"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." - Henry David Thoreau

Friday, July 2, 2010

...Chlorine + Barium Chloride (BaCl2)*

I was never a big fan of the 4th of July as a kid. It's not that I wasn't appropriately patriotic or had no love of barbecued meats. I certainly do on both accounts. No, my lack of enthusiasm for the 4th was primarily due to my dislike of fireworks.

"What? You don't like fireworks? What kind of commie pinko liberty-hating flag-burning traitor are you, Comrade Killjoy?"

The worst kind! When I as a kid, I had all kinds of problems with my ears. I was prone to terrible ear infections and had tubes embedded in my ear canals several times as a child. For some reason, loud sounds really bothered me and fireworks were among the worst. It became a phobia. Growing up, we had season tickets to see the Philadelphia Phillies and I'd dread the thought of Mike Schmidt hitting a home run because that meant they would set off some fireworks and I'd freak out.

So, naturally, when the 4th of July came around, my anxiety level went up to '11.'

This fear continued until an incident that occurred when I was twelve. There's a technique that mental health experts use to help alleviate an individual's phobias. It's called Exposure Therapy.
In a nutshell (get it? phobia=nut? nevermind...), you expose the person to whatever it is they fear in a controlled environment. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Of course, that's only when it happens intentionally.

In the Summer of '80, my dad managed to procure some really cool (and definitely illegal) fireworks from a co-worker. Mostly lightweight stuff like firecrackers and bottle rockets. A few M-80s, too just for a bigger bang. My dad would light a fireracker and toss it into the sewer grate on the street next to our house and listen to the boom reverberate through the pipes. Hey, it was the suburbs...we got bored easily! Anyway, one day I got up the courage to light a small firecracker and toss it down myself. I lit the fuse, threw it and listened to the bang. "Cool!" I thought to myself. So, I lit another. And another. And maybe a few more. Finally, there was just one left. But, there was a problem. I couldn't get the darn fuse to light! I tried and tried, but to no avail. After the last try, I gave up and was walking back into the house...

BANG! The firecracker went off in my hand. The series of events that followed are quite literally burned into my brain. I remember my ears ringing. I remember not hearing myself screaming like a little girl. I remember running into the house, refusing to look at my hand for fear that it WOULD NO LONGER BE THERE.

When I finally did look, my hand was charred like a coal miner's. It hurt. Bad. My mom tried to calm me down and ran my hands under the faucet to make sure I wasn't bleeding and, you know, to see if my fingers were dangling from the rest of my hand by loose tendons or something. I was pretty lucky. No serious damage. I didn't even need to go to the hospital. Lesson learned!

I'll tell you what though...after that, I wasn't so scared of the fireworks in the sky. So, I guess Exposure Therapy works. On the other hand (no pun intended), I've never lit a firework myself again.

Happy 4Th of July!

*BaCl2 is a chemical compound used in making fireworks. I know. I'm reaching.


  1. I'm with you brother. As a pyrophobe, I hated watching people light the fireworks, and would sit in the back of the station wagon with all the windows closed so I could watch from a safe place.

    The last couple of years at a big party were seriously nerve wracking, watching children light stuff. I just can't do it anymore...I'm sick on the 4th, and will keep myself happily at home.

  2. HA! She lies - she went to a party anyways.

    I'm of the mentality that under good supervision, kids should be allowed to light them once a year. Better to let them, teach them, and warn them. Otherwise, they're going to want to sneak it.

    I don't necessairly enjoy them anymore either, just cause they're annoying and quite frankly, I've seen enough.

    But I'm happy Tom got over it. He has so many other neurosis to worry about. That's a brilliant sentence if you think about it.