What? I leave the country for 10 days, and the place goes to heck in a handbasket?
Educators at each others' throats. Bras and panties on full display in Kaysville. Folks shooting off fireworks, with impunity, from sundown to sunup.
Well, fortunately for y'all, I'm back from vacation. And in the roughly three or four minutes I've devoted to thinking about all of the problems that developed while I was gone, I believe I've already formulated some fairly effective solutions.
For years, in this very space, I've been preaching to you people about the evils of fireworks. They're dangerous. They're environmentally irresponsible. And perhaps worst of all, they can emotionally traumatize that yappy little dog in your neighborhood -- you know, the one that spends the other 364 nights of the year keeping you awake with its incessant barking.
OK, so fireworks aren't completely without their redeeming qualities ...
But this year, you members of the fireworks-consuming public were clearly out of control. Thanks to the Utah Legislature's loosening of fireworks restrictions, this year's July 4 weekend was off the hook, gunpowder-wise. In my 40 years of living in this state, I've never seen -- or heard -- such a constant barrage of explosions surrounding the July 4 holiday.
It was, I imagine, like spending the weekend in Kandahar.
Well, you know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And personally, this tough guy decided to go to Costa Rica.
That's right, during the heart of this month's fireworks danger, my wife and I opted to go someplace safer. Like Central America.
In mid-July, we flew down to meet our 21-year-old daughter, who'd just spent a month in Costa Rica with a study-abroad program offered through Weber State University. (Helpful travel tip: When going to a place called a "rainforest," you might want to plan for, well ... rain. Who knew?)
As a result, we missed a good chunk of this year's 21 Days of Perilous Patriotism, that fireworks window falling between Independence Day (July 4) and what has affectionately come to be referred to as "Pie and Beer Day" (July 24).
But now that the smoke has cleared and the noise has died down enough that we can actually hear ourselves think, it's time to talk about making a couple of tweaks to the state's fireworks laws. And we're going to kill a whole flock of birds with one well-placed stone:
Bird No. 1 -- Utahns just love buying and shooting off fireworks.
Bird No. 2 -- Utah's public schools are waaaay underfunded.
Bird No. 3 -- Schoolteachers have far too much time on their hands during the summer.
Bird No. 4 -- Children shouldn't be exposed to mannequin torsos with loose morals.
And the stone to bring down all these birds? It's simple: Henceforth and forever, we turn over all fireworks sales in the state to the Utah Education Association.
That's right, the UEA gets the fireworks concession.
Here's how I'd imagine it would work: Teachers agree to teach for free during the school year, which saves the taxpayers a HUGE chunk of change. In exchange for that service, they each get a cut of the highly lucrative fireworks market.
Of course, teachers will need to man those plywood "fireworks showrooms." But hey, it's during the summer, when they're basically doing little else but complaining to everybody about being "underemployed" during the summer months.
And the best part? When our children -- whose brains have been idled for the summer -- stop by the fireworks stands and utter grammatically tortured sentences like, "I'll take one of them Roman candles and two of them fountains," our fireworks salespersons can promptly correct them: "You'll take one of THOSE Roman candles and two of THOSE fountains."
And there you have it. Problems solved.
"But wait a minute, Mark," you say. "You haven't mentioned the unmentionables in the window display of that Kaysville lingerie shop. What about that vexing problem?"
Well, fortunately, that one will pretty much work itself out. Because with more and more children playing with more and more powerful fireworks, eventually somebody's going to lose an eye. And then, even the tightly wound residents of Kaysville won't have to worry about their children viewing offensive images.
At least, not once they've lost their eyesight.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY ALERT! Mark Saal is seeking investors for his hot new retail clothing shop, Totally Turtlenecks, to be located on Kaysville's trendy Main Street. Contact him at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.