This article originally appeared on July 4, 2009. Click here for more from Patrol‘s 2009 summer issue.
THERE IS one day every year when shirtless, shoeless and often toothless men and women of the United States join sweaty, tobacco-stained hands and venture past the green and yellow safe haven of tractor sales into the wide, wide world of thriving commerce.
That day is the 4th of July.
A couple of years ago, I witnessed this awe-inspiring event with one hand on my scanner and the other pinching my nose.
Yes, I was a fireworks warehouse cashier. Continuing my tradition of writing letters to entities I dislike, this is my letter from the checkout stand.
* * * * *
Dear Redneck Americans,
Let’s start with the basics.
Appearance and Personal Hygiene
First and foremost? Put on a shirt.
Yes, the size of your man-boobs would doubtlessly earn the respect of the dominant male gorilla, but I don’t see any in this fireworks warehouse. Except maybe him … or … uh … her. Shoes might be nice as well, since you’ve got chronic-ugly-feet written all over you. Also, sweat does not give you a “healthy glow.” I don’t understand your propensity for showering me with your excess when you gesticulate wildly, but then again, I shower. My sweat doesn’t have time to gather in my brain. Yada-yada-yada, overactive sweat glands aren’t your fault, but hey, I just sniffed myself in public because I thought that ungodly smell might be coming from me; I now have no dignity, and that, my beer-goggled friend, is your fault.
See that, just then? I had to wring out the $20 you grubbed from your shirt pocket, and my hands were already gross from handling these punks, so now I have some sort of lighter-dust/sweat combo forming a paste on my fingers. Please, for the love of Kenny Rogers, beef jerky and all that is holy, take some lye and lake water and rub it all over your body, including the places where the sun dares not shine. Thank you.
Logic, Good Manners, and Shopping Habits
While I understand that you, your pappy and your grandpappy put in many an hour saving for this moment, and that it is the culmination of and reward for 200 years of not buying as much beer as any of you would have liked, I gotta say: dropping thirty dollars worth of quarters on the counter is really not swinging the “Jennifer Might Like You” odds any closer to your favor. I may joke and smile, but if you look closely, I am hating you with my eyes. I strongly dislike counting coins.
Oh, hey, Mom. Your turn. Also not working for me is the Jheri curl that has spawned from your child’s head. Not only have you given your child a handle for other children yank while making comments about his hygiene, there is also the distinct possibility that he will one day grow up. And he will become this man. Bowl cut him, trucker-hat him (if you must), burr him or pick up a copy of Redneck Digest and find out what Jeff Foxworthy is currently styling. Forsake the curl, is all I’m saying.
“Joe Bob likes the cute fireworks,” you say. The chickens, the tanks, those cool poppy thingies … and so do I! Fireworks turn me into an ADD-ridden, five-year-old magpie (“Oohh, pretty! Oh, look over there, pretty! … ohhh!”) Joe Bob and I have a connection. He may be 35 and proud of his suspenders, but I am liking you both. And then you ruin it. You just came over here with a cart full of 35-cent items, I stopped long enough to stare at your mullet, and you’re already tapping your foot. Tappity, tap, tap, wag your cigarette, glare at me as I scan blow-up chickens. I’m hurrying, and if you weren’t dropping your child’s college fund on little POPPY thingies, then maybe we’d both be a lot happier right now. Be patient. No one is trying to separate you from your son’s inheritance/collection of fireworks. Calm. His jheri curl isn’t going to disappear.
Besides, you should definitely stop for a minute to check out your husband—yeah, the one currently oozing testosterone all over the artillery shells— because I’m a little grossed out by his latent maleness. You realize he’s about to come over here and ask me for three “Goliaths,” one “Big’un,” and two “Excalibers,” and then be back in an hour after robbing the local CoinStar machine. And have you figured out why, besides his yearly competition with the so-called “neighbor,” who may or may not actually exist and/or know your husband is alive? No? Well, I lack the maleness required to explain the “why this happens,” but I can explain the “what happens next”: You’ve just thrown $5,000 down little tubes, you’re going to get drunk, you’re going to blow stuff up, and tomorrow you will not be able to afford tomato juice to help cure your hangover, and the sparkly magic will be gone from your life. Why? Because the poppy thingies broke you.
So here, honey lamb. Take ‘em. $30 worth of quarters. Buy your son a haircut and your husband some sort of drool-catcher from that scourge of your savings account, the Home Shopping Network.
Oh, and maybe think about keeping that $20 in your pocket, because tomorrow you’re going to want to buy some Vicodin to make all of the painful realizations go away.
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