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A very DUUUVAL Fourth of July

Andy Moser, Features Editor

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You wake up. Time to head out into the living room, where dad is undoubtedly on his third viewing of The Patriot this week. Mom is making sure everything is in order for the cookout in a little while, and she realizes she forgot hot dog buns.

You know who’s about to be called upon to handle the crisis, so before anyone has to ask, you grab your car keys and head down to the closest Publix. There are no parking spots.

Those people walking toward the back of the lot look like they may be leaving. Yes! They are. Perfect. Now you just have to wait for them to put their groceries in the car and leave. There’s a car behind you now. Try putting on your blinker so they know you’re waiting for the spot. A minute passes. They’re not getting it. You can see the driver in your rearview mirror with his hands thrown up in frustration. More cars are lining up behind you. How long does it take to put away groceries? A horn blares. Finally, the car starts backing out of the spot. It’s yours. You park in it while various people flip you off as they drive by in search of another spot. They won’t find one.

But your moment of glory is only temporary. You get out of your car and the sun instantly sears your skin. It’s a long walk to the double sliding doors of icy freedom. If you don’t hurry, heat exhaustion will surely set in and you’ll become part of the parking lot. Better get moving.

After what must have been a mile, you make it to the front of the store. You’re one of the lucky ones. You enter and immediately reap the reward of cool, fresh air conditioning. You consider staying forever.

No. You’re on a mission. You make your way past crowds of people to the bread aisle. You forget that on July 4, everyone simultaneously forgets hot dog buns. The shelves are empty, but a tiny sparkle of light catches your eye. On the shelf in the middle of the aisle lies one last bag of hot dog buns. At the far end of the aisle, a lady turns the corner with two children and starts walking toward you.

“Almost done, kids,” you hear her say. “We just need…”

Uh oh. Could she be looking for— please don’t say it. Please don’t.

“Hot dog buns!”

A wave of adrenaline hits you. You and the lady are at equal distances from your target. But she has a cart. She’s slow. You have the advantage if only your conscience will allow you to take the last bag of buns from your fellow Americans in need. You decide that it will. Generosity is for the weak. You race to the middle of the aisle and grab the bag before the lady makes it even halfway there. You’ll be in the checkout line before she realizes her profound failure.

Lunch at home goes smoothly thanks to your last-minute heroism. The sun should be going down soon, which means it’s time to head out to the annual Jacksonville Beach fireworks show.

On any given day, this drive takes 15 minutes. Today, it will take a year. The search for a parking spot is a regular theme and will continue to cause problems every Fourth of July from now on until the end of time. This a dangerously cutthroat game, and your sedan lacks the intimidation and aggression to meaningfully compete with the overabundance of monstrously sized pick-up trucks that descend upon Jacksonville Beach year after year. This is a fight you can’t win. You pay a stranger to park in front of their house 10 blocks away, and you walk.

The beach smells like salt and beer. You sit quietly on your towel waiting for the show to start while some guy plays Toby Keith on his portable radio in the distance. A Frisbee grazes the top of your head. You find a new spot.

Finally, the first firework shoots into the night sky and bursts into sparkles of green and red. The next ones are gold and shimmery, taking the shape of a chandelier as they fall gracefully into the sea. The sky is lighting up in a flurry of colors. Are you having fun? You remember that you like the Fourth of July. Fireworks continue to pop for the next 20 minutes or so, and then it’s over.

You make the treacherous journey home, avoiding both drunk drivers and drunk pedestrians. Your neighbors are still setting off fireworks by the time you get back, and you have to assure your pets that the world is actually not ending. You will do this every night for the next week.

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A very DUUUVAL Fourth of July