Whoever invented fireworks…


…ought to have them strapped to their ears, or something.

I can’t stand Independence Day. Thanks to a loud fireworks show, I spent a good deal of last night first involuntarily twitching every time a loud firework went off, and then later frozen in place for a really long time. The guy I was with said that fireworks were a good autie test: The two of us were the only ones visibly startling, in a large crowd of people who had gathered outside my apartment building to watch the fireworks. I can’t understand, either, why we commemorate a war with a display that has to be absolute hell for veterans. But anyway. At least this time I wasn’t curled up under a desk like I was last year, although that’d have been preferable maybe.

Something I noticed like always, but this time decided I was going to actually mention rather than relegating it to “things I can’t possibly find proper words for”, was that as soon as my body began un-freezing, my mind started freezing. When I freeze, it generally follows a certain progression, where first I can’t move at all, then I can only move in certain locations or directions and not in others (usually roughly the same sequence), and then I can possibly end up re-freezing in different positions, and so forth. I found that I could understand everything fine, and think and plan just fine, as long as I wasn’t moving. But the moment I did move more fluently, then my mind went rigid in the same ways my body had, and then I could only move along some pathways but not others, and there were giant gaps in what I could understand compared to usual. Which still makes me think there must be some kind of tradeoff going on when that happens, either comprehension works or moving works but not both.

By the way, if anyone ever happens to be present when that happens, be aware that the biggest concern is making sure that I’m changing position often enough to avoid injury. It takes awhile to get a pressure sore, but long before one happens, the pain is pretty excruciating. And not being able to move doesn’t mean not being able to feel pain. (It also doesn’t mean not being able to hear you or see you, so waving hands in my face or shouting louder at me is really annoying and unproductive. Nor, unfortunately, does it mean being unable to feel itches. And I could tell all kinds of stories of the sorts of things people have said and done under the assumption that the moment I stopped moving I stopped comprehending. In fact, the opposite is usually true, and if you don’t want to be written about in great detail later, don’t mess with me verbally or physically when you think I can’t understand you. That includes any of you who stand by and watch while people do these things, too.) The seat of my wheelchair is designed to handle a totally immobile person without causing pressure sores, pretty much any other seat is not. Another of the main concerns is to make sure that I’m not in a position that would impair breathing (anything that bends me in a way where I can’t get a full breath of air).

I also realized that it’s been so long since I’ve had a normal (for me) activity level that I had completely forgotten what can happen when I do. I’m finally getting over the asthma crisis — I hope. And the fireworks were undoubtedly only the last straw. Since realizing I could exercise again without breathing problems, I had a few days ago run all over downtown (including uphill) with someone without being pushed at all, and then yesterday, started an exercise routine, gone to the park with my dog, and watched the fireworks show. I’d completely forgotten there were non-breathing-imposed limits on this sort of thing, and that I might want to take things slightly slower. Then I suddenly noticed I couldn’t move. :-P

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

28 responses »

  1. I can’t understand, either, why we commemorate a war with a display that has to be absolute hell for veterans.

    I imagine fireworks sound different-enough from artillery fire that it doesn’t get to people who manage to come back without PTSD. Nor do they sound like the civilian firearms that I’ve occasionally heard, here in gun-crazy Arizona.

  2. “Another of the main concerns is to make sure that I’m not in a position that would impair breathing (anything that bends me in a way where I can’t get a full breath of air).” i think when i was there visiting you, one of those happened, where you got bent and couldn’t get back up, but you shouted a sound at us and i said do we have to do something and your friend said i should unbend you (i was closer), so i did. also i guess you were either bent to where you couldn’t type, or you were too tired to. can’t remember which.

  3. Sorry about that, Ma’am. Funny thing: When *I’m* the one setting off the explosives, it’s fun. When other people do it, it gets on my nerves. (not to the extent it does on yours, it seems)

    I’m the same way about Rock and Roll music.

    It’s against the law to make explosions in FL without a permit, but lots of people do it anyway.

    I may just put a teaspoonful of black powder in a bowl and light it off, just for the smell.

    We should remember, that sometimes it’s necessary to “smell the powder”, that is, take up arms for liberty

  4. Fireworks: Hate the noise. Love the lights.Don’t much care for the symbolism. Seriously, they are a nuisance which can’t easily be escaped. No sleep for three days around here, as people find it necessary to set of their own little displays from the 3rd through the 5th.

