How Not to Be an A-hole When…

… Fireworks Are Involved

I should have asked this question before yesterday but oh well. 4th of July turns my neighborhood into a war zone divided between the “fireworks/party” crowd and the “STFU it’s 9 PM and you’re terrifying my dog or waking up my child” posse. What are reasonable expectations for both groups besides people shouting over fences for the other group to go fuck themselves.

Two things I should say up front:
1. When I was growing up, I lived on a cul de sac, and in the evenings of the 4th of July we’d gather at the back of the court and set off (mostly small) fireworks.
2. I fucking *hate* neighborhood fireworks

Alright, so I have some bias, but I can still set that aside. There are a lot of opinions, and both the party crowd and the STFU crowd have some valid points. So here are what I think are some reasonable expectations.

Here’s the deal: if fireworks are illegal in your neck of the woods, you shouldn’t be setting them off. I know, I know, it’s the holiday! It’s fun! The kids love them! I mean, cool, I get it. I’m fairly certain that during at least a few of the years of my childhood those fireworks we enjoyed were illegal (I mean it was California in the 80s – there was a drought), so I can’t judge. And sparklers are quite magical.

At the same time, they are illegal for a reason. Perhaps it’s because the city is an urban area. Have you heard the reverberations of fireworks off of apartment buildings? It’s not quiet. Plus, with so many buildings nearby, or perhaps a dry start to the summer, they could pose a serious fire risk. And, while we all like to think we’re super smart, there are whole lot of folks walking around with missing fingers (or worse) from errors in fireworks judgment. I mean, here’s what happened this week in my state:

So, in this case, if it is illegal where you live, then it is reasonable that everyone expects that their neighbors abide by that law.*

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s agree that we’re talking about areas where fireworks are legal.

Are you on team “Let’s Party?”
1. Invite your neighbors to participate, or at least give them a heads up, and if they have a serious concern (perhaps a very ill child who needs to be able to sleep), consider if you can go somewhere else to set off your fireworks.
2. Keep the fireworks to sparklers and things that stay low to the ground. Leave the giant explosives to pyrotechnicians.
2. Keep a bucket of water nearby in case things explode unexpectedly.
4. Regardless, cut them off around 10 PM.

Are you on team STFU?
1. Have a conversation with your neighbors ahead of time about your concerns.
2. If you have the means, maybe choose that week to take the out-of-US vacation you’ve been meaning to take.
3. If you know your neighbors are going to set of fireworks regardless, get some quality earplugs, plan to sleep in the room furthest from the street (or the backyard, if that’s where the ruckus will be), and if you can, don’t schedule any meetings or appointments for the morning of the 5th in case you don’t get enough sleep.
4. Don’t call the cops on your neighbors if they go past the time cut off.

Everyone wants to have fun and feel safe and comfortable in their homes. And remember, this isn’t just about hand-wringing or fear of noise. It can be seriously upsetting for people who have trauma related to military service, or gun violence. It can totally screw with pets, and if someone nearby is sick, keeping them up with extraordinarily loud noises is rude and definitely not neighborly.

Main take-aways:
– Talk to your neighbors no matter what. If you want to make a shit ton of loud noise for any reason (construction, fireworks, band practice), talking to your neighbors is the decent thing to do. If you have stress associated with loud noise, or the most important interview of your life the next morning, also talk to your neighbors.

– Don’t call 9-1-1 unless there is actual danger. If someone is setting off roman candles during a drought year, and aiming them at your wood roof shingles, talk to them first. If you see kids setting of fireworks unsupervised, talk to them.

– Finally, no matter what, limit your fireworks activity to JULY 4 ONLY unless you absolutely give your neighbors a heads up. This is not like Halloween, where you should be prepared to go to a costume party any weekend night before the 31st, or like Christmas, where there are holiday parties all month long. The 4th of July is just one day; people setting off fireworks any time before or after with no warning are just assholes.

*If where you live doesn’t allow fireworks but you really love them, then consider spending the holiday at a location that does. I know not everyone has the means (or desire) to do that, but I can’t recommend that you break the law in this instance.

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