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Forget summertime fun: It's dangerous out there

It's summer, a magical, carefree time packed with fun-filled, family-style activities, most of which can kill you unless you take the simple precaution of hiding in your basement and wearing a helmet.

Watching fireworks would be a good example. I say this because dozens of my closest friends and family members were among the hundreds of people who lined the boulevard beside my home Tuesday night for the Canada Day fireworks display in Assiniboine Park.

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See? Doug Speirs holds a pile of fireworks debris that rained on his backyard.

As we sat there patiently waiting for the display to begin, the air was filled with a sense of anticipation, although it was hard to see because the air was also filled with billions of mosquitoes the size of canned hams.

In the spirit of the holiday, however, we refused to let the bugs dampen our patriotic fervour, possibly because some of us had been drinking beer. But that's not the point. The point is that this year's show was an absolutely awesome display of celestial pyrotechnics.

After each spectacular, multicoloured blast the crowd, craning their necks skyward, would emit a loud and delighted: "Oooooooooooh!!!"

Then, a few seconds later, the crowd would emit a delighted "Aaaaaaaarrrrgh!!!" and begin dancing and swatting their heads in delight.

Just kidding. What some of us were actually doing at that point was hopping about trying to avoid being hit by random chunks of plummetting fireworks debris that rained down on various portions of our anatomy after being blown out of the park by strong winds.

I'm not kidding here. It sort of looked like audience members were swatting mosquitoes from their hair when, in fact, they were trying to dislodge fragments of spent fireworks shells, some still smouldering.

After the show -- which was breathtaking -- my kids and their friends scoured our yard and scooped up empty fireworks casings, which looked like little cardboard beanies, and popped them on top of their heads.

So it was a great show, and far less dangerous than other fun-filled weekend activities, such as shopping with my wife and letting her drive my car, which is equipped with potentially deadly power windows.

What happened here was I hopped into the passenger's seat and closed my door by pulling on the window, which was half open. Then, in an effort to look cool, I left my hand resting on the partially open window.

I am not sure why I didn't notice when my wife flicked the switch to close the window. But I didn't. So a few seconds later my hand was being slowly crushed, a fact I communicated to my wife using the standard safety technique of screaming like a wounded jungle creature.

Oblivious to the fact my hand was turning purple, my wife remained calm and cool. She frowned at me and said: "What?"

"OHMYGAWDOPENTHEWINDOW!!!" is what I replied, gesturing at the window with my free hand.

"Oh," is what my wife politely said before setting me free.

But things worked out fairly well, which is more than I can say for Sam Hawthorne, a 14-year-old British teen who survived an attack from another summertime menace: the dreaded bedroom shark.

According to a host of news reports, Sam was bitten in the face by a shark -- in his own bedroom. Sam's mother, alerted by screams in the middle of the night, raced to Sam's room and discovered her son, a sleepwalker, had wandered into the jaws of a souvenir shark which had been hanging on the wall of his room since a family vacation in Portugal.

Said his mom: "It was like something out of a horror film. The shark must have been embedded in Sam's cheek for about 15 minutes."

But battling bedroom sharks is not the most dangerous activity in Britain this summer. That honour would go to the annual Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling, which you will think I am making up.

In this event, held in the English countryside near Gloucester, dozens of competitors from around the world hurl themselves down a near-vertical hillside in pursuit of a giant rolling wheel of cheese, which reaches speeds of 113 km/ph The "winner" is the person who gets to the bottom first.

At this summer's race, 19 competitors were hurt, with one carted away on a stretcher. Which sounds bad until you learn that a record 33 people broke portions of their bodies in the 1997 cheese chase.

So we can see that, no matter where we are in the world, summer is a very dangerous time to be a human being. For the moment, I recommend staying as far as possible from souvenir sharks and rolling cheeses.

On an upbeat note, I look forward to hearing from you guys about all of your fun-filled summer activities.

I will be in my basement.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

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