Many moons (OK, eight years) ago, my brother and I ran a TNT fireworks stand in Beatrice, NE. We have absolutely no connection to Beatrice, but at the time I did know someone connected with TNT and my brother needed some summer work, so I arranged the stand and helped run it for one very long, very hot week.
Growing up we were not big fireworks people. I mean, our family would always go and buy some to shoot off at the farm and we would usually go into Yankton to watch the local display, but we were never as gung-ho as some. If anything, my favorite part of fireworks, beyond sparklers, was watching my dad run through the twilight, cussing up a storm, as he tried to put enough space between himself and whatever he had just lit out in the hay field. Now that was entertaining!
So, yes. Our fireworks stand… surprisingly, it was a pretty big success. Our original stock had to be delivered in a large, yellow Penske truck. What was left at the end of the week fit into our two cars, along with all of my brother and his friend Mike’s (our third partner in the biz) camping stuff. They slept each night in the stand with, I believe, baseball bats as protection against thieves. I drove back to my apartment in Lincoln each night so I could sleep in a bed and air conditioning; clearly I got the better end of that deal, even though I ultimately let them have most of the take-home, so perhaps they didn’t have it so bad after all.
The secret to our success? B.S. Totally and all the way. I mean, obviously we don’t know much about fireworks, but apparently we are good salesmen. We quickly turned into used car dealers, leading patrons around the booth, pointing out the best (ahem! most expensive) products our stand had to offer. When people asked about the color or noise or longevity of a certain firework, we’d nod and smile and assure them all the way that it was Great! Fantastic! Real quality!
Truth? We had never shot any products that we sold that week. Not a single one. We did dink around with the Snaps quite a bit, but somehow, lighting fireworks when you’re selling them, certainly in the direct vicinity anyway, doesn’t seem like the best idea. But we wanted to sell as much as possible, so we embellished and we promoted (euphemisms, my friends, for flat-out lying!). And, we sold.
Now, I am not especially proud (nor am I terribly ashamed) of my days as a fireworks huckster. It was a decent way to make money quickly and that was our ultimate goal. The reason I’m reflecting on it now is because it is once again that lovely time in NE when fireworks stands are open for the week preceding the Fourth of July.
Truth? I hate this week. Because I can still take ’em or leave ’em, I just don’t get it, this fascination that people seem to have with buying loud, annoying fireworks that they can shoot off in town. It is a pain in the butt to listen to these things each night and I find myself praying for 11:00 to come quickly so that they have to shut down their little nightly home displays. Since having had children, fireworks bother me even more because I’m worried about my kiddos waking up thanks to some ridiculous artillery shell or bottle rocket. It was even worse when we had the dogs here because they would spend each night shaking and refusing to go out to pee because of all the noise. Part of why we’ve been out of town the last few years on the Fourth is just to get away from the noise by going to stay with either of our parents on their farms; this is how much we’ve found it bothersome. This year, though, I’m in the middle of teaching another class, so we are town-bound. And last night, I about lost my mind.
Raegan had just let me get to bed a little after 10:00 and by 10:30, just as I was drifting off, somebody’s silly little (but big enough) boomers woke me up. Woke me up and ticked me off, I should say. Sleep is the most precious commodity in my life right now and, sure enough, the booms kept coming right up until 11:00, so I had to wait until then to try to calm my mind down and go to sleep. Getting calm isn’t the easiest task when all you can think about is marching through the darkened streets of your neighborhood at 10:45 p.m., looking for the firework enthusiast so you can tell them where to put said fireworks (have I mentioned that I am both sleep deprived and perhaps dealing with some postpartum anger issues?!).
The whole thing had me so upset and wondering, once again, why people buy or bother with fireworks in the first place. Is it really a patriotic thing? What do members of the military think? I don’t know anyone close enough to ask, but I really don’t see how anyone, military or not, could like hearing what sounds like gunshots in the night during the this time of year.
In case you couldn’t guess, my children have had zero exposure to fireworks. Of course RL is too young, but we’ve neither had Harrison around them at our house or taken him to see them at a city display, either. Not only do I find them unsafe, but they also interfere with bedtime and I’m sure you know how I feel about that!
Ben raised a brilliant question the other night when we heard the first pops of the season. He asked, “Why don’t people take the money they spend on fireworks and donate it to a VA hospital?” See?! Brilliant! Sometimes my husband’s practicality can go too far and frustrate me, but this time we are in total agreement. Why don’t people do that? I can’t think of a better way to be patriotic than to give money to a VA group or shelter or hospital or something that helps honor, serve, and protect those who have done the very same for all of us.
I know I’ll never rid myself or my summer nights of other people’s fireworks. It is just too big of an industry and too many people like loud things. I also know I’ll never be able to keep my kids away from fireworks forever. That being said, I can make darn well sure that any money we spend at a fireworks stand being one-overed by some punk college kids will be at least doubled in a donation to a Veteran’s group of some sort….that is something I can fully support and celebrate.