I've put a lot of stupid things in my body over the years. A lot of it was just sheer quantity, but some of it was just plain misguided. Having attended one of America's Top Ten Party Schools, there were very few evenings that didn't involve some sort of hijink or antic. At the University of Colorado, we had a reputation to uphold.
That being said, it is important to note that I have been a "helium-head" for most of my life. For the uninitiated, here is a little bio-physics: The sounds you make come from your vocal cords vibrating away across the top of your larynx. We're all used to the sound they make when you force oxygen in and out of them. When you use a lighter gas, such as helium, the vibrations are faster and the pitch is higher. That is why you sound like a "munchkin." You don't have to be drunk or stoned to find this particularly amusing, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Belting out show tunes, especially warhorses like "Some Enchanted Evening" is always good for a laugh.
I remember one year for my older brother's birthday, we had a big green balloon about the size of a coffee table filled with helium. We passed that thing around for hours - at one point pausing long enough to crank up the stereo to sing along (like chipmunks) with "Born in the USA."
Fast forward to 2006. In Lutz, Florida, two college students were found dead inside a large, deflated helium balloon after apparently pulling it down and crawling inside it. Their bodies were found Saturday partially inside the balloon at the entrance of a condominium complex a few miles north of Tampa. The 8-foot-diameter balloon was used to advertise the complex. Is it a fate that I have narrowly avoided? The Compressed Gas Association (no flatulence jokes here, please) has posted an article on their web site entitled "Inhaling Helium: Party Fun or Deadly Menace?" It begins pleasantly enough, "What could be hazardous about a helium-filled party balloon, you ask? After all, balloons are supposed to be fun, right? The answer may surprise you." I was surprised. I was surprised to find out that the warnings were primarily for ninnies who were taking "hits" off of commercial balloon-filling systems. Okay, I confess to being one of those ninnies. After reading this article, I am just a little chagrined to find out just how quickly I could have been suffocated by my own amusement. So for now, I'll stick to the infrequent (but hilarious) moments of fun supplied by balloon-fed helium, and in the meantime, I have to imagine this will get The University of South Florida at least an honorable mention in next year's poll.