On a visit to Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, I saw something that really impressed me. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Market is a huge multi-level combination farmers market, flea market, and craft fair. It is one of Seattle’s most famous landmarks, and draws thousands of locals and visitors every day.

Besides the Market itself, two or three blocks of 1st Avenue, across the street from the Market, are lined with small shops and vendor stalls, where you can buy anything from gourmet foods, to artwork, and antiques.

The area also attracts an eclectic assortment of street performers, artists, and musicians, who do their thing on the sidewalk, hoping to earn a few bucks in donations. It is not uncommon to pass a group of black men singing gospel music a capella, a juggler, a clown painting kids’ faces, and someone else playing a guitar, all in the same block. I get bored with the shops and vendor stalls pretty quickly, but I really enjoy standing around watching the street performers entertain the crowds.

One young lady was making balloon animals for the children in the crowd, and accepting donations for her work. She had a sign saying the balloon animals were free, but a $2 donation was appreciated. While my wife was off shopping, I watched her for a while, impressed with her creativity, and even more so with the way she interacted with the children. She took a minute or two to speak with each little tyke before she made their animal, asking them for their name, what kind of animals they liked, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. She never talked down to them, and I remember thinking that this young lady would make a great schoolteacher, and a wonderful mother.

While she was making a flying dog for one little boy, two other kids were in line patiently waiting their turn when a well dressed woman walked up with a chubby little girl, and put her in the front of the line. The Balloon Girl said to the little girl, “Honey, I need you to go to the end of the line okay? These guys have been waiting their turn and I’ll make your animal just as soon as I get theirs done, okay?”

The girl, who I am pretty sure was used to getting her way, folded her arms across her chest and shook her head no. Then her mom said “It’s okay, we’re in a hurry.” The Balloon Girl told her it wouldn’t be long, and said to the girl “I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if somebody cut in front of you, would you? So let me get these guys done first.” The girl, arms still folded defiantly, shook her head again and didn’t budge.

Then the mom repeated that they were in a hurry. It was pretty obvious that she was used to getting her way, too. The Balloon Girl told her that she was going to take care of the other two children who had been waiting first, and the mom pulled a $20 bill out and thrust it at the young woman, saying “Look, I don’t have time to waste. Make the damned animal and keep the change, okay?”

Now, when you make balloon animals for $2 a pop, and probably get stiffed on some of them, I imagine an $18 tip doesn’t come along very often. So I was really proud when the Balloon Girl told her “Ma’am, you can take your little girl to the back of the line, or you can just go on about your business. But I’m not making these other kids wait. That’s the bottom line!”

The mother grabbed her daughter’s arm and hustled away, and I could hear the kid whining half a block away. Several people in the crowd murmured their approval, and the Balloon Girl smiled at the next kid in line, asked him his name, and went back to making colorful magical animals.

I didn’t have $20 to spare, but I pressed a couple of bucks into her hand before I went off to find my wife.

We need more people like the Balloon Girl in this country. People who believe in right and wrong, and who will not bend to life’s bullies, or sell out to the highest bidder. I’d gladly vote for Balloon Girl for President!       

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37 Comments on The Balloon Girl

  1. Francis Callahan says:

    We need more people like this girl. When I was a parts manager for a ford dealer anyone like that bimbo gave me a hard tome I added 25% to the price of the item made me feel good

  2. Any bets that the snooty lady votes Republican and the balloon lady is a Democrat?

  3. Fred Hammer says:

    I’ll take that bet. Most entrepreneurs know the value behind earning your own way, making your own money, and dealing with the public. They are your republicans. They believe in fairness and act accordingly. They provide; they are the givers.

    Others feel entitled. They rely on others to provide for them: Their jobs, their amusements, even their “entitlements.” They are the takers. They are the Democrats.

    Check the populations of the “blue and red” states. Identify the people therein. You’ll see what I mean.

  4. Janna says:

    This isn’t about politics! It’s about a young woman with manners, morals and the backbone to support both! Good for her!

