My mom, bless her, and I stood in line for almost an hour to ride the Judge Roy Scream, the wooden roller coaster whose opening coincided with our trip to Six Flags in 1980. My big sister had turned chicken once we arrived at the park and refused to ride much of anything, but I had been watching the Judge on TV commercials all summer long, and although I was nervous, I was determined to get on that coaster. We finally got to the top of the line and got strapped in the cars. I was wondering if I’d be brave enough it wave my hands over my head on the descent. I wondered if my dad and Jana would be able to see us from the ground. I was wondering some other things but then we started to move. The cars slooowly inched up up up the big ascent and just before we dropped, I realized that I’d made a horrible mistake.
“I don’t want to do this!” I screamed. “Get me off! Don’t make me do this! I don’t want to be here! Mooooommmm!” And so forth, for the full ninety seconds of the ride.
Then it was over, and as the lap bars unclicked and we started to unload, I said to my mom, “Can we do that again?”
On Friday night we took the kids to a rinky-dink carnival in the Home Depot parking lot. Mallory and I rode the Dizzy Dragons together, which Phoebe declared “too scary.” So imagine my surprise when, while Mallory ran into the Funhouse, Phoebe pointed to the “Music Express” and said: “I want to ride that, Mommy!”
I tried to dissuade her, but Phoebe has never been dissuaded from anything that she’s got her mind set on, so off we went. I handed over the tickets and we got strapped in and then commenced the longest amusement park ride in recorded history. We started to spin. Phoebe laughed. We undulated. Phoebe shrieked with delight. “It’s fun, isn’t it?” I said. Then the spinning and undulating and bumping up and down got faster. And faster. And didn’t seem likely to stop in a timely fashion. We kept going. I was beginning to regret the sweet and sour shrimp I’d had for dinner. We spun. Around and around. Up and down. Phoebe still laughing. Around and around. I saw Chris and Mallory and Amy on the sidelines and telepathically asked them to send for help. Then, finally, we slowed. And stopped.
Then, we started going backwards.
You cannot imagine my despair. Around and around we went. The undulations seemed even worse, going backwards. The centrifugal force was causing a painful crick in my neck. Around and around. As we spun I could see Chris and Amy first laughing, then looking a bit concerned. I no longer cared how Phoebe was faring; I just kept one hand on her leg to make sure she didn’t fly off the seat and closed my eyes and tried not to barf. When would this ride end? We kept going and going. And going. And…going.
Then, blessedly, we stopped. I wrestled with the lock on the lap bar, lifted it up, stumbled onto the platform. Turned to Phoebe, who I assumed would be as addled and shaken and nauseated as I was.
Phoebe clutched the bar and shouted, “I want to do it again!”