Imagine 33 years of Hallowe’en angst exploding all over my living room.
That’s what life is like living with a former Jehovah’s Witness.
My roommate, who shall remain nameless out of respect to my sweet rental deal and fear of someone knocking on our door with a Watchtower magazine trying to reclaim her, has gone absolutely nuts decorating our entire house with all sorts of house dress-up such as fake spider webs, fake spiders and creepy skeletal men hanging on the door of my closet. Yes, the half-dead man is out of the closet.
Now you might be wondering, “By GAWD, how on earth does a woman live platonically with George T. Baker?” She has great self-control.
But I digress.
Her exuberance over all things Hallowe’en has reminded me that we often take things for granted and forget that it is the little things that matter in life.
These little things can be as small as enjoying an afternoon stroll to gather some thoughts, or that ice cream on a hot August day (admittedly in Terrace) and even such an event as blowing up pseudo-dynamite in the streets once or twice per year.
That last one is the focus of this essay.
Before typing this, I had been on the hunt for four hours looking for suitable fireworks all over the city. Everywhere I have turned, I have been rejected (feeling like the Belmont on a Friday night). The good people at 7-11 said they didn’t have any. Rainbow Market said I was all out of luck. And even the Vietnamese Store, to which I still can’t tell what they actually sell, said “Get out of my store you weirdo!”
But what if they are wrong? What if they are completely wrong? What if I am not a weirdo at all?
It’s Prince Rupert that is weird. The earliest documentation of fireworks dates back to 7th century China where they were first used to frighten away evil spirits with their loud sound and to pray for happiness and prosperity. It’s a theory that most of British Columbia understands.
It’s a tradition in this province to have parents safely let off some firework expression. No other province in Canada makes fireworks a significant part of Hallowe’en except the looney left coast. And for good reason: with Bill Vander Zalm’s ghost still haunting British Columbia, there is ample need to frighten spirits away.
As I close my eyes, I can see the streets of Richmond, my hometown, blowing up in fun illuminations in dynamic fashion and forcing little Honda Civics to swerve more than usual.
Not in Prince Rupert. Not in this little city that I adore. No, for reasons that were written in stone tablets and thrown away in to the harbour where it shan’t be found, this city has banned firework sales for the next millennia… or even longer.
And it’s this model that the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. plans to spread across the province like, if you’ll excuse the expression, wildfire. Yes, the Fire Chiefs have begun their annual campaign to ban the sale of fireworks in B.C. One year, it might actually happen.
Now I understand that our local fire department is far too busy accomplishing other tasks during the night to be worried about putting out little fires created by reckless people using fireworks. It is agreed that recklessness should always be punished, but what of well-orchestrated playfulness? There is no room for that, today.
For today, in this scientific world, we don’t allow for the possibility of understandable mistakes in society. I’m not sure that’s wise and specially selected figures back that claim up.
The U.S. National Fire Protection Association claimed that 8,800 people were injured because of fireworks in 2009. For perspective, there were an estimated 86,000 injuries related to toilets during 2009 — most involving some variation of “falling off,” according the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Are we now going to ban toilets from use in Prince Rupert? “Only if they don’t receive a tax exemption,” echoes sounding much like local hoteliers call from somewhere out of downtown.
There will be a fireworks display this year and again it will be performed by the many volunteers that make each Hallowe’enfest at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre memorable.
But where’s the liberty? Where is the joy of getting forty to fifty of your closest friends in an abandoned lot and letting off a few burning school houses or roman candles for their viewing pleasure?
This Big Brother attitude is far too much. As much as I respect City Council’s opinion… *cough*… they are no more my arbiter on this matter than Mr. Chow who lives down the street. And he wants to blow some stuff up too.
If you want to know what really separates Prince Rupert from B.C., this is the central heart of the subject. While other communities such as Richmond, Penticton and even Canada’s most dangerous city Prince George are finding it rather easy to allow families the right to blow up palm shells, here we believe such behaviour is just too dangerous.
Even under the unfailing rain, we have lost our will live in colour — dashing flares from a roman candle. No beautiful explosive flowers blooming on the midnight garden. No pathetic little snakes boringly fizzing out in front of our eyes. Nada. Except for those trained to do so.
And it shames me to know that children in Prince Rupert have been banned from experiencing that joy of watching Dad nearly blow off his eyebrows because he unwittingly stood too close to the firework shell.
Back in this living room I sit in typing this rather long rant, my roommate is putting the last of the spider web on the ceiling. I looked at her and smiled.
“I guess I’m making up for all those Hallowe’ens I’ve missed,” my roommate said in defence of her decorative explosion.
I thought to myself: Lady, in at least one way you are still missing it.
~Written by George “T-Rex” Baker