Happy Independence Day everyone in America. Always remember our freedom was not free. When I was young, fireworks were legal (at least in Illinois) and we generally spent the weekend lighting up our Black Cats, Roman candles, rockets and all kinds of colorful fountains. Today, of course, the legal sterilization of anything fun (spearheaded by insurance company lobbyists and over protective soccer moms I’m sure) has reduced the youth of today to looking on with gloom as carbon snakes smolder on the pavement and displays of mock enjoyment at throwing pieces of tissue paper on the ground to produce a sound slightly lower than a cap. Those realizing just how inane that is usually whisk their kids into the car and head down to the local traffic jam they call a community fireworks display. Linda and I try to make the best of it by hauling our camera equipment out and experimenting with slow shutter speeds. Each year we encounter the same annoying types of people at these events and figured I would highlight them in hopes of stopping some of these trends – probably not going to happen, but at least I get to spend a post making fun of rude people.
The late arriver:
I have to put this at the top of my annoyance list because it breaks a common code of respect for other people who probably have no other course of action beyond just accepting the fact they have been victimized or doing something about it and likely spending July 5th in jail. In blame of politicians who vote sterilization rules into law, community firework displays have evolved into big events drawing in lots of people from the surrounding areas. Smart people are aware that is necessary to sacrifice a part of the day (length of time dependent on the investment in the the fireworks and distance to competing communities with their own show) to get situated in their favorite viewing spots. Due to their disposable time, they are granted the privilege of selecting their choice spot. I should point at this time, that I think it should be required that at least one of the party is in their chair for the duration of the reservation. Running down early and throwing your chair in a spot and then hightailing it back to the air conditioner is a violation of the reservation integrity and should be subjected to having their seats moved to the back of the viewing area or into the water should you happen to be on the waterfront – by definition this means that seat reserving is generally only for parties of two or more since bathroom breaks could result in you having to dive in for your chair. It is a good assumption that all the best viewing spots will be taken under an 1.5 hours before the show starts by individuals who have been sitting in their chair for hours possibly drinking lots of alcohol to help pass the monotony of having people ask them if the surrounding empty chairs can be hurled into the water. Eventually the local radio announcer will get on the microphone to inform you of the one thing those in their seats ALREADY KNOW having looked at your watch every minute up to the moment he tells you the fireworks are going to start in 10 minutes. In truth, this appears to be a signal to all the later arrivers to rush to the front of the walkway, fence, water’s edge (or whatever the natural barrier is between you and the gunpowder) and stand there. I find this happen more in the larger city arenas (witnessed firsthand at Peoria’s riverfront a number of years ago), but lately it has been happening at the small community shows as well – take for instance last night at a local party down the street where all the hip college kids decided a blind person picked out their party spot and felt entitled to haul their coolers in front of the people who applied a little intelligence to their seating selection. To be honest, those kids didn’t have a dramatic impact on the viewing since we were pretty close to where they were shooting them off. Now the Peoria incident was a different story thanks to the launch angle of the fireworks and the difference in the levels of those standing and those sitting. I kept my camera trained on some elderly couples up front waiting for something to come out of the arguments that were triggered. Well, argument may be a strong word since that implies both sides engaged in a heated discussion where in this case the late arrivers simply ignored them and concentrated on the fireworks display they now had a perfect view of. I think the only option in this case is to extend the chair rule to include throwing these idiots into the water as well… which brings us full circle to the July 5th comment.
Hit the jump to see a description of other annoying people encountered at celebrations of our Independence.
