Because school starts next week, as an end-of-summer treat, yesterday we took the kids to a local water/amusement park. Lake Compounce is located in Bristol, CT (proud home of ESPN), and it was surprisingly awesome. Normally when I think “local amusement park,” I think “potential place to contract trench foot,” but Lake Compounce is clean and well-maintained. Even the floating Band-Aids in the wading pool were less pus-filled than normal.
The highpoint of the day came for me when my seven year old son announced he wanted to ride his first grown-up roller coaster, a wooden jobber called “The Wildcat.” It’s a very proud moment for a father when his son tells him he wants to brave a roller coaster. The low point came when we actually rode the thing, and I realized that while my son was thrilled, I was actually terrified. Those old coasters are absolutely brutal. After the first drop, I really thought I’d suffered whiplash. By the first turn, I was sure I had. When did I turn into one of those people who gets off a roller coaster concerned about whiplash? Answer: yesterday. Also of concern was damage to my spine, ribs, and spleen. I honestly felt like the roller coaster molested me.
When my newly minted second grader asked me if I thought the ride was as awesome as he did, what was I supposed to say? That daddy is a pussy? No, I couldn’t do that. He’ll find that out soon enough. I assured him that, yes it was awesome, and when he asked if we could ride again, I said almost without pause, “Absolutely.” Then I said, “In a little while,” which is what you say to your children when you are encouraging their immature short-term memories to fail. But of course he did not forget, even hours later after I had distracted him with Whack-A-Mole and cotton candy.
A child’s memory is a curious thing. Last night, for example, after he had been in the bathtub long enough, I told him to get out and dry himself off. Not thirty seconds later I came back in to check on him. He was still in the tub. “Why didn’t you get out of the tub when I asked?” I said. “I forgot,” he said.
My daughter also enjoyed the amusement park. She is five, thankfully still too short to ride roller coasters and other things whose sole purpose on this earth is to make me throw up. She spent much of her time with my wife at the children’s area. Is there a children’s roller coaster? There is. Did we ride it as a family? We did. Despite its small size and miniscule thrill factor, was it still kind of scary? I plead the Fifth.
Rides are terrible. Ultimately, what is their raison d’etre? I will tell you what: to make me feel even worse about myself than I already do. I never need to experience gravitational forces greater than the ones I am already dealing with. I already feel the weight of the world on my shoulders; one Earth G is plenty, thank you.. When you add more, and then throw nausea on top of that, I’m not necessarily thinking to myself, “This is great!” What I’m usually thinking is, “Please make it stop.”
Certain rides are fun: the Ferris Wheel comes to mind. I am not one of those ninnies who is afraid of heights. Everything else, yes, but not heights. The Ferris Wheel, in my book, is a relaxing way to get a view of the surrounding countryside and to spit on people’s heads. So we did that. Another good ride? The carousel. As long as it doesn’t go too fast. Also, any miniature train. I like those because miniature train are not scary, even when the engineer is kind of drunk, as ours appeared to be. Monorails, on the other hand, are terrifying. Thank God they didn’t have one.
As the day ended, my son was in an uproar about my promise to go back on the Wildcat with him. My wife refused to ride in my stead, particularly after I described how I was bleeding from my ass after my last trip. Plus, she’s an even bigger pussy than me, and considerably older. I was worried her frail heart might give out, so in a generous concession to her age, I agreed to get back on the stupid roller coaster with my stupid son. The line was short, and within about ten minutes we were strapped in. I tricked him into sitting closer to the front than we had last time, reasoning that sitting in the back of the roller coaster is probably like sitting in the back of the bus. My thinking was that if we sat more towards the middle, maybe the ride would be smoother. No. It was still bone-rattling and awful. I chipped most of my teeth and fractured my tail bone, but when we got off and my son asked if it was even more awesome the second time than the first, I said yes, and when he asked if we could ride just one more time, I said no. “No,” I said, “Because if we ride it again, Daddy is going to die.”
School can’t start soon enough.