Chris Johnson: Don't sweat the small, free stuff

Americans like to complain about how much things cost. They also like to complain about free things. Apparently, they like to complain. Therefore, I'd like to complain about people who complain about free stuff.

The other day, my family packed a cooler full of ice and headed out for a free fireworks show. We arrived well before sunset, along with about 12 million other folks who were awaiting the sulfuric spectacle. By then, the temperature had cooled down to a chilly 92 or so, allowing us to relax on a blanket, stare at the clouds and ponder things like, "Wouldn't it have been nice if we had put drinks in the cooler?"

Fortunately for us, Mother Nature was putting on a massive fireworks display of her own to the north of us as we waited for the man-made fireworks to rise from the south of us. The skies northward were flickering like a florescent bulb about to go out at any minute.

Just before the bottom dropped out on us, the man-made fireworks began to light up the skies southward, providing visual spectacles in stereo. Neither cost us a cent.

When the grand finale petered out, someone parked near us yelled, "I waited an hour and a half for that?!" Apparently, the show did not meet his expectations for a free fireworks show.

It wasn't spectacular, but it was something. And it was a free something. Where I grew up, fireworks shows were hardly free. In fact, we had to drive more than an hour to get to Alabama, where we could legally buy stuff like the Big Mama's Blow Your Fingers Off Super Special Value Pack with hundreds of firecrackers, cherry bombs, bottle rockets and military-grade explosives.

I've grown to like free stuff the older and broker I get. I'll never complain about free fireworks. Somebody spent a lot of money on that stuff to try to please impossible to please folks. I appreciate the effort.

And, afterward, we got to enjoy a free traffic jam, which is when the real fireworks started -- especially when another driver tried to cut off my wife trying to get into a long line of vehicles.

Now, I admit to getting a little bit

of road rage when folks throw cigarette butts out their windows or fail to use their turn signals, but it's nothing like this. I thought she was going to make me get out some of our Blow Your Fingers Off Value Pack and waste it on blowing up this red sportscar that was literally 2 inches from our SUV. But because this was a free event, I wasn't willing to waste a single buck's worth of the Blow Your Fingers Off Value Pack on this aggressive driver, thereby denying our own kids the opportunity to celebrate our nation's independence by losing a thumb or two as cool as it might have been to see a car get blown up.

Instead, my wife courageously rolled down my window to yell at the driver who was about to ram our car. The driver was another lady, which meant that I was completely relieved of any responsibility of offering up a physical defense but not relieved of the possibility that I might get punched in the face by a woman.

I'd like to tell you everything my wife had to say to the other driver, but printing it word for word might cost me my job. Let's just say she delivered some free advice.

-- Connect with Chris Johnson at or on Twitter @kudzukid88.