The look how cool I am because I spent 100 dollars on weak fireworks and brought them to a display costing 10’s of thousands of dollars guy:
Okay, first off, I’m not talking about the parents who bring sparklers for their kids (which is touched upon below) or a few bottle rockets they picked up while visiting states that recognize that when properly supervised, fireworks are safe(r). The subject of this discussion are the people who bring a few paper sacks (and it is always paper sacks for some reason) with a smattering of mortars and larger rockets that will draw at least some attention from the crowd. You know, I think I might even tighten this definition a little to focus on those people who bring weak fireworks (in a paper sack) and proceed to light them in close proximity to the crowd. As far as I can deduce, the only reason I can think of for this type of behavior is to stroke their Id. These people probably spend their year fantasizing about how everyone will rush them asking to be their Facebook friend once they see the glorious light produced from their punks. Have you ever experienced a large fireworks display this didn’t happen at? I can honestly say no for us. So this is generally how this plays out (I’ll use last night’s experience as an example). Said Id Stroker brings his paper bag to the event and proceeds to walk around with it so everyone knows he’s the man with the plan. He then proceeds to take up a position next to others patiently waiting for the real show to start. After fumbling around in the paper sack for what seems like 20 minutes he pulls out a mortar launcher and a firework that goes inside. From there he gets all giddy with excitement and engages as many people around him as he can to prepare them for just how cool this is going to be (I assume his mind is filled with Fantasia animation cells). He then walks out into the field in front of everyone and sets his launcher in the high grass (more like freshly mowed hay actually). Ever put a light piece of plastic on tall grass? Can you imagine what the stability factor is for such a placement? Would you be able to assess the situation and at least find a solution for optimal placement? If so, then are smarter than your average Id Stroker. Instead, he drops the firework in and lights it. Luck would have it that it goes off as intended and doesn’t tilt directing a stick a dynamite into innocent people (who just might de-Facebook Friend him on the spot). This goes on for three or more times until his 80 of the 100 dollars are used up. But then comes the pinnacle of his show, the 20 dollar rocket on a stick that will surely push his Facebook status into the upper echelons of the Internet social community. He bounds back to his paper sack, rummages around for 10 minutes telling everyone how great his ending will be until finally pulling out the rocket on stick. This is when my educational background and powers of observation over the years kicks in the spidey senses. It is almost a sure bet these days the following scenario is going to happen when it comes to large stick based fireworks in amateur settings. As predicted, the guy walks back out into the field (save your betting money boys, the hands are empty other than the firework) and ….. pushes the stick into the ground. Some quick math in my head puts me on caution not knowing exactly how explosive this particular firework is. Now for a quick test of your common sense and knowledge of concepts like coefficient of friction. What will likely happen when the firework is lit? … will it sail into the darkness above and produce a most magical moment?.. will it break free of the stick and fly like a Golden Snitch through the crowd before igniting (I’ll never forgive myself for using that reference) or will it simply stay put and explode once the propellant phase has burned itself out? The answer is actually the last one. The friction coefficient between the ground and the stick will be too strong for the propellant to overcome (the experienced know you push the stick in and out of the ground until there is a small gap between the stick and the dirt but not sufficient to result in any unintended direction changes). This just leaves the explosion phase which is intended for the sky, now at crowd level. The rocket does explode, but my quick math assumed (and validated with rocket size) that the distance was sufficient for cheap fireworks – had it flown out and into the crowd, that would have been an entirely different story. So in essence he just endangered everyone at the event because he wanted a few Facebook friends. My only hope is there is a Darwin Award in his future.
The parents who give their kid a sparkler and then go back to trying impress their friends how enjoyable their presence is:
I am only putting this particular annoyance below the previous one due to the degree of injury that can occur. Typically those around this scenario know (or become aware of very quickly) that this is occurring, otherwise I’d put it higher up. First off, I have no problems with sparklers handled in a safe and supervisory mode when it comes to children. Clearly the insurance lobby is out in full force as of late with the constant displays of sparklers igniting dressed up children dummies at every fair I’ve been at for the last 3 years. This could definitely be mitigated by longer wires on them or instructing the user to keep his arm extended out as opposed to the demonstrations which always involve the sparkler flame being placed directly on the clothing. Again, supervision is the key … with a healthy dose of common sense. Instead, we are subjected to parents who hand out sparklers to their kids (and their kid’s friends if they happen to be there) and while standing in the midst of people proceed to light them with a lighter (maybe we should ban lighters to since that could get too close to the kids outfit as well). If the crowd is fortunately there will be a parting comment from the lighter suggesting they face the other way … so HE does not get burned while on the way back to their social circle to engage in the latest Facebook story about where their mutual friend is eating that night. From there it is pretty much a free for all as the kids (innocent to the power they hold in their death sticks) proceed to write their name if they can or minimally act like Mr. Miyagi just taught them wax on wax off. Again, last night this very thing occurred a mere 3 feet from where Linda and I were standing with our tripods and cameras. Now, they solved the distance thing by purchasing the 3′ sticks, but that just put the burn potential that much closer to us. Eventually, the parental figure (may have been just a friend of a friend) had to tear herself away from the description of the dessert plates to re-light one of their sparklers. I took this opportunity to request she have them move further out away from people which she acknowledged and then promptly forgot on her way back to a titillating review of napkin rings. Again, I tried to get the girl to move out further into the field with no effect and eventually resigned to where I was going to spend July 5th (although in this particular situation it would have been the 4th) if Linda or I got burned.
