The following is Part II of the story of Rex the Balloon. If you missed Part I, simply scroll down to the posting below this one. And while I have your attention, I am adjusting the appearance of the blog so you will see various “experiments” taking place right before your very eyes! That said, here now is Part II of Rex the Balloon…
I was sitting at my desk the Monday morning after Thanksgiving, still fretting over the loss of Rex. I had just about given up. The situation had taken the air out of me…and I suspected it did Rex too. Earlier I had spotted a newspaper clip someone had posted on the bulletin board. It was a picture of the Macy’s parade in New York and the doctored headline read, “Rex the Balloon Seen in Macy’s Parade.” And then the phone rang. Every time it did, I has hopeful it’d be the kidnappers and maybe there was a chance to negotiate a settlement and get Rex back. But it wasn’t them. Instead, it was a very low whispering voice and it said, “Check the trunks in the news cars” and then it hung up. I had lucked out. Someone on staff had taken pity on me…or Rex.
I had copies of all the keys for the news cars. I grabbed them and quietly went out to the parking lot. Rex was in the trunk of the second car I checked. I admit, it was a tearful reunion. The crisis was over. I proudly walked backed into the station, Rex tucked under my arm. It was like old times.
Life was back to normal, but not for long. Rex was aging. His skin was blistering and he had shrunk a good bit. It was one afternoon as I was returning to my desk and putting Rex down that he just barely brushed up against the pencil jar. It was enough. He suffered a massive puncture and it was over in seconds as the air rushed out of him. I was speechless as I held his deflated remains in my hand.
There’s more to the story, but first, some background. The radio station was owned by a newspaper company that was run by a small, conservative family that was headquartered in Maine. At this particular time, the General Manager of the station was one of the sons. He was a businessman at heart, constantly checking the clip board in the business manager’s office to see how revenues were doing. He was quite affable and supportive of the product we put out on the air. He had to be aware of most of the shenanigans perpetrated by the staff, but chose to turn the other way…and we all loved him for it.
I was busy making funeral arrangements for Rex and I had announced to the staff when the service would take place. We worked in a beautiful building that featured an incredible atrium in the front lobby area. There were four quadrants with small trees and tropical plants well landscaped, under bright skylights in the ceiling. I had chosen a nice section of one of the quadrants in which to bury Rex. He was to lie in state in the center of the atrium most of the day where people would have the opportunity to stop by and pay their respects.
The General Manager came into my office and sat down. He told me that his brother was coming to visit the station on the same day I had planned Rex’s funeral. His brother was a lot less open-mined, I was told, and he just would not understand what was going on. In fact, the GM appeared worried about what his brother might report back to headquarters about his wayward sun-stroked sibling in Miami and the kind of operation he was running. The GM asked me not to go through with the funeral.
On the brink of subordination and maybe even losing my job, I told the GM we just could not do that. The staff was counting on closure, I explained, but I assured him I would try to manipulate events around his bother’s visit.
So the day came and there was Rex in the atrium, in a small cardboard box draped with a paper crayon-drawn flag, atop a typewriter table. The staff paraded past throughout the day, some softly touching Rex’s box, others whispering their goodbyes.
The only problem I had with keeping my word to maneuver events around the brother’s visit is that I was never told the schedule. I had absolutely no idea when the brother would be there…until I saw the GM and his guest walking through the front door. The GM quickly shielded his brother from seeing what was going on in the atrium while he ushered him into his corner office. It appeared rather awkward and I’m not sure if the brother saw anything strange going on other than his brother acting strangely. The two of them were secluded behind a closed door. It was exactly at the same time the staff was gathering for the burial ceremony. Nearly everyone who could leave what they were doing, other than those on the air, had gathered in the atrium.
It was a lovely funeral. The Production Manager, draped in a cleric’s robe read a passionate eulogy while soft organ music played on a reporter’s portable tape recorder. As two of us lowered Rex into the grave we had dug in the atrium, just under a nice areca palm, the tape recorder now played the sounds of a seven-gun salute and the flyover of a F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. Everyone was moved. We gathered up our emotions, small-talked each other about the many good memories we had of Rex and then slowly returned to our desks. A few on the news staff were heard mumbling something about their chances for better coffee being blown.
It had been a difficult day for me. I left a little early feeling good about Rex’s goodbye. He would have liked everything we did and I knew he’d be flattered by the huge turnout. I understand from those who left later that night that the General Manager and his brother had remained in the office with the door closed well after everyone had departed for the evening. After that day, the GM never said anything to me about Rex.
If you have ever wondered if there are actually radio stations similar to the television sitcom, WKRP in Cincinnati…wonder no more!