  5. I hope you’re feeling ok now. I like fireworks in small doses, or from quite a distance (we can see fireworks that are launched from the town park from one of our windows), but they do get too much if they’re constantly going off with barely a break.
    Happy Independance Day to all in the USA :D.

  6. again, something off topic, but it looked too cool not to mention it: have you heard of a rather unusual-looking new film called Imagination, by director/animator Eric Leiser? The synopsis: “Dr. Reineger is a child neuro-psychologist who has dealt with extreme and abnormal cases his entire life. He has studied the Woodruff twins intensely for many years and has become confident of at least one thing: the twin Anna has a rare form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, rendering her unable to cope with reality. As for her sister, Sarah, who has been blinded over the past year by a degenerative eye disease, the Doctor cannot say for sure why her visions map so closely to Anna’s. As he reflects on the twins’ ever increasing symbiosis and unified visions, he begins to see the girls as something quite special and outside of the bounds of his understanding.”
    Here’s the film’s site; the trailer and other short films by Leiser.

  7. I too like the visual but not the sound of fireworks…There is something amazing about
    the lighting up of the sky with fast moving designs.I also like the falling stars in August which I consider Mother Nature’s own fireworks…One of my favorite parts of the Tolkien films is when Gandolph sets off the fireworks to the delight of the children…That said I do live in the mountains and we have a friend with PTSD from the war…Fireworks are unnerving to him as are the medivac helicopters that land nearby that are our mountain type of amublance. We once had a dog that was so traumitized by the sound of fireworks that no amt. of tranquilizer could keep her from constantly running to try to find a place she could hide ….It seemed we needed to take her to a wilderness area each July 4th just to keep
    her from her terror at the noise….

  8. Bev, I love the symbolism the most. Most people these days don’t understand the symbolism, and think that The Glorious Fourth is just a good excuse for social partying, drinking too much, barbecueing, slacking off, and acting rowdy. Neal Boortz has abandoned his radio show today for a re-run because he thinks the same way I do about that.

    Hey, folks, Independence Day celebrates the foundation of the only just-barely-somewhat-autistic polity that has ever existed!

    It’s not our fault that the enterprise has been pretty much taken over by collectivists!

    I’m proud to be an idiot. (In the original Greek sense of the word, as someone who is kinda weird, doesn’t fit in, is indivualistic and strange, et multiple cetera)

    “Idiot” is a word which shares some shades of meaning with “idiomatic”, “idiosyncracy”, “idiom”, and, yes, “idiot savant”

    As far as I and the ancient Greeks are concerned, “Idiot” means “Cranky Weird Individualist Who Just Doesn’t Fit In With the Normal People.”

    Thomas Jefferson was an idiot in that sense, and I honor his memory for that.

    And burn powder to show that

  9. When I was little we lived in an old Victorian house. There was an air raid shelter in the garden that we used to play in. I could do with that air raid shelter for tonight for my little ones.
    best wishes

  10. The noise of firecrackers doesn’t bother me quite as intensely as it did when I was little (though I still don’t *enjoy* them and generally not only turn off my hearing aid but welcome ear plugs, at least for my good ear, if they’re offered). But I remember one year when I was maybe 7 or so that the noise of the fire crackers scared me so badly I couldn’t enjoy the pretty lights at all — I just wanted the whole thing to stop so we could go and get the ice cream my sister and I had been promised.

    And I’ve been severely to profoundly deaf since birth! So you know those are LOUD!

  11. Pointless bit of trivia here, but did you know that on the day of the signing of the Declaration, George III had a bit (ok, a lot) of a sulky strop and wrote in his diary:
    “Nothing of importance happened today.”

  12. Joey loves fireworks; but Andy goes nuts. The whistles get him every time. We can have backyard fireworks here, so we just hunker down in the house with Andy and set some off for Joey. We’ll se how they do this year…

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  14. Also, I just had a very amusing verbal tic. I have coprolalia (most people with tics don’t, just to note that’s a stereotype) and often also tic words that are in front of me written down or on screens or something. This combined just now into “Independence Day you asswipe”.

  15. Update: There was a fireworks show near here, which I watched from the place where I live. It was really optimal from my point of view, the mortars being far enough away to impact my ears only slightly, the orientation of aerial explosions having the pretty shiny burning things coming right at me, and I got to watch them all by myself. That is some good luck about living where I do.

