Monday, June 15, 2009

No Thanks, I Don't Need Saving From Myself

When I was a kid, my dad used to make a big deal out of the Fourth of July. He's cross over into Phenix City, Alabama and buy about $40,000 worth of explosives (fireworks were illegal in Georgia) and we'd have fun making the rest of the neighborhood think the goddamned Russkies had finally started the Big One.

Now, kids get weird ideas when (1) they are largely left to their own devices, as we were during summer vacation, and (2) there are large amounts of fireworks laying around and no one is guarding them.

I don't remember whose idea it was, but one day we got into the stash and grabbed handfuls of bottle rockets. My dad installed satellite dishes back then; the big ten-foot aluminum jobs, not those little dinner plates they have now. Back in those days having satellite television meant your house looked like a cog in the DEW line. Being in that business meant burying a lot of cabling, and cabling meant PVC pipe. Here's a math lesson for you:

PVC + Bottle Rocket = Bazooka

This can be shortened to PVC + BR = !!!.

A four-foot length of PVC pipe greatly increased the accuracy with which we could assault each other with bottle rockets. There still weren't that many hits, but there were a couple. And they hurt like a rejection letter. Assuming the rejection letter is wrapped around a bottle rocket which is exploding in close proximity to your body.

You can question our sanity, our intelligence and our parent's fitness to raise children. But keep in mind that while we were stupid, these are the pertinent facts:

* Our parents were blissfully unaware of what we were doing, and would not have approved had they known.

* We were using the fireworks in a way not encouraged in any way by their manufacturer.

* No one was actually hurt.

* Had one of us lost an eye, our parents' reaction would have been, "you idiots, what did you think would happen?" Their reaction would not have been, "these things are dangerous and should be outlawed."

That last however, is the reaction of something called the United States Eye Injury Registry. By their numbers, many, many eye injuries are caused by bottle rockets. And since people should never be held responisble for their own stupidity, and nothing is ever really an accident, bottle rockets need to be banned.

That's exactly what has happened, as bottle rockets can no longer be sold in North Dakota after August 1st. That's right; I can buy m-80s, roman candles (a smaller version of the PVC bazooka), frogbusters, fishbombs, catchasers and those big volcano things that spew fire twenty feet in the air. But no bottle rockets. Because we need to be protected for ourselves.

I hesitate to jump on the bandwagon that bears the rightwing buzzwords nanny state, but it kinds fits, doesn't it? We can't have bottle rockets because some of us are too stupid to use them. We won't stop eating junk food and drinking non-diet cola, so we need to be coerced into doing it for our own good. We like SUVs, but what's really best is if we all drive hybrids. Maybe your child doesn't eat books, bicycle frames or sippy cups. But don't you see? What if they did? Then you'll be glad for an otherwise seemingly asinine law like the CPSIA.

Some people probably do need someone to tell them what to eat, wear, drive and think. Some people do need to be told how to raise their children. I don't happen to believe I'm one of them. I am almost convinced that shooting bottle rockets at your brother through a piece of PVC is a bad idea, after all.

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