures the way “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” seeks avid readers.
- Your family was so stable and laudable, “Wife Swap” invited you back for another go. And you agreed. Again.
So the father is an eccentric, ambitious scientific type. That’s easy to accept. But when there’s a family involved, perhaps a little more thought and dinner table discussion is necessary before deciding to move forward with one’s goals. Besides, everyone knows the most amiable eccentric, ambitious scientific family types accidentally shrink their offspring, not levitate them.
It may be interesting to see how local law enforcement proceeds after this event, but unfortunately for Falcon Henne, he’s likely going to be stuck with the nickname “Balloon Boy” for the rest of his life—and without even having done the real thing, either.
Oh, well; it probably beats what the kids at school had been yelling to him up to now.