    The cat hated the whole business, of course.

  16. Glad to hear your asthma crisis is getting better, Amanda. Did you wind up getting allergy shots? My mom was recently diagnosed with asthma (at age 59!), and dogs were her big allergen. Since getting rid of her babies (2 big setters) is absolutely out of the question, she started on shots about 9 months ago. She also kicked the dogs out of the bed, out of the bedroom – they are still moping about it! :) She says just doing those 2 things have greatly improved her symptoms, and she hardly needs her inhaler.

  17. My cat likes watching/listening to fireworks (from the safety of our bedroom window of course). She also likes playing fetch, greets us when we get in and happily plays with us. You know, sometimes I wonder if she’s a cat at all (joke :D).
    I like the word “asswipe” and it’s definitely an American insult, nobody would say it (or not many people would say it) in the UK. For a start we say “arse”.

  18. I hate fireworks. I don’t have much reason not to, I just startle easily and don’t like loud sounds. I have a friend whose town was bombed in a war, and she hates fireworks too because it reminds her.

  19. The Chinese invented fireworks, of course, and still like to set them off.

    “And at midnight on Chinese New Year, street corners in big cities become blast zones where police stand aside as residents ignite rockets that shoot out of refrigerator-sized boxes and leave roads littered with burned paper.

    When the city of Beijing rescinded a 12-year-old ban on fireworks sales last year, it was greeted as reinstatement of a birthright. State media cheered that 80 percent of the capital city’s population lit at least one firecracker during Chinese New Year celebrations — and reported 112 injuries but no deaths.”

    From “Chinese fireworks city defines boomtown,” a story in The Miami Herald about the city of Liuyang.

  20. Certain shopkeepers where I live in Wales UK, also “ought to have fireworks strapped to their ears”, and other bits of their anatomy. For illegally selling fireworks to CHILDREN, who then set them off in the street at regular intervals, day and night, for up to several weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes Day and for about two weeks after it.
    So at that time of year, I often find walking the streets in my area a major ordeal, not least as I too startle visibly (and audibly) at loud, sudden noises.
    I wonder, with today’s technology, if it’s possible to invent an alternative to traditional fireworks – something that still makes pretty lightshows in the sky, but without the noise and danger?

  21. I don’t like the loud. If I’m too close, it feels like a tap on the chest. Enough taps on the chest, and it’s extremely unpleasant.

    (The worst I ever had along those lines, though, was the one shot from a .357 I fired at an indoor range. Never, ever, ever shall I fire a .357 indoors unless the alternative is death or severe injury for myself or someone else. A .22 isn’t quite so bad, but doesn’t have the same sort of stopping power.)

    I was concerned that with neighbors in every direction setting off fireworks (we’re outside city limits) that my daughter would be freaked out, but mostly it just kept her awake an extra hour. (She had a very, very bad time with a thunderstorm last month. I ended up having to program an mp3 playlist on my PDA for her and loop it and put it under her pillow for her to go to sleep. And this was AFTER we had calmed her down a lot.)

  22. Oh, Julia, see the first substantial post on my blog, about shooting in an indoor range. I didn’t like it very much, aside from playing with the target trams, as I mentioned there.

    I remember when a friend invited me to shoot his .577 Enfield replica, and his Colt Navy Six replica (both black powder weapons).

    As deadly weapons go, those were, well, mellow. I remember having to chase away a bumblebee who was interested in the lubricant on the Minie balls, which had some beeswax in it.

    Contrasted to that, the guy at the next station was shooting a .44 Magnum revolver, and it hurt my ears through the earplugs and resonated through my chest every time he shot it.

    It made me jump, too.

    I wonder if we could interpret the ADA to buy supressors for those of us who like to shoot, but jump when things go bang?

    Or maybe just those who want to preserve their hearing

  23. P.s. That was my Dec. 12th, 2005 post at enemiesofthelibrary.blogspot.com.

    Dammit, shooting should be fun, not creepy, or startleishly twitchy-making!

    (Unless doing it in defense, or for war, of course, but I mostly like it as a calming mental discipline)

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  25. Here’s the funny thing about fireworks to me: The visual is intensely pleasant stimulus; the auditory, intensely unpleasant… the combination is something like getting punched in the face while eating ice cream.

    Sometimes the ice cream is worth it :P

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