Independence Day? Just count me out

Independence Day just isn’t what it used to be. Back when I was a child, the Fourth of July signified something greater. Not that it was ever about Uncle Sam. It’s about much more than that: the sparklers, Black Cats and bottle rockets. Now, I find myself more and more annoyed with the festivities.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as patriotic as the next person and find myself somewhat of a historian when it comes to our separation from the British Empire. After all, I’ve seen both The Patriot and Revolution.

But, I also have a problem. The Fourth of July has wronged me for two consecutive years, and this time I’m holding a grudge. From here on out, the Fourth of July will be on my terms. It’s parades on television and indoor festivities; my day of rest. Call me the Independence Day hermit.

Situation No. 1, Sarasota, 2004. I met my friends and relatives at Island Park in downtown Sarasota for the annual Fourth of July festivities. This was the sixth consecutive year I met my cohorts at the park for the usual celebration, and my expectations were high. I had left the planning to my friend and USF graduate Ankit. This was my first mistake.

After swimming through a sea of mullets and screaming children, we arrived at the worst possible spot to watch the fireworks. A giant tree obstructed our ocean view, and my friend the genius decided to set up shop next to the glorious Kettle Corn stand. Billow after billow of kettle smoke engulfed our camp, causing not only exasperating coughing spells but also an overall sense of annoyance. To make matters worse, I spilled an entire soft drink on myself. Imagine the smell of Sprite mixed with stale smoke.

Apparently, everyone and his or her grandmother decided to visit Island Park, making the grounds overcrowded and filled with unintelligible shouts of awe at fireworks I could not see. With our amazing obstructed view, the only hint of fireworks I saw that year was the glow of the explosions over the water. By then, with a vein bulging out of my forehead, I was borderline shaking in anger. On the ensuing trip to Denny’s for a late-night snack, nearly every person in the restaurant requested a table nowhere near my group because of the stale stench of kettle smoke.

Situation No. 2, Crystal River, 2005. This was my first Fourth of July in Citrus County, the birthplace of my wife and her family. After last year’s debacle, my expectations were low. Unfortunately, my low expectations were met. For some reason, people in Citrus County take it upon themselves to walk down the center of the road and not yield to traffic. Citrus County has been growing at an exponential rate over the years, and the people walking toward the fireworks looked eerily like a bad scene from Dawn of the Dead. The zombies marched unaware of the giant SUV rolling toward them like the apocalypse.

After the hour-and-a-half trip through the sea of the dead, we made it to the dock to watch the fireworks. I was greeted by my summertime best friend: mosquitoes. They smelled fresh meat and attacked with reckless abandon. By the time I found bug spray, it was too late. I felt like I needed a blood transfusion.

But it gets better.

The row of people who had collected on the same docks had brought their own pyrotechnics. I was unaware of this. I nearly screamed aloud in terror when the first one went off. I yelped, my wife yelped and everyone stared at us like we were lost hyenas. Slowly, I felt that vein start to protrude. My body quaked.

What followed has officially shattered my future hopes for the Fourth of July. To put it bluntly, the fireworks stunk. The grand finale was comparable to a one-person parade with a drunk blowing an air horn. It was so bad, in fact, that we waited for 15 minutes following the fireworks just to see if there was some kind of mistake. I mean, I had given a large portion of my blood to see this and all we got was a firework show comparable to a clown college? Rest assured, you’ll never see the vein in my forehead in public ever again.

I quit.

Mark Lennox is a seniormajoring in