Sunday, July 5, 2009

It is truly obscene...

... what we have made of our holidays.

Once a time to gather and reconnect with family and friends, to honor those who sacrificed for our freedom ... now a time to gorge ourselves and always look for more, more, more. I think I am particularly disgusted because, like a lot of people in public safety, I've had to participate in a few parades this past week.

Sure, I'm going to sound like an old biddy, but I'll say it anyway: When I was a kid, going to the parade meant that you were going to be wide-eyed at the enormous fire trucks with their blaring air horns and Federal Q sirens that hurt not just your ears, but your very soul. There were marching bands and girls with batons. Lots of times you were the one marching in the parade, with your softball team, or your dance troupe, or your fellow band members. We didn't bring bags with us for candy. That was for Halloween.

Now, it seems like parades are an all-you-can-eat buffet of candy and other junk food, and the spectators act as if they have been chained to a basement radiator and starved for a week - before being set free to feast on the bounty of candy and chips thrown from a mile-long parade route of vehicles. No longer are kids mesmerized by the shiny ambulances and fire trucks and people on horseback and baton-twirling girls and marching bands; nope, they've only got one thing on their minds - candy. With single-minded abandon they dart within inches of ambulances, in front of cars and bike patrols, their eyes fixated on the penny candy scattered in the gutter.

No longer do you see the proud father on the sidelines with a little one sitting on his shoulders - it was the best seat in the house when I was a kid. Nope, now these kids have to be mo-bile! A-gile! Hos-tile! All the better to be able to snatch the Smarties and Tootsie Rolls off of the ground - and stumble over each other like hungry, blind puppies fighting for the last unoccupied teat - clamoring for more. I think I reached the height of my disgust because of two separate incidents at two separate parades.

In the first, we drove carefully through the designated parade route, avoiding both darting kids and adults, who would apparently give their lives for a piece of stale candy. It was bad enough that most kids had almost-full shopping bags of the stuff they had collected, but even worse when they would demand - not ask for - more.
"Candy!! THROW it!", yelled one little boy, less than a foot from the huge wheels on my truck. Since he was so close, and what the hell, I'm a role model, right?, I looked him in the eye and spat, "Throw it, PLEASE." And I beaned him in the head with a piece of Dubble Bubble. It was unintentional, I assure you, but he had it coming anyway. There was a middle-aged man, probably a good 20 years older than me who was seated next to the demanding little boy's territory. He made eye contact with me and nodded ever so slightly in secret collusion.
"Good one", his eyes and his laugh said.

The second incident took place in a community known for its huge 4th of July parade. We were providing bike coverage. Just like last year, there was one of those ubiquitous trucks, you know the ones: Square and shaped like a toaster and full of boxes and boxes of chips or cheese curls or some other fried, puffed or otherwise not found in nature snack. Yes. A potato chip truck. In a parade. Handing out snack-size bags of chips and pretzels. They had to staff this truck with (I shit you not) a dozen people because they couldn't hand the stuff out fast enough. They were being met and mobbed in the middle of the street by parade-goers. It was like someone yelled "Free Jager-bombs!" on frat night at the bar, a feeding frenzy the likes of which I haven't seen since Shark Week was on last. What in the HELL is a potato chip truck doing in a parade?

Maybe I'm just a commie. Maybe I'll start my own movement. Next time you see my shiny blue and white ambulance at your local parade, duck. I'll be throwing apples.

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