You only live once

By Laura Briggs

How many helium-filled balloons would it take to lift you off the ground?

It’s a question I am sure a large percentage of the population have asked themselves at some stage in life. I know I have, many times.

But as I thought about the concept last week, again, I came across someone who had not only wondered but had put his life on the line to answer the question.

Larry Walters. What a champion.

Larry was an American truck driver who had dreamed of becoming a pilot but was unable to due to poor eye-sight.

At age 33, in 1982, it was his time to fly.

Larry purchased 45 eight-foot balloons with the help of a fake letter from his employer to say the balloons were for a television commercial.

He returned to his backyard where he filled the balloons with helium, attached his patio chair and had his friends cut the cord that kept him on the ground.

Larry took with him sandwiches, beer and a camera.

He also had a pellet gun, which he planned to use for shooting off the balloons one-by-one when it came to landing time.

Larry reached more than 15000 ft — that is the height at which, if you skydive today, you will jump from.

Having lifted off from his backyard in San Pedro, California, he flew for 45 minutes before drifting into a restricted area that was only for aeroplanes near Los Angeles International Airport.

From there he shot several balloons before accidentally dropping his pellet gun. Fortunately, he had shot enough to be slowly lowered, however his landing was not so smooth. The cables that were attached to the balloons got caught in an electrical power line, causing a 20-minute blackout in the neighbourhood. Larry was, however, able to climb down to the ground safely.

There he was met by police officers who arrested him immediately.

At first Larry was fined $4000 for breaking United States Federal Aviation Regulations but that was later reduced to $1500.

When he was asked why he did it, Larry said, “A man can’t just sit around.”

After reading this last week, Lawnchair Larry, as he was known, was an instant hero in my eyes.

I think all too often people plod their way through life and die with nothing extraordinary to be remembered by.

I don’t want to be that person.

Growing up I remember my brother regularly quoting: ‘`If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.''

It’s too true.

While I am not condoning illegal activity — with of course the exception of those who illegally fly using gigantic helium balloons — I definitely get behind those who are willing to live on the edge.

I say life is short and you only live it once — do not hold back.

And by living on the edge, I do not limit that to being an insane thrill-seeker, but rather achieving something extraordinary.

I think as humans we need to approach more with a ‘YOLO’ attitude — take risks, challenge yourself, think about what it is you want to be remembered for and throw yourself at it with no hesitation.

You may fail more times than you wish to, but, as Robert H Schuller said: ‘`I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.''

And as the next link in the chain, Gordon B Hinckley said this: ‘`You have not failed until you quit trying.''