The first sign that I was doing my job was when the Upper West Side woman found out that I was working with balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
Dressed in a white jumpsuit with a Pokemon on the front and two characters on the back, I headed out to meet my fellow sportsmen behind the Pikachu balloon.
It was funny to me in these clothes. My doorman didn’t even flinch as I walked by early Thursday morning. What does he think of my day-to-day fashion choices?
A woman, heading for the observation deck, stopped me at West 81st Street.
“Judging by the clothes, I thought you’d be doing balloons,” she said. She said she really wanted to see Baby Yoda’s balloon. (“And yours,” she added, perhaps insincerely).
There were more volunteers on my team than queues to drive Pikachu. So I thought I would be on the sidelines, energizing the crowd. By some coincidence – I often call myself Forrest Gump of The New York Times because of my random career opportunities – I was near the front of the balloon when we got the signal to get ready.
I ended up driving the giant cartoon character to its final destination: deflation stations at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue. (Pro tip: Consider watching the parade from there! Starting at 36th Street, it looked like an abandoned amusement park.)
The journey felt like an intense workout. Towing the zipline requires some strength and coordination as you respond to calls to bring the balloon up or down. Sometimes we also had to pick up the pace to close the gap between us and the one in front. Can’t imagine doing this in windy conditions.
I ran the New York City Marathon and this day felt like the best New York City. People cheer on strangers. And this is the only day in the city when someone could give me a cup of water, a candy or a slice of fruit, and I took them and did not hesitate before eating. It looked like today. I will remember this with fondness.