July 5, 2018

Coping With Fireworks

fireworks litter
Photo © Thomas Nugent (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Since yesterday was the 4th of July and we've been talking about fireworks, I thought I'd write a brief post in which I share how I deal with the all-night barrage that happens at least a few times a year here in Mississippi. The norm around here for the 4th of July is that the loud residential fireworks start sometime in the mid-afternoon and continue until roughly 2:00 AM. I got lucky yesterday because thunderstorms meant that there weren't any fireworks until about 6:00 PM.

Prevention

My fireworks plan can be divided into three phases. The first phase is more preventive and takes place before dark. Fireworks can be heard before then, but they haven't gotten really bad yet. During this phase, my main concern is trying to make things easier on my dog. Here are some things that help:
  • I give my dog a mild sedative I obtained from the vet before the fireworks start. It doesn't have any visible sedating effects but seems to take the edge off.
  • When I have to let the dog out/take the dog out, I do so as quickly as possible to minimize exposure to fireworks.
  • I keep all windows closed, which is something I'd be doing anyway in the summer.
  • I have a large air purifier that helps with my allergies this time of year. I make sure it is on and turned up because it functions as an effective white noise machine, blocking the sound of the more distant fireworks.
  • As hard as it may be, I do not console the dog during the fireworks because I'd heard repeatedly that this makes things worse. I do my best to act like everything is normal and go about my regular routine.
  • As we reach the end of this phase, I make sure that the TV or radio is turned on and that the volume is up a bit louder than usual.

Trying to Sleep

I almost always stay up later than usual on the 4th of July. Once things get bad, I know I won't be able to sleep much anyway. The second phase starts shortly before I try to sleep. Some of the things that help include:
  • I take a sedative (usually just a Benadryl or something similar).
  • I move my air purifier into my bedroom and turn it up all the way. Because the dog sleeps in my bedroom, this helps both of us by covering up the lower-volume explosions.
  • Before I had an air purifier, I used foam earplugs. They were better than nothing, but I found them uncomfortable to sleep in. They also had a tendency to fall out. Still, it probably isn't a bad idea to have some on hand.
  • I remind myself that no matter what I do, I am not going to get much sleep that night. The type of stuff the neighbors are detonating makes my windows vibrate, and there isn't any way to cover that up.
  • I practice some anger management techniques, as they are often increasingly necessary as the hours roll by (especially if I have to go to work the next day).

The Morning After

The third and final phase does not begin until the morning after. I'm typically groggy from a combination of not getting much sleep and the lingering effects of the sedative. After I've had my coffee and am starting to feel a bit more coherent, I grab some work gloves, a garbage can, and my handy old man tool, and head outside. I'll spend the next 20 minutes picking up the spent fireworks that inevitably litter my yard. Although nearly all of my neighbors seem to enjoy keeping me up most of the night with their fireworks, almost none of them have any interest in cleaning up their mess. If I don't do so, I'll make more of a mess the next time I mow my lawn.

Should Residential Fireworks Be Banned?

Would I support a ban on residential fireworks? Absolutely. It is clear to me that the overwhelming majority of my neighbors are unwilling to use them responsibly and in a manner that reflects even a basic level of respect for others. In addition to the noise and litter, they have made it clear that they'll ignore the fire hazard by shooting their fireworks at other people's property while we are under various burn bans. I do not expect to ever see such a ban, but I would support one.