Biodegradable Water Balloons

balloon.jpegOf all the cultural activities that make the Bay Area stand out as unique, the Bay to Breakers must be one of the most outstanding.

Now in its 99th year, the enormous footrace is a cultural phenomenon not just for the sheer numbers that participate in the 7.5-mile run from one end of the city to the other (there are around 60,000 participants) but also for the inventiveness of the costuming and assorted sideshow activities.

Actually, this year’s costumes were a bit of a letdown. The only truly inventive effort I saw while running in my cocktail dress yesterday morning was a group of synchronized swimmers with flowery swim-caps who kept formation by means of a blue tarp with holes in it which they collectively wore around their waists as they jogged along.

The prize for the event’s greatest inspiration, in my opinion, should go to someone who didn’t even participate in the race itself. My neighbor, Erica, performed an unlikely but welcome public service from her very own studio apartment in Hayes Valley all morning. For the second year running, Erica hosted a brunch geared towards deterring the many weak-bladdered Bay to Breakers participants from relieving themselves mid-race down the narrow back street over which her apartment looks. Every time Erica and her brunch guests saw someone taking a leak down Linden Alley, they threw a water balloon at the offending party. Most people took the onslaught from above well, Erica told me, soon after I turned up at her place post-run in my sweaty cocktail dress to catch the tail end of the party. Only one person, a man dressed up as a strand of bacon, threatened to throw rocks at her window.

Erica feels good about taking the law into her own hands and rightly so: For one thing, the Bay to Breakers organizers provide more than ample restroom facilities en route, making pissing down a back alley unjustifiable. For another, as Erica put it, the balloons she sourced for the proceedings were “of the biodegradable kind.”

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