Bursting Whose Balloon?

By Dave Jaffe

The threat from recently downed spy balloons is exaggerated, agree even the most conspiracy-minded national security heads including many of our Blue Lizard Alien overlords.

To soothe the American public’s fears, it’s helpful to know that balloons have been used for covert activities for more than 200 years. In 1783, the pioneering French balloonists Montgolfier brothers, inappropriately named “Lance” and “Clawed”, launched the first manned hot-air balloon from which they hocked luggies down on unsuspecting Parisians too startled to look up.

Over the years ballooning sputtered as a surveillance tool due to the technological breakthrough of listening at keyholes. Yet, spy balloons have a secure niche in the intelligence gathering arsenal, somewhere between lip reading and bar bets. (“Oh really, Comrade? Bet you can’t name all your secret operatives in Reykjavik in under two minutes! Go!”)

Far more unnerving than intelligence-gathering balloons is the danger they pose due to geopolitical misunderstandings. In the days that followed recent spy balloon sightings and downing, a highly secret meeting of security heads from numerous global powers was held in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Fortress in a surveillance-safe room with no listening keyholes.

Tense national security talks…or Marsha’s birthday?

What follows is an unauthorized transcript from that meeting:

(Sounds of tense murmuring, cups and silverware clinking, coffee being poured.)

CHINESE REPRESENTATIVE 1: “You take two sugars and light cream, yes Lord Parkingwaithe?”

BRITISH REPRESENTATIVE: “Righto! Wait! How would you know that?”

CHINESE REP 1: “We know much, Lord Parkingwaithe.”

BRITISH REP: “I’m not Lord Parkingwaithe. I’m Lord Covington!”

CHINESE REP 1: (Long pause) “Yes … well, uh … yes! We knew that, too!”

AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVE: “Gentlemen! Ladies! If we could get started?”

(Chairs scraping, chuckling, someone mutters, “Wanker!”)

AMERICAN REP: “While it remains unknown which of our respective nations launched that initial balloon—”

(Laughter explodes from the gathered.)

AMERICAN REP: “Alright! Let’s all just settle down. While we don’t know – for certain – who launched that thing, the more pressing question is, what was its purpose? Recognizing Advisor Zhang of the People’s Republic of China?”

ADVISOR ZHANG: “Sightseeing! Are we done here?”

AMERICAN REP: “Sightseeing?”

AMERICAN REPRESENTATIVE 2: “Oh, please, Mèng yáo! Its payload was the size of three buses!”

ADVISOR ZHANG: “Yes, three school bus. Maybe filled with children. On … on, like, a field trip!”


CHINESE REP 1: “They had binoculars!”

ADVISOR ZHANG: “And oxygen!”

AUSTRALIAN REPRESENTATIVE: “‘at dingo just sniffin’ your barbie, cobber!”

FRENCH REPRESENTATIVE: (Whispering) “Why does he ‘toke ‘zo like ‘zat?”

BRITISH REP: “Advisor Zhang, are you seriously suggesting this was not a Chinese surveillance balloon?”

ADVISOR ZHANG: “Schoooool Buuus!”

GERMAN REP: “And what of the onboard collection of high-tech pod equipment that could collect communications signals and other sensitive information? And the solar panels located on the metal truss suspended below the balloon?”

(Inaudible whispering among Chinese representatives.)

ADVISOR ZHANG: “That was a school science fair project!”

AMERICAN REP: “Also recovered was a piece of debris labeled – let me see if I’ve got this right – ‘Manufactured by Covert Subterfuge and Authoritarian Regimes ‘R Us.’”

CANADIAN REPRESENTATIVE: “Ring any bells, dearie?”

ADVISOR ZHANG: “Nope! Soooo … if that’s it—”

AMERICAN REP: (Sighs) “Anyone else have something to add? We haven’t heard from you, Overlord K’relg?”

OVERLORD K’RELG: (Rasping lizard-like voice) “All you humans will drown in your own blood as the screams of your dying echo down the halls of history and conquest!”


AUSTRALIAN REP: “Good meeting, mates!”


Columnist Dave Jaffe is the author of the national award-winning Sleeping between Giants Book 1: Life, If You Could Call It That, With A Terrier, and the recently released Sleeping between Giants Book 2, Ask a Terrier: Professional Advice from a Licensed Dog.

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