As a child I was very excited about the week the fair was in town. There was a certain status that came with the number of times you had been to the fair. I usually never got to go more than once because that was all my parents could stand, or either agree to pay for. The fair is a giant money pit, it just distracts you with bright lights loud noises and spinning machinery so that you don’t notice you’ve spent $50 on corndogs, tickets and ringtoss.
When I got older the rides still excited me but the prospect of sitting in an enclosed space with a boy, was much more exciting. The idea that the force of gravity would pin me against my current crush, made my head spin more than the Enterpise ever could. I also romanticized about what might happen alone in the dark riding through one of the worn out haunted houses. Those damn haunted house rides always did seem too short!
Fast forward to the present day, earlier this week when I went to the 60th annual Coastal Empire Fair! I didn’t exactly plan on going but when someone gave me the opportunity I knew I would regret saying no. One sad thing that I noticed is that most other adults I know have no desire to ride rides. I don’t understand this. To me that translates into “they aren’t any fun.” Most people my age think they’re too cool to enjoy it I guess, or make some comment on how dangerous those fair rides can be.
I have never thought about how dangerous a ride might be, even though I have talked with fair workers before about how many bolts are actually holding the Zipper together. That information is just something I don’t want to know. Yes I can see the rust and hear the squeals and creeks of ancient parts rubbing against other more ancient parts, but I choose to ignore it. That is I chose to not think about it until this past Wednesday.
For the first time in memory I considered what might happen if my swing become spontaneously unnattached from the column while I spun backward through the air. I was only backward because the attendant had spun me around twisting the chain that held my chair just before the ride started. It was weird facing everyone like that, as if they were riding toward me. Riding backwards unnerved me and I got the first inkling of fear for my safety.
One of the things I liked about the fair was the freedom to feel a childlike exhuberance that is mostly lost to us as we age. Everything is no longer exciting to us as it once was. Usually the only thing that gets our hearts racing as an adult is something we from fear or dread, not pure unabashed excitement. I missed it. My excitement was subdued by a healthy concern for safety of some of the rides; a feeling that was unwelcome.
I was riding rides with a 10 year boy who was the son of a woman I barely knew. My boyfriend had the bright idea for us to go with them so that I would have a person to ride with. It wasn’t a bad idea since many of the rides post signs that said “no single riders.” The kid was up for anything and wanted to run not walk to every ride.
“Why do I have to run?”
“Because then we can get to the ride faster and get a better place in line!” There wasn’t a line since it was Wednesday night, but I indulged him a few times by racing to certain rides.
He pulled me along by the arm and I marveled at how much he seemed to love the Gravitron. I felt obligated to do certain things I wouldn’t normally do because I didn’t want the boy to have to miss out because of me.
“You sit right next to me on this ride,” he said before we got on. Actually he said that before we got on every ride. It was cute and endearing. I wondered why it was though, that I felt intimidated by some of the rides this year and I actually enjoyed bumper cars more than most everything else.
There were two rides I was dead set on not riding and it was my misfortune that my boyfriend knew what they were. All he had to do was put a bug in little Jason’s ear and he was yelling about wanting to ride that one next.
“Oh yeah the ring of fire, lets do that one!” He was pulling me right to the very thing I had always dreaded.
Even as I child I remember looking at that single loop with fear. I had never ever rode The Ring of Fire, and I never had a desire too. It didn’t do anything except go in a circle and who wants to just hang upside down for five minutes!
I approached the ride wondering why the worker was sitting in the middle seat.
“Rides closed for cleaning.” he said. “Somebody puked.”
This fact made me like The Ring of Fire even less but it looked like it wouldn’t matter. Saved by puke! Sweet At least that is what I thought. What ended up happening was that we rode everything else then came back to it. I felt obligated to ride it because Jason wanted to and my boyfriend had purchased my unlimited ride ticket. He wanted me to ride just because he knew how much I was dreading it.
I have to admit that after I was locked in that seat beside little Jason an irrational fear came over me. My heart was pounding as I considered the inadequacy of the small safety harness. I felt like I would have a panic attack and this must have been evident on my face because even the kid noticed.
“Are you okay?” “I’m a little scared.” And I didn’t give a damn about admitting it to a ten year old too.
“You’re not the only one,” he said. He didn’t really sound scared. I will have to admit that once the ride got going it wasn’t as bad as I was thinking, but maybe that was because I had my eyes squeezed shut and was pretending to be somewhere else.
I noticed Jason didn’t say a word or make a sound where previously both of us had been screaming in our glee on the other rides. I think both of us were concentrating hard on not throwing up. After an eternity had passed, it was over. I was glad of my accomplishment but annoyed that I had been bullied into it.
The petting zoo was next, a welcome change, and my stomach needed a break. There are always one or two animals that try to bully you into giving all them all your food, this time it was a llama, usually it is a goat. The llama leaned over and demanded the contents of my cup but I walked around to the other side of the pen to get away from it. Of course the llama was wise to this and followed me. It’s enormous round eyes and long eyelashes would have been cute if it weren’t sticking it’s neck out and stamping it’s foot in expectation of my treats.
Someone else distracted him and I finally got a chance to feed some sweet miniature horses that neatly grabbed the pellets with their rubbery lips. One of them gave me a little curtsey, or at least that is what it looked like to me! My boyfriend finally gave into the llama’s demands and I tried to feed a ram but started a fight. The two animals began headbutting each other in earnest over the remains of my pellets.
It was a fun night and certainly different from my typical Wednesday. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much as I thought I should have for worrying about my compartment becoming unattached and launched into space.