We were fairly new to New England. One of the guys in our church college and career group (who defied all of the rules of single adult living and was actually a planner) had the idea of going to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra live under the hat shell in downtown Boston on the Fourth. Then, of course, to climax the evening, there would be a spectacular fireworks show.
Boston on the Fourth. What could be more patriotic than that?
So while Planner put together all of the important details, college and career groups can turn even the smallest of details into cumbersome and tiring Group Decisions. A characteristic of C&C groups that has caused more people to starve to death than the potato famine. I hate Group Decisions.
In this particular instance, the group of us stood in the parking lot all of 15 minutes trying to decide who would ride in which vehicle. We had one Lady Driver and one Man Driver and there were one too many girls to fit into Lady Drivers’ car. Hence the dilemma.
One girl attempted to solve the problem and volunteered to ride with the guys. Man Driver actually resolved the problem by replying that it would probably be better if one of the “skinny girls” rode in his truck instead. Mind you, we were all on the thinner side except Volunteer.
To say her feelings were hurt would be putting it mildly. Not a great start to the day.
But, as I hinted, he did resolve the issue because we girls suddenly realized that we could all fit nicely in the girl car and we would just see the guys at the sub station. Decision made.
The first stop of the day had been carefully plotted thanks to Planner and we went to the hat shell to stake a claim on the grass with a blanket and pick up wristbands which would later grant us admission to the Pops Goes the Fourth! concert.
It was 7:00 am. It was 700 degrees. It was 700% humidity.
After that we were “free to sightsee” a phrase which herein means “free to debate what to sightsee.” Planner was actually pretty familiar with the city, but he was completely overshadowed by the two strong personalities held by Lady Driver and Man Driver–neither of whom knew the area. And when I say, strong personalities, I mean with a capital “S.” In comparison, I am meek as Moses (and a lot less likely to hit rocks).
Lady Driver trusted no one with the planning of our Independence Day in Boston. She was determined that the first order of business was to procure a map. This was, of course, before Google maps and smart phones. But even then, printed maps didn’t exactly fall out of parking meters.
By the time we found a map, frankly, it wasn’t necessary. We knew downtown Boston by heart. And Lady Driver had blisters. So now we all needed to go on a band aid hunt.
Mind you, there were still other strong personalities expressing other opinions about what to do, but Lady Driver pretty much had her mind made up. Regrettably, Man Driver was still being punished for his unfortunate comment in the parking lot. And since the girls followed Lady Driver and since there were more girls, when we took off, the guys eventually followed. Hence…decision making morphed from “Group” into a dictatorship/democracy with female only suffrage.
It was probably a little before noon before we settled on our first real attraction of the day–the Aquarium. The Boston Aquarium may be best known for its penguin exhibit, but frankly, all we cared about was the A/C.
It was a long, long day but somehow we made it to 7:00 pm and the esplanade in front of the hat shell. Keith Lockhart was directing the Boston Pops with Barry Manilow as a special guest. I didn’t know who Barry Manilow was, but the lady next to us sure did. She looked at him with sunbeams in her eyes and sang every word of every song along with him–hands clasped in front of her and the whole bit. Her husband just sat next to her and scowled.
It was a good concert though–they played all the classic John Phillip Sousa marches and it gradually cooled off to about 600 degrees and for the first time that day, we seemed to be able to relax a little and actually enjoy ourselves.
The fireworks were good enough to make Walt Disney jealous. And by the time they were in full gear, we were starting to think Planner had actually had a good idea. So, when he suggested that we leave where we were and head to an area to the left of the esplanade, we trusted his judgment.
But this one time, Planner made a mistake.
In theory, we were going to be able to see some of the smaller displays over the water better from the new vantage point, but in fact, we could see nothing. The space was crowded beyond belief but by the time we had fought our way in through the crowds, there was really no getting out.
The fireworks ended and when we turned our attention to a way out of the crowds, we realized that we were stuck on a tiny island with about ten thousand other people and one foot bridge. At first, I thought we were making headway, but soon began to realize that the only thing that was happening was that we were becoming more compact. Very compact.
It’s an unpleasant feeling when the sweat streaming down your back is not your sweat. When a fly lands on your head and you can’t free a hand to swat at it. We were so compact that I was in one row, my feet were in the row behind me, and my purse was about three or four rows behind that. It would have been the perfect opportunity for someone to wipe it clean. If they could have gotten their hands free.
I don’t know how long we stood like that, but it was at least two hours because by the time we got off the island and to the closest subway, it was after midnight and the sub was closed. As was the next. The next. And the next.
So it was actually well into July 5th before we found ourselves truly heading for home. We were all in need of band aids, and frankly, by that point, any car would do.
Needless to say, the logistics of that day sort of eclipsed the whole patriotic celebration thing and it’s taken 12 years for the sweat to dry so I could really laugh about the experience. But when I count my blessings and give thanks for the freedoms that so many have given so much for—I count among them the freedom not to go to Boston on the Fourth.