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!