When my kids were small, we once visited a traveling carnival. We wacked a few moles and I joined them on the carousel and the Ferris wheel – and then they begged me to go on the Gravitron. The Gravitron , if you don’t know, is an enclosed disc with padded panels along the inside wall. Riders stand against the panels – and then the ride starts to spin and the floor is dropped. Centrifugal force pushes the riders against the walls – and when it gets up to full speed, riders are pulling three G’s (experiencing three times the force of gravity – but “pulling G’s” sounds so much cooler!)
I eagerly agreed to join them, because I had always loved amusement park rides that spun me in circles, whipped me around like a tilting egg-beater, or hammered me around in the air (even better if my little compartment was also spinning around and around at the time).
I once lost all respect for a boyfriend (we shall call him “El Guapo” – as he was Hispanic and also very muscular and attractive) because he went on the Hammer with me and then promptly threw up afterwards. Despite my entreaties, El Guapo wouldn’t go on another ride with me that night – yet he still expected me to make out with him in camper on his parent’s truck as they drove us home! What his parents were thinking by allowing two hormonal teenagers to ride alone in the back of a camper during a two-hour road trip, I’ll never know. But let me tell you, even with the “above the cab” bed available to us, the faint taste of vomit when you kiss someone is an entirely effective method of birth control. I should totally invent an “Essence of Vomit” mouth spray and market it to parents. Before their horny teenagers leave the house on a Friday night, parents could trick them into using it by pretending it is Binaca breath spray (ironically, the teenagers would think they were freshening their breath for the upcoming make out session – when just the opposite was true!) If the teens caught on, you could just spray it on them as they tried to run away – “Essence of Vomit” is very versatile and works well when sprayed on hair, skin, or clothes!
Damn – I am so easily distracted (but I totally am going to patent that sucker, so don’t even try to steal my idea!) So, at this carnival with my girls, I enthusiastically boarded the Gravitron and positioned my 8-year-old on my right and my 6-year-old on my left. We held hands as the ride began to spin and in less than 20 seconds it was up to about 24rpm and the floor was dropped out from under us. About this time, I realized that I had made a grave error in judgment. There was no problem with sticking to the wall – centrifugal force is pretty predictable and reliable – in fact the kids were kind of “climbing” the walls and getting a huge kick out of the fact that their arms and legs suddenly seemed to weigh 100 pounds each. No, the problem was the fact that somehow, tragically, my inner ears were not functioning as they had when I was 16-years-old.
I immediately became horrible nauseous, which was only exacerbated by the loud siren and the view of the lights whipping by at alarming speeds. I closed my eyes, thinking that if I couldn’t see the movement my brain would be fooled into thinking I was just standing still, being pressed up against the side by an invisible, amorous giant. It didn’t work – in fact the nausea was getting worse! I turned my head to look at my girls – HUGE mistake! I clamped my lips together and attempted to take deep breaths to calm my stomach. When that didn’t work and vomiting seemed imminent, I began to scream, “Stop the ride! For the love of all that is holy – stop the ride! Goddammit, you motherfuckers! Stop this fucking ride!!” Did I mention there was a siren wailing at a decibel level designed to permanently destroy the hearing of anyone within a five-mile radius? The ride operator didn’t hear me – but my kids were giving me alarmed looks.
At last, the ride slowed and the floor was raised. When the invisible giant released his hold of me, I dropped to the floor and, on my hands and knees, attempted to crawl out of the Gravitron while scores of laughing children skipped past, occasionally knocking into me or stepping on my fingers.
Once in the cool night air, blessedly away from the spinning instrument of torture, I leaned up against a tree and drew in breath after breath, thanking my higher power that I made it off alive. My girls stood next to me, fidgeting and shooting me annoyed looks due to my embarrassing behavior. When I finally stood up, the oldest grabbed my hand – “Want to go again, mom?” I just shook my head numbly, still not able to form a coherent sentence. “Well, WE want to go again! Can we?” “Yeah, CAN we?” chimed in the youngest.
I have to say, I was in awe of my children – they had obviously inherited my former love of all things spinning. I let them go on the Gravitron alone – again and again. Fifteen times in a row my children rode that spinning Devil’s top – each time, screaming with laughter as they exited and then immediately boarded again. I might have thought twice about my decision had I known then that a year later, a Gravitron would spin itself apart at the Missouri State Fair, injuring seven children. But as I am not a soothsayer and I’ve never claimed to be Mother of the Year, I let my children ride and ride until their tiny brains were probably scrambled and their eyes could not focus.
A few years later, the family went to Disneyland and I joined my children on the Teacup ride, thinking that certainly the Gravitron had been a fluke. Let’s just say the Teacup ride was NOT my cup of tea! Apparently with age came some sort of shifting in my inner ear that has ruined all spinning things for me forever. I would mourn…but there are always rollercoasters!
What things did you love as a kid that you just can’t handle anymore? Did you ever break up with anyone because they couldn’t or wouldn’t do something that you loved to do?