Flashback Friday: Breaking the rules on the 4th

Posted on July 1st, 2011

“There, I guess King George will be able to read that.”

John Hancock, after signing the Declaration of Independence

Like John Hancock, 4th of July celebrations are about breaking the rules. And I have to admit that scares me a little. All year long we have rules about food and fire and drinking and for the most part we adhere to them. We even pass the rules from generation to generation. And then on July 4th we toss the rules out and celebrate our country’s independence.

The first thing rule we break is that whole “do not let mayonnaise-based salads sit outside in warm weather” rule. Now this is an important rule. There is no amount of Pepto-Bismol on earth that will prevent you from horrible symptoms if you eat tainted potato or macaroni salad. And yet, come the 4th of July, we happily sit around all day, watching the macaroni salad sit out on a table in the sun. Hello? Can someone say “massive salmonella outbreak just waiting to happen?”

Oh sure, some people try to save their neighborhood from a salmonella epidemic by putting the potato salad in a cooler with the beer. While I applaud their efforts, the fact is that if the dang potato salad is on top of the beer, it will get moved to the table the minute the first person wants a cold one. And if it’s under the beer, it will get moved to the table because we all know that the beer should be on the bottom so it stays as cold as possible.

And there you have it. A festive day of diarrhea for the entire neighborhood. But it’s worth it, because nothing says, “we had the best 4th ever” like sharing salmonella poisoning.

The next rule we break is with fire. Mothers spend 364 days a year screaming, “Do not play with fire!” Then, on the 4th of July, we happily hand out flaming sparklers to any kid able to make a fist. Are we insane? One day a year we change our minds and yell, “hey, go play with fire?” And then we wonder why our children are crazy. They have to deal with mommy and her mixed messages.

And some mommies give even more mixed messages. They light up the sparklers and gleefully teach their children to twirl them, to write their names in the air with them and even to light more sparklers from the ones already burning. Heck, if you have 1 or 2 burning objects in your hand, why not have 5 or 10? And then the next day we wonder how the cat’s tail got singed. Gee, I don’t know. Maybe he got too close to the fistful of sparklers in your child’s hand?

And once the kids are finished playing with fire, it’s time for the adults. That usually means that the guys at the party—who have probably drunk their weight in beer by the time it gets dark—are now fully armed with lighters, matches, punks and tiki torches so they can light fireworks. Is it just me or would it be safer to have a designated lighter at your 4th of July party? Think about it. Bars give out free sodas to designated drivers. Party hosts could provide guaranteed salmonella-free potato salad to designated lighters. Look, we don’t want them to suffer through a tee-totaling 4th of July only to be felled by rancid potato salad right before their big firework lighting job.

And then there is the mass consumption of hot dogs. Okay, maybe eating a hot dog doesn’t break any rules—but, really, most people can spend the entire year without coming near a hot dog. Yet on the 4th of July everyone eats hot dogs. I don’t care if you are young, old or vegan, you’re going to eat a hot dog. Well, maybe if you’re vegan you’ll eat a veggie dog—but still. Why? Why couldn’t the official meat of the 4th of July be something really good like prime rib? Or even tri-tip? Why a hot dog?

Anyway, I’m not sure what old John Hancock would think about our Independence Day celebrations. But I suspect that he’d dive right into the potato salad—whether it was on ice or not.

On a personal note, Happy Independence Day to my nephew, Justin, who is spending yet another July 4th on a ship somewhere making sure all of us get to enjoy our sparklers and salmonella poisoning. I hope you get a hot dog and potato salad, wherever you are sailing today.

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2 Responses to “Flashback Friday: Breaking the rules on the 4th”

  1. Lynn Kelley Says:

    I love your humor, but these are excellent points. I’m one of those oddballs who eats hot dogs all year round and loves ‘em, but I wonder where the heck the custom of eating hot dogs on the 4th came from. Hmmm.

  2. Laurie Says:

    For the record, we ate sausages, which I believe are just fancy hot dogs :) Thanks for reading!

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