It had all started pretty innocently. For once, we weren’t in a hurry, we had about three hours to spare. The plan was to go to the party store, get in, get out, go home to change clothes and then head over to the festivities. Today my daughter, who was turning 12, would celebrate her birthday by leaping around like a lunatic with her tweenage friends at a local trampoline park. But leaping is never enough, as you know all too well if you have children. A birthday party must have a theme. This year’s; Emojis.
My wife, the amateur party planner that she is, bless her heart, had procured emoji table cloths, emoji themed favors, and after an exhaustive search, purchased some really cool emoji balloons online. I have to admit, even as someone with little to no emoji experience, these balloons were pretty damn awesome. She had left the balloons at the party store to be inflated ( for a fee, of course) the day prior and we simply had to pick them up and cart them off to the party. Seemed easy enough. Feeling that I would simply be in the way of the emoji picking-uping, I found the store restroom while the women folk went about securing the inflated party decorations. Soon, we’d be admiring the beautiful golden smiley faces, festooned with hearts, sunglasses, tears and rolling eyes and be on our way.
So imagine my surprise when upon departing the men’s room I received a panicked phone call from the birthday girl.
“Dad, we have a problem!” she said breathlessly. “Someone stole the balloons.”
Well of course, I quickly surmised that this was a typical pre-teen prank being played on the old man. Who steals balloons? Were we victims of that douchey cartoon Leprechaun? Did he take the balloons and fly away with our Lucky Charms too? Har-Dee-Har-Har. I ignored the worried pleas coming from the phone and headed to the balloon counter where I was sure I’d be met with half grins and muffled laughter. However, one look at my wife’s face dispelled that notion immediately. I knew right then and there…someone had stolen the fucking balloons.
The store manager looked as though he had gone twelve rounds with the champ. It was clear that my wife had just finished interrogating him. He turned to me and in hushed tones, explained that a man had shown up at the store without his receipt and told the clerk that he was in a rush to pick up his emoji balloons for his daughter’s birthday party (apparently, this is a popular birthday theme-who knew?). He identified our balloons as his and since he had already pre-paid for them, snatched them from behind the counter and departed. Of course, he had left behind his own, far inferior emoji balloons. For their part, the employees did not attempt to impede his rapid, helium filled exit. However at my wife’s urging, they did locate the man’s order form and were now calling him to rectify the situation.
Well, sounded good enough. Despite the minor inconvenience I was sure this fine gentleman would get the call, offer an embarrassed apology and return the balloons post haste. We all make mistakes, nothing to fuss about. Here- here, Cheerio, Pip-Pip and such. Any minute now, he’d come through the door with an armful of LOL faces tied to colorful strings and we’d all have a good larf.
“Sir, he hung up.” said the panic stricken manager.
“Wait, What?” I replied as though someone had just told me that professional wrestling was real.
“Get him back on the phone and let me talk to him.” ordered my wife in a tone reserved for someone who has been hunting Jean Valjean across the French countryside.
In a flash, they had the offending party back on the line. I’d be lying if I said I could remember everything that flew from my wife’s mouth during that conversation. The rant was woven together like a fine tapestry, laced with colorful depictions of the struggle she endured to locate and purchase these balloons in time for the 12th anniversary of the day upon which her one and only offspring was brought forth into this world, coupled with portents of the disappointment that would ensue when the children (oh, won’t someone think of the children!) noticed the utter lack of emoji balloons at a FUCKING EMOJI THEMED BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!!
But yeah…dude wasn’t having it. See, he was at his own kid’s birthday party (apparently enjoying our balloons) and wasn’t going to leave to return anything. After all, he reasoned, it was the store’s fault. They could give us his balloons, he suggested. The notion of this sub par deal made my wife’s brain nearly explode like a birthday piñata, (not the cool kind stuffed with delicious Tootsie Rolls-the kind filled with anger and hate flavored Twizzlers ).
“Let me talk to him.” I said, growing weary of this unproductive back and forth.
I was sure that I could bring this standoff to an end if given the opportunity. After all, I’ve been practicing law for almost two decades. I negotiate resolutions to conflicts every day and I do it without losing my cool. Ask any of my colleagues. No, really, go ask. I’ll wait. My reputation for being level headed and fair precedes me in practically every venue where I have practiced. Dealing with a reluctant balloon thief would be child’s play. I calmly took the phone.
“Sir, you have made a mistake and I understand that but I am asking you to return the balloons and exchange them for your own.” I said politely but firmly. Silence. Nothing. Had I rattled him? Was he now contemplating the error of his ways while silently weeping at the realization of the person he had become? Damn, I’m good.
“Sorry, I dropped the phone.” came the reply. “Listen, I’m not leaving this party. It’s the store’s fault, you can deal with them, but I don’t care.”
Now it was my turn for silence. Who did this guy think he was? I looked at my wife, frazzled, my daughter, confused, the store manager, seemingly constipated. I was suddenly filled with indignation. The perceived slight against my family touched a nerve I didn’t know I had. This guy had stolen from us…and what was worse, he did it on my daughter’s birthday and there was literally nothing I could do to remedy the situation. Well, almost nothing.
“You’ve just made my decision a lot easier.” I seethed. “You either show up here with those balloons in the next 20 minutes, or so help me God, I will subpoena your name and address from this store and file every criminal charge against you that I can imagine. Possession of Stolen Property, Conversion, Wrongful Appropriation. You’ll spend time in court and money on an attorney and it won’t cost me a damn dime, you assho-”
“They’re balloons, Dad. Calm Down.” said the only sane person in the room-the twelve year old. The one who sometimes has to be reminded to put her shorts on with the tag facing in the back. The one whose top priority is figuring out which former member of One Direction will be dropping his solo album next. THAT twelve year old-was making sense. I could hardly believe it. She had momentarily become the mature sensible young lady that we were sure we’d have to wait until her mid thirties to see. Truth be told, I knew, even as I had ranted and raved, that my words were idle threats and I was being foolish. But it took a kid to make me realize that I was the one who was behaving like a child. She was right. I calmed down.
What followed was a very cool, collected conversation between the balloon thief and my wife and in about 30 minutes, in walked a rather contrite looking gentleman, holding our balloons. We all sheepishly exchanged pleasantries, he wished my daughter a happy birthday and I thanked him for doing the right thing. After a handshake, he went on his way and our little clan took our leave of the store, clutching what now seemed like the most ridiculous thing in the world to have been fighting over.
I’m happy to say that the party went off without a hitch. The room looked great, the kids had a blast and the cupcakes and ice cream were delicious. In retrospect, we had almost lost sight of what was important; celebrating the fact that we became a family twelve years prior and that being together was the greatest gift of all. I’m glad that we came to our senses.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, no one really noticed the balloons. In fact, they’re still floating around my dining room, their stupid smiling faces mocking me for my childlike tantrum. But seriously, don’t touch them. I’ll fucking sue.