The dude who thinks crowds are there to enjoy in his cigar:
I have a small amount of credit to our now guilty as hell ex-Governor Blojobovich for passing the indoor smoking ban in Illinois. I was actually very surprised this passed in full where all I really wanted at the time was greater separation from the smokers and the non-smoking section. I can hear the groans now from the smoking community on how their rights were totally violated yada yada yada. All I can say to that is I spend my days staying as fit as I can and last I read (and confirmed on every cigarette box) smoking doesn’t fit into that category. But that is only secondary to the real annoyance here. Regardless of whether indoor smoking is allowed or not, the act of smoking a cigar in the midst of a crowd is pretty audacious (yeah, I’m taking that word back from a worthless president). Cigarettes have a tendency to dissipate pretty quickly although with being reconditioned to clean air, both Linda and I are pretty sensitive to it now. Cigars on the other hand have a tendency to mingle like the air after a pork and beans competition at the fair. So here we are in a crowd of a thousand or more people and no less than 3 people are busy puffing on their cigar in the very middle of the gathering. So instead of simply moving out away from the crowd should they be unable to delay their gratification, they instead force everyone around them to experience the byproducts of an unhealthy lifestyle choice. This is pretty annoying to me since it can be addressed by simply moving away from the crowd or politely asking those in the vicinity if it bothers them (and choosing not to do it if someone takes offense), but since we had sufficient viewing space we simply set up our chairs a significant distance away. In retaliation all those around them should have filled their plate with beans and made their own firework booms.
The family that never gets to see last out of the game or the encore of a concert:
Ever just watch people during the night inning of professional baseball game or at a popular concert when the performers leave the stage for the first time even though there is over an hour before the city sound ordinance kicks in? What do you see? Well, there are those relishing in the moment cheering for their team or letting the band know they like what they’ve heard so far. And without a doubt, there are those families who are gathering up all their possession in order to make a quick break for the exits so they can beat everyone out of the parking lot. I am personally kind of torn on this one since I’ve been in this group myself for one reason or another and been the victim of a change in events that turned the tables on the score or missed seeing something spectacular people would be talking about for days. The main reason I added this annoyance is due to the conditions that surround a fireworks display. First off, there is no organized seating (at least the ones we have attended) so there is no easy way to navigate to the exit. Secondly, there is typically no helpful lighting since after all it is a fireworks display which last I experienced always looks better when it is dark. Baseball games are usually well lit and concerts are usually put on in well aligned seating arrangements making relatively easy departures. Contrast that with fireworks displays where you have better odds of stepping on someone than you do actually hitting grass or pavement. Inevitably, there is an individual towards the front that ruined an entertaining night by trying to predict the encore two minutes ahead of time so he can dart out to the car and get home before the news starts. This results in an annoyance by having fields of view blocked while you are standing up and then bumped, jostled and squeezed as they try to navigate the human minefield. If someone wants to beat the rush, fine, I have no problem with that, but that constitutes a sacrifice to stay in the back of the viewing crowd so the departure can take place without impacting others. Oh, and as you tear out the area in your car – be mindful of the people that are still returning to their cars otherwise the police might put a throttle on your early exit.
The idiot who jumps up and makes stupid political themed statement after the show:
Oh, sorry, that was Atlas Shrugged – scratch that one off the list.