Sand In My Shoes: East Hampton Town seeks to regulate balloons

Up, Up, And Away

What a load of hot air.

As the nation remained divided by The Wall, here on the East End the discourse rose to loftier issues. Specifically, the proposal by East Hampton town attorney Nancy Lynn Thiele to regulate balloons.

Balloons?

On January 15, Thiele read proposed legislation regarding the release or disposal of balloons. Suffolk County already has regulations on not allowing release of more than 25 balloons in a 24-hour period.

What?

That’s right, forget The Wall, the Trump Shutdown, withdrawal from NATO, a Russian asset POTUS — let’s scramble the Strategic Air Command for an all-out offensive on helium balloons.

Okay, some of that is a little, um, overblown.

But here’s the deal: Nancy Lynn Thiele, wife of Assemblyman Fred Thiele, wants people in East Hampton who get special events permits to reveal whether they plan to have helium balloons at their soirees. This way, if the balloons are set loose into the wild where they might wind up crash-landing on our beaches and in our oceans, we can identify the human balloon knots responsible for the litter and threat to wildlife.

Oh.

I suppose the next step will be that if you get a permit for balloons with your special event permit, you will have to have a barcode or your signature or the name of your organization emblazoned on the balloon so that we can identify the felonious balloonist.

Listen, I’ve been accused of being a big government liberal weenie snowflake, but when we start registering balloons, I think we might have jumped the shark.

I remember interviewing Clint Eastwood once and asking him why he ran for and won the office of mayor in Carmel, CA. “I didn’t like that the town told the citizens that you couldn’t walk down the street eating an ice cream,” he said. “That pissed me off. So, I ran. I won. I changed the law. I didn’t run for reelection.”

I love Eastwood’s movies, but I think his politics are a little too far to the right of Ivan the Terrible’s for my taste. But on that issue, Eastwood proved that all ridiculous politics are local. You simply cannot over-regulate human behavior before people start dumping tea in Montauk Harbor.

“Hey, maybe they’re worried balloons will get caught in those sketchy windmills the town board seems determined to allow,” one local remarked.

On Twitter the other night, a sage posted: “In the state of Georgia, it is illegal to keep an ice cream cone in your back pocket on Sundays (no joke!), but it is perfectly legal for a licensed individual to openly carry an AR-15 into a bar, airport, or school.”

The country at large is nuts. Do we really need to make it crazier close to home?

Look, I get it that what goes up must come down. I know that balloons loosed to the sky will explode and descend as tangled rubber that can choke fish and birds.

But if we pop them and throw them in the trash, they wind up in garbage dumps, where birds can still choke on them or carry them to nests where they can blow for miles in our crazy new climate-changed storms into harm’s way.

We cannot get Suffolk County to stop spraying a lethal pesticide like methoprene to battle pesky mosquitoes which also kills birds and aquatic life. But we want to regulate balloons?

This is what makes right-wing libertarians like Clint Eastwood lose their Good Humor and run for office.

I can see this balloon issue getting out of hand. The next law might call for organic balloons. After all, the first balloons were made from pig bladders and animal intestines like the casings of Italian sausage. Aztecs molded the first balloon sculptures using cat intestines that were then presented as sacrifices to their Gods. A New York Customs agent named Herman Melville referenced balloons made of whale intestines in his 1851 novel “Moby Dick.”

Do we want to revert to biodegradable balloons made from slaughtered whales, pigs, and cats? Some condoms, which are essentially balloons, are still made from lambskin. But the vast majority are eternal latex. If condoms are flushed down toilets, don’t they wind up in our waters? Especially now that our melting snow caps have caused our oceans to rise, meeting our East End water tables and septic systems? Don’t birds and fish choke on condoms? My guess is that people use more condoms than balloons at summer beach parties in the Hamptons. Let’s hope so. So, are we also going to also regulate condoms?

To know where we’re heading, we should know the past.

The first rubber balloons were made at the Royal Institution of London by Professor Michael Faraday in 1824 for hydrogen experimentation. The first toy balloons like the ones we use at Junior’s and Missy’s birthday parties were first manufactured in 1847 by J.G. Ingram of London. The first colored balloons were sold at the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Since then, balloons have poured down from the ceilings of political convention halls as a parade of airhead politicians were nominated by their respective parties for President of the United States of America, land of the free.

Free?

Who could have predicted 85 years after that World’s Fair a local ordinance would be proposed on the East End of Long Island to regulate balloons?

Balloons? Really?

Dumber laws have flown. But I think, in certain quarters, this one will go over like a lead balloon.

 

denishamill@gmail.com