  5. Selene says:

    Leave politics out of it! Nick, kudos to you in ‘tipping’ the young lady for taking the right road.

  6. Renee says:

    My, who peed in J.C.’s Cheerios this morning? I could put in my 2 cents worth, but will control myself & just say “great story, Nick.”

  7. Barry Crocker says:

    Republicans, Democrats! Who gives a flip? It’s about doing the right thing, not about politics.

  8. Barry Crocker says:

    Oh, BTW…great one Bad Nick!

  9. Pat O'Brien says:

    It’s pretty obvious to this Canadian, the balloon lady is an independent. Nice to know there are some left.

  10. Tom S says:

    Inspiring story, Nick!

    The $20 mom’s tactics were highly remniscent of the tactics of corporate lobbyists in the halls of Congress and our state legislatures. Or maybe she was just trying to engineer a leveraged buyout.

    Hee hee. Let’s lighten up. This was an inspiring story – if we are going to break out the political daggers, how about just the foam ones?

  11. Doug H says:

    Great story Nick! I am happy to see that there are still people like that out there. I am sure she will go far in the world!

  12. Phyllis East says:

    What Renee, Janna and Barry said…..

    Great story!

  13. George Stoltz says:

    The impatient mom is one of many who are giving their children the wrong message. When this little girl grows up there will be one more “entilted” adult for all of us to deal with.

    Nice blog, Nick.

  14. popeye says:

    I’m an independent and I see a lot of bad in most politicians.
    I see the parties brainwashing their members to actually believe
    that “their” party line is the only and right way to see and do things.Getting all their thoughts and ideas from some zealot on the TV. Maybe someday all this us and them foolishness will fade away and this country can get back to reality. It’s too bad more people don’t think for themselves.
    Too bad more people don’t think for themselves.Oh,,,did I say that twice?
    Bad Nick sees the baloon girl for what she is.
    Yay,baloon girl.Go forth and multiply.

  15. Janice says:

    “Hand claps all around” for the balloon girl! It’s great to hear stories like this where the bullies don’t succeed. Not wanting to create any additional work for you, Nick, but have you ever considered a “Good Nick” blog too? Although there’s the “bad” side of this, there’s the “good” side too. Just a thought.

  16. Dave K says:

    what a wonderful thing it is to see that PRIDE,MANNERS & COMMON SENSE are not dead in that wonderful young lady. Who cares what politicial party she supports. What matters is that this country needs to clone millions more just like her! And then, send them all to our Nations Capitol to straighten this mess we are living in out once & for all. But that Ain’t never going to happen Leroy !!!!! the give me’s have taken over the world.

  17. Elaine & Mike says:

    It is nice to here about someone who still has work ethics. I am sure she could have used the money. Some folks think money will buy them anything. The young lady set a good example for the children who were waiting in line.

  18. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy B.N.,

    Hooray for our side!!! Thank you, for giving her the few bucks
    she ‘lost’ by not ‘giving in’ to Ms Gotlotz!! GREAT STORY and
    GOOD LESSON.. I’ll bet that she’s already a school teacher IN A
    SMALL TOWN, somewhere..
    Have enjoyed BOTH trips to Seattle..

    Smooth roads, clear skies & balmy breezes!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Dave B. says:

    I’m glad she held her ground and didn’t give in to the selfish lady. I wonder how many people would do the same thing. The ugly side of capitalism is to make the money, no matter what. I think that is what other countries see that make them call us the “”ugly Americans”. We should never let the pursuit of the dollar ruin our lives. Too bad everyone that seen this incident didn’t all give her $2. so she got way more than $20. That would have been great!

  20. Bill Daines says:

    Great one Bad Nick. Its sad that kids get bad habits from parents. Good for the balloon girl. I hate to say that some folks can be bought by handing a twenty! But this shows the balloon girl is truely a very special person and was brought up proper by her parents. The balloon girl is in her own way a teacher, a gifted one in fact!
    And I feel sorry for folks that have to make things political! :(
    Bill. :)

  21. Ed Hackenbruch says:

    If we happen to get over there i will make a point of looking her up, giving her a 20, and telling her why. Good for her!

