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07/17/2012 @ 3:20pm

I’ve led a sheltered life.  There’s so much out there I know nothing about and, once again, I didn’t have a clue.

First, last week it was my grandson’s fourth birthday and my wife bought him a giant helium filled orange flying/swimming fish.

We’re talking dirigible, even Hindenburg, size here.  I took it to town to get it filled with helium and after it was all plumped up, the tail and nose bumped against opposite sides of my pickup cab.  It’s roughly twelve times bigger than the four year old who now owns it.  A tiny electric motor waves the tail fin back and forth, and if you have nimble fingers you can fly it all around the house.

Does the world need a giant, helium-filled, flying clown fish?  Of course not.  But if you saw it, unless you’re prone to lying, your first reaction would be, “That is so cool!  I want one!”  

We were having a really good time with it until the birthday boy showed up and we had to relinquish possession.  Luckily, it was too big to fit in the car, unless they left two or three children behind, so we still have it at our place until transportation can be arranged.  Because it’s practically weightless, any random little air current sends it off in another direction, so I’m finding it lurking practically everywhere in the house.  It’s a little creepy opening the bedroom door and running into a massive orange fish directly at eye level, even though I’m at the age where anything that gets my pulse up a notch is probably a good thing.

I’d just gotten adjusted to the giant flying fish when I was confronted with one of the real mysteries of the universe.  We were in the Twin Cities at an event for families with children who were born in Ethiopia.  I was just along for the ride – none of the planning for the weekend was done by me - so I was a little surprised to hear a discussion on how to get my son-in-law to the State Fairgrounds before 7:00 a.m.  There seemed to be two viable options: get three children under the age of six up, dressed, and in the car by 6:30 or pray for a miracle.

Actually, that’s only one option, isn’t it?

I offered to give him a lift.  I knew I’d be up anyway and even if I weren’t, the screams of exhausted, outraged children echoing through the hotel would have woken me in short order.  

It was a lovely morning.  Granted, it was already 70 degrees as the sun came up, promising heat and humidity flirting with triple digits by noon, but at the moment it was pleasant.  During the half hour ride, my son-in-law explained that he was going to participate in a 5K run.

Now, there was a time in my life when I could run five kilometers.  I probably still could, if I was being chased by a rabid warthog, but it’s not the sort of thing I consider a recreational activity.  He explained that it was a benefit for a charity, which made more sense.  

I asked why it was called a “Color Run.”

He said that every kilometer, someone would take a handful of powdered paint dust out of a bucket and fling it at you so that by the end of the race everyone looks like sweaty rainbows.

He lost me again, but I let it go and we started discussing a plan for how to meet up after the race.  I didn’t see it as a problem, because I figured there’d only be nine people in the entire state of Minnesota who would participate in such an event.  I thought he’d stagger across the finish line and I’d walk up  and say, “Hey.  The car’s over there.”

Turns out I was wrong.  There were 19,000 entrants.  

Yeah, that’s right.  Nineteen thousand.  I wouldn’t have believed it.  I was there, taking pictures, and I still didn’t believe it.  I spent a couple hours walking around in clouds of paint dust, shaking my head in disbelief.  I do read the papers, but this was all new to me.  

The only thing that would have made it better was a giant, flying, orange fish.

Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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