Taken for a Ride

We’re looking forward to having lots of visitors this winter to our “Florida house.” (That would be our “only house,” but the first one sounds so much better.) I love having company, but I’m thinking a lot of people are going to want to go to Disney World. I’m a good host and all, but I’m thinking of not going along, if that happens. I could just give them one of our cars (or maybe the truck, depending on who it is) and give them directions, a couple bottles of water and some sunscreen.

I hate to sound un-American, but, hmmm, let’s see how I should say this: I’m not a big fan of Disney World. I can just barely tolerate the Disney store in the mall. It’s just so wholesome, it seems to bring out the sarcastic, cynical troll in me. Also Disney World oozes excess and decadence; it’s like the Vegas for kids. It also gathers up America’s worst parents and, because they’re forced to spend $6 on a bottle of water, gets them extra cranky and well into criminal parenting behavior by the end of a long, hot Florida day.

So that’s reason number one. And reason number two is that I hate rides.

There are people who look at golf the same way: “Why would you want to pick up a stick and try to hit a ball into a little cup?” I have the same thoughts about rides. Why would you want to get into a little metal and plastic thing and get flung around on various tracks and octopus arms? Isn’t life dangerous enough? Isn’t it hard enough to get through three meals without having cardiac arrest or getting cancer or choking on a garbanzo bean or catching AIDS or aspirating something, without putting yourself in further peril by getting into a contraption that was set up by carnies?

I have a long history of a hate-hate relationship with rides. Never liked them. Went on them when I was young and unafraid of most things except whatever lived in our cellar. But never really liked them.

When I was growing up in Hubbard, the biggest event of the summer was the Hubbard Homecoming, which happened to be right down the street from my house. The Hubbard Homecoming was the big festival for rides. We also had the St. Pat’s Festival, held at the end of the summer, but it focused less on rides and more on gambling and raffling off homemade quilts, cakes and a car. (The Catholics can sew and bake, I’ll tell you that.)

Hubbard was small enough and parents in the ‘60s were disinterested enough that my friends and I would just wander around the Homecoming midway all night, every night that it was on, completely unsupervised.

OK, I can see that I’m getting off onto a tangent that could be a whole ‘nother blog about the Hubbard Homecoming, the carnies that took their lunch breaks in our front yard, the halter tops and hot pants that Lisa and I sewed up to wear to the Homecoming in 7th grade, and the guy we called the “Pusherman,” but I’m going to rein this in and go back to the rides thing.

The rides at the Hubbard Homecoming were set up by the carnies that came into town and assembled the ferris wheel, the Round Up, and Scrambler and the Tilt-a-Whirl with unbelievable speed. One day you’d see the trucks all pulling into the football field and by the time you laced up your Red Ball Jets and rounded up a couple friends to go watch, the rides were already assembled and the carnies were taking their first of many smoke breaks.

While we witnessed firsthand how quickly the rides were put up and how unskilled the workers were, inexplicably, we still went on them.

My friend Janet and I were on the Round Up once when it broke. Remember the Round Up? It was a way for humans to enjoy centrifugal force. You stood around the perimeter of a circle and held on to bars at your sides, at about neck level. The circle would start to spin really fast and then it would slowly start to tilt up so that you were on a fast-moving gerbil wheel. Not that it ever happened, but if the ride stopped in this up position, whoever was on the top would fall onto the people at the bottom. Janet and I were at the gerbil wheel point of the ride when the carnie started pulling on gears and nothing was happening. We stayed up there spinning away, much to the consternation of a gathering group of parents and onlookers. Then it started to rain. By the time they got the ride stopped safely (jerkily, but safely) the parents were furious. The kids in line were mad that we got extra time. We were dizzy.

You would think that after that experience, we wouldn’t ride on rides anymore. But no, I rode The Beast at King’s Island in high school, Space Mountain at Disney in college, and as a mature adult went on the Tower of Terror.

It should be called the Tower of Stupidity, because I only went on it because my friend Gail told me about it this way: “It’s like you’re in an elevator in an old hotel and it goes up real high and then drops.” I am so stupid, I pictured the kids and myself standing in an actual elevator, perhaps holding onto the little bar on the wall, going, “Woah!” and maybe losing our balance once in a while, while this elevator went up and down.

I’m an idiot. It wasn’t until we got to the front of the line and I saw that we were to get into a little car with a thin metal bar across my lap and nothing to hold onto at all, that I realized that the Tower of Terror is a ride. By that time it was too late and I had to get on. The fact that I didn’t poop my pants on that thing tells me that I could probably survive a hostage situation or a game of Russian roulette without embarrassing myself.

The Tower of Terror was the last ride I went on. That was at Disney in 2000. On a subsequent trip to Disney last year I skipped all the rides. My kids are older now and I’m past the point where being a good parent means doing risky things that you hate just for the sake of raising kids who aren’t afraid of everything.

My ride riding days are over. So now if I go to Disney it will be only for the $6 bottled water and the Hall of Presidents.

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