5 essential safety tips for the Fourth of July

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter Viva, who will be allowed outside again in the fall.

Avoid the sun

Eventually, should we not do it to ourselves, the sun will be the death of us all. (That’s about one billion years off, when the sun’s temperature will have increased in heat and brightness by 10 percent, so don’t grab your go bag just yet.) In the meantime, it is killing us slowly with radiation.  It is remarkable to me that we’ve never evolved to better not be killed by the sky, but here we are. It’s is also remarkable to me that we always draw the sun as a smiling orb in Ray Bans and not as a fearsome skull lording over us with a rictus grin.

Regardless, slather yourself and your loved ones in the most intense sunscreen you can find 30 minute prior to going out, and reapply every two to three hours. It is best to stay out of direct sun between 10 and 4, and to wear ridiculous looking hats when available.

Avoid water

Water has historically been a remarkably effective method of snuffing out human life. We can’t breath it, you see. If you’re going to be around water this week, especially that enormous body of it to the east, make sure your children have working life vests (and swim lessons) and never leave children (or anyone else) unattended in the water. Don’t get drunk and go in the water, and remember that the water is located directly below the sun, so you’ve got an enemy above you and below you.

Avoid animals

Animals understand their role in the circle of life: eat or be eaten. That’s why they have more legs and teeth than we do. Humans somehow lost the thread of the conversation and think there should be petting and Frisbee involved. You’ll be exposed to a lot of strange dogs this week at picnics and barbecues. Remember not to pet strange animals or bother them while they’re eating. You may also go into the woods, where animals hold sway. Whatever you find in those woods, back off. And finally, you might not deal with cats this week but, as a rule, stay away from cats, because they are cats.

Avoid vehicles

Boats, ATVs, jet skis and other gas powered thrill machines are a great way to ruin your summer. If you must ride things, do so with a competent and licensed adult and with the appropriate safety equipment. Don’t operate these things while drunk or with a cat.

Avoid explosives

To get fireworks of any impressive scope, you must drive to Indiana. That should be a big red flag. Anything you have to drive to Indiana to do is something you shouldn’t be doing. 

For reasons inexplicable to me, people are still interested in fireworks, even though virtually everything one’s phone does is more interesting, visually and intellectually, than fireworks. Perhaps around the time of the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812, when Francis Scott Key was waxing rhapsodic about “the rocket’s red glare,” things blowing up in the sky was still impressive, but now it’s up there with quilting bees and barn raisings as something we shouldn’t really do now that we’ve got better options. (Nota Bene: The American forces retreated in that battle, and the whole War of 1812 was a stalemate AT BEST.) And yet, every summer, we blow stuff up real good. Despite the fact that summer fireworks celebrations, both sanctioned and guerilla, frequently result in death, burns and ruined piano careers, we keep up the tradition.

If you must firework, remember to wear goggles, keep buckets of water handy, keep kids and drunks away from the fireworks, point the fireworks away from houses, foliage and people, and also don’t do it at all.

And while we’re talking caution, be smart around patriotism. We live in a remarkable country and have much to be thankful for, but Samuel Johnson was right in that patriotism is also “the last refuge of the scoundrel” and can be manipulated and unscrupulously applied to dull the senses and encourage tribalism, violence, and prop up corrupt regimes.

Bonus safety tip

Avoid mayonnaise salads that have been sitting on the picnic table all day …  Better yet, avoid mayonnaise salads.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

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