May 17, 2002
Of all the holidays, Victoria Day was the
one to look forward to as a kid.
Sure, in the heathen minds of kids Christmas
meant presents and Easter meant chocolate, but neither could hold a
candle to a holiday where you got to blow things up.
These of course were the days before
concerned committees decided to make the world a safer place by
removing everything hot, sharp, heavy or flammable. This was back
when parents bought their kids pocket knives, bb-guns, and lawn
darts. Now every plastic bag has to have "This is not a
toy" written on it and every can of peanuts carries the
startling caution: "Warning: may contain peanuts."
Toronto is spending $5 million to put nets
along the sides of one of its biggest bridges to keep desperate
people from jumping to their demise. This will no doubt discourage
those people who haven't figured out that Toronto has more than one
Of course all these things save lives,
proving Darwin wrong at every turn. Although judging from the large
number of "America's Stupidest Video" shows, people still
seem to be able to find exotic ways to break bones and inflict groin
injuries on themselves that bring tears to your eyes.
But Victoria Day has never seemed the same
since the ban on firecrackers. I know they were dangerous and I'm
sure there were a handful (or hands missing a couple of
fingers-full) of injuries every year. In some ways I'm amazed that
we kids could simply take our allowances to the drug store and walk
out with our choice of high explosives.
For some unknown reason even though we kids
were allowed to buy more explosives than Iraq, the store wouldn't
sell us matches. I guess that would have been irresponsible. Instead
you had to use a sissy "punk" your parents would light for
you and carry it around all day.
The drug stores would have boxes of black
and yellow Checkers, red firecrackers in their crinkly paper
wrappers, or my favourite, blocks of Ladyfingers with their wicks
tightly tied together. You learned early on how to budget to
literally get the most bang for your buck.
There were also the lame fireworks, like the
black tablet that turned into a fairly tame snake of hard foam when
you lit it. Or things that emitted showers of sparks or coloured
smoke. We considered anything that didn't explode to be pretty much
a waste of money. Sadly, these are the only things to have survived
the firecracker ban.
Sparklers fall into the lame category too,
unless you threw them back and forth on the lawn like we used to.
Even handled properly (waved gently under adult supervision in a
fireproof suit and next to a bucket of water) I bet there are still
more people hurt by touching red hot sparklers than there ever was
by firecrackers. Having said so, there will no doubt shortly form a
Federation of Concerned Canadians Against Sparklers.
And I suppose those big fireworks shows are
impressive, but I still prefer the bucket of sand in the old
backyard (plus the hose at the ready in case anything still burning
landed on the roof). Those outdoor shows can sure light up the sky,
but I'd still give anything for the simple joy of a deck of
ladyfingers and a troop of plastic army men.
Otherwise it just doesn't feel like