That Time On the Georgia Dome Catwalk
As a freelancer, you tend to pick up different gigs in different ways and be okay with it. Hustling brings more hustling which then brings more work. So I found myself as a balloon decorator. Yes. Balloon arches. Balloon columns. Balloon drops. No balloon animals though if that’s what you’re wondering! The company I worked for got a job to do a massive balloon drop at the Georgia Dome for a huge annual New Year’s Eve celebration. If my memory serves me correctly it was for a local Church and it was a big deal. We get to the Dome, crank up the tank and start blowing up balloons. Blowing and blowing and blowing. A ton of balloons to fill the Georgia Dome! Then came the rigging. After we stuffed the nets with balloons and dumped the bags of confetti in, we were ready to rig it up! So up we went. Up and up and up to the very, very top of the Dome to the cat walks just below the oval roof of the venue. We spent a couple of days up there scouting and rigging. I remember feeling a little dizzy by the end of it. It was no easy task and the whole team was feeling excited and satisfied that we got the job done as we packed up to go home. And then out of nowhere the event manager of the Dome showed up, looked at the remnants on the floor and said in no uncertain terms, “No confetti.” Whaaaat? We protested and pleaded explaining that the nets were up, it took forever and it would be one big to do to get them down and back up again. “No confetti.” He did not care and he was not budging. Like, at all. Non-negotiable. The event manager had spoken then turned and walked away. Done deal. No confetti. I remember feeling miffed about his authority but of course we did what he asked.
So, we climb up again. To get up to the catwalk, we took an elevator and a few regular staircases. The last leg of the journey up was your basic metal ladder in a cage type of arrangement. Man, it was HIGH. I remember thinking, hmmm my parents would be worried if they saw this. We undo the rigging and slowly lower the nets to the waiting crew below. We get everything back to our staging area and start digging through the nets, trying to drag as much confetti out as we possibly can without having to open the nets and take every single balloon out. We were moving steadily along when we heard a gasp from our co-worker. I turn around and look over to see her as white as a ghost, holding a pair of scissors in her hand. “Holy crap!, she exclaimed, “I just pulled these out of the net with a handful of confetti.” Then we all turned as white as a ghost. “Holy crap!”, my other co-worker said. Holy crap holy crap holy crap. “I was cutting confetti while watching TV and when I was done I threw the scissors in the bag and forgot all about them. They fell into the net when I dumped out the bag of confetti.” HOLY CRAP we all said!! Especially the company owner. I think I saw her entire life flash before her eyes. The whole horrible scenario played out in all of our heads. A pair of scissors, unleashed from up high, hurtling into the crowd below. Would they be pointed up? Down? Sideways? They could have freakin killed somebody!!! At a celebration of life, love, faith and Jesus a terrible, terrible tragedy would have, could have unfolded. We all stood there stunned and very, very freaked out. Thank God the event manager came along, we all thought. What would have happened if he hadn’t? All those kinds of questions that shake you up went running through our minds. It was a sobering experience, one full of the stress of what if and the gratitude of what didn’t. And truth be told I still get shivers when I think about it to this day.
And when I reflect back on it I sometimes think about this; As I’ve ridden the wave of life with its crests and its crashes, sometimes exalting and other times just hanging on, my faith has wavered but it has never broken. And that’s what faith is all about. Knowing that somehow, someway everything will work out. It’s not tangible. You can’t hear it or smell it. It just is. And that’s why we keep it. Faith. Because when we do, it just has this way of showing up. Certainly that man came strolling down that corridor at that exact time for a reason. For those people in the Georgia Dome and for me, still, 25 years later. He doesn’t even know the impact he made. His presence was just an invisible force of good showing up at the right time. Just like faith.
Photo Credit: Ric Tapia, AP