  22. William says:

    J.C. Webber I believe your comment was out of line.

  23. john says:

    I hope the kids were old enough to take this all in,, and see how it should and did work.. Republican or Democrat, Just blows my mind how some can find those two words in that great story..

  24. Rachel Jeffries says:

    While the balloon girl typifies so much of what is right and good about America, JC and Fred are examples of so much that is wrong. We cannot have an inspiring story about a young citizen doing the right thing and trying to pass on good values without somebody turning it into a poltical debate, and someone from the other side jumping right in to disagree. Why can’t we all just be Americans and be proud of our fellow citizen, instead of playing mine’s bigger than yours?

  25. Mike says:

    I think twisting little animals into unnatural positions is cruel. It sends the wrong message to the little kids. The balloon lady is maybe only using balloons but some little kids are dumb . . . they’ll think they can go right home and twist little Fluffy into some position nature never intended.

  26. Linda in NE says:

    We need a lot more people like that girl in this country. And a lot of people need to be reminded that they can’t push their way to the front of the line because they have the money…or maybe because they feel like they’re entitled because they don’t. She would probably make a great president someday, but sadly, at $2 a pop for making balloon animals she isn’t going to have the money to campaign….only the spoiled rich can afford to get elected in this country and I believe that’s a big part of the financial problems we’re having…our elected rich officials just can’t identify with pay as you go, stay out of debt, buy what you can afford, save for the future…that the ordinary working citizen has to live by or suffer the consequences. Where’s it gotten us??

  27. Fred Hammer says:

    It must just be human nature: Linda has brought the discussion full circle with another political taint, and Rachel can now chastise once more with another lofty rebuke.

    Sorry you think I’m a bad example, Rachel, but when someone attacks my beliefs with opinion as JC did, a response with a few facts is warranted. That’s the American way, political or not.

  28. Mike says:

    I would have taken the $20 and made the little girl a big upright penis with balloon balls.

  29. Great post Nick….wish I could be there to give her a tip too…what a sweet gal and she handled both mom and daughter superbly!!! And I agree she will go far and we need more of her in the world today.

    As for those who must bring politics into this conversation…find some where else to tout your politics.

  30. T & R Martin says:

    Fred Hammer was only responding to JC Webber who introduced the political comment. But how about that “Bad Nick”—you are gifted with a storytelling talent. When you told that story, I visualized a children’s book complete w/illustrations. Your ability to express yourself makes for a great author. It’s wonderful to read something that gives the “bad guy” his/her comeuppance! Hopefully you are writing your autobiography as a legacy to your family—what a gift!

  31. Linda Weir says:

    T&R – The real Nick is an amazing storyteller. Go to his Highway History & Back Road Mysteries seminar sometime. Or try his brand new mystery book called Big Lake. Loved it!

  32. Gerry Shobick says:

    I loved that story! And your right that girl will make a great mother someday. I think the kids who saw this learned a valuable lesson about not trying to buy their way through life.

  33. T & R Martin says:

    Linda Weir: Thanks for the info Linda, sounds good & I love mysteries. Will check on that “Big Lake” book.

  34. David Bennett says:

    I’m proud that the balloon gril held her ground and I’m proud of you Nick that you gave her a few bucks to make up for her loss thanks.

  35. Dale says:

    Big smiles to hear of someone who held to her principles in a kindly way. It’s hearing of folks like this that help me to believe that things will get better.

  36. Allan says:

    Nick, That was a great story. It is good to see someone with good character that is not going to sell out her principles. I have seen too many people in public life that have not held fast to good principles. I hope people considering voting for someone for a public position will keep a persons character a primary reason to elect them. Too often people are elected or re-elected to office after having demonstrated that they have poor charaacter or ethics. Negotiation on some items and bills are necessary but never on principle.

  37. Judy says:

    Balloon Girl for president!!

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