Last week I was lucky enough to get the chance to fly in a hot air balloon. It was initially intended to be a ‘well done for getting into uni’ present, but due to continued poor weather conditions (well, I do live in Wales) it had to be postponed several times, meaning the flight became a ‘well done on completing your first year’ treat! I was bundled in the car with the instruction to dress warmly and bundled out again feeling slightly motion-sick (the flying site was at the end of a tangled labyrinth of teeny-tiny twisty roads.) There I joined a huddle of similarly intrigued-looking strangers and in less than an hour we were all watching what looked like an enormous deflated beach ball swell into a mansion-sized tent, slowly filling with hot air and rising up, towering high above us. Then we all clambered with some difficulty into a basket the size of my living-room, there was an extra gust of flame and almost imperceptibly we lifted off the ground and ascended gracefully into the darkening evening sky. The landing did take me by surprise, though- the pilot said we might feel ‘a bit of a bump’, and I think I can safely say that he really wasn’t kidding.
It was a fun, unique and above all, extremely relaxing experience, unlike anything I’ve ever done before. But of course, strange person that I am, I thought of a little analogy in my head as we soared over a patchwork of green fields speckled with miniature white sheep and roads like a massive Hot Wheels track layout. I had recently heard someone use the expression ‘He’s full of hot air’, and I think that was what influenced my thoughts.
So here’s the analogy: the process of inflating and riding in a hot air balloon is a lot like gossip (or the Filipino word we use more regularly at home, ‘tsismis’, pronounced ‘chismis’.) You might be in school, at work, whatever. Someone you know does or says something that really winds you up- you know the feeling! Of course you don’t tell them straight off- you have to suppress it to save face (or possibly to save your neck if they happen to be quite muscular.) But at some point you let something slip- grumbling on the bus on the way home used to be our high-school habit, drowned out by the yells of the driver trying to stop the third-year kids swinging from the handrails- which if anything just makes you angrier. Roar. Hear that? That’s the sound of the initial flame being ignited! You go your own way and totally forget what you said. But do you remember the friend you moaned to? They’ve told someone else in your class. And guess what? They’re telling someone else in tennis club. And guess what that person’s doing? Yep. Telling someone else. All those little hot flames flickering anger, curiosity, revenge, disbelief, flare up. And then all of a sudden-
Your one angry, tiny, half-intended comment has sparked a riot. The person the gossip actually concerns has heard about it. Now they’re looming like an ever-growing balloon on your horizon.
Whoosh. Hear that? That’s that mansion-sized balloon taking off into the air- and you’re in the basket. You’ve got nothing solid to grab on to; between all these storytellers the original tale has taken on sixty million different dimensions and you’re entirely unable to prove what you originally said!
Eventually your whirlwind ride comes to an end as the flame of uproar dies down, and you land back to earth with a bump, dishevelled and less respected than before. It’s up to you to patch up your damaged relationships and reputation.
So, to sum up, don’t let yourself boil over when someone bugs you- the aftermath is far more trouble than the initial annoyance! It’s been said that we have one mouth and two ears because we should speak half as much as we listen, and maybe there’s some sense in that. As Leroy Brownlow said, “There are times when silence has the loudest voice.”
Lesley is a nineteen-year-old Welsh student of Modern Languages. She writes poetry and fiction. (You can see her work here: http://www.abctales.com/