Friday, May 22, 2015

Trust Me Son, the Fair Sucks

On the way home the other day, I noticed from behind my windshield that there was an amusement park set up in the parking lot of a local mall.

It was a jumble of neon from which I could discern only a Ferris wheel and what I assumed was a slew of other rides and attractions. Again, tough to tell with all the neon.

Never minding the particular rides involved, or the fact that it was a scaled-down version, the big point was: the fair was in town!!

As a kid, I remember hearing those words and knowing that fun on a grand scale was imminent.
Pictured: a spectacle masquerading as fun. Or, if you're
into the whole brevity thing: a charade. 

There was the Super Loops. The Sea Dragon. The Gravitron. Plus all the games in which enormous stuffed animals and other beautiful bobbles could be won.

Then there's the food. Funnel cake. Cotton candy. Corn dogs.

When you list it all out like this, it's abundantly clear why so many folks have such great memories of the fair.

It's also abundantly clear why so many of us do not. Funnel cake? Cotton candy? (I'll give you corn dogs — they remain fantastic.)

But what about those rides again?

The Super Loops? Yeah, I never made it on that one. Like the kid from Tom Hanks' "Big" I was too short for that ride.

The Gravitron had deep, padded vinyl seats that were always warm from the back of whomever used them before you. I'll let you decide if that's a good thing.

As far as the Sea Dragon goes, well I nearly fell out of that ride. My mother was seated beside me and, being the picture of rational, stoic restraint that she is, screamed at the top of her lungs to an unsympathetic carny to stop the ride because her boy was facing certain death.

The carny didn't stop the ride and I'm here today but, the scars persist.

The games weren't particularly fun and, as most folks now know, they're mostly rigged.

Another point about the fair was made by Mrs. Blackwell: why do fairs smell like zoos even when there's no animals? Why ponder the constellations when this question lingers?

With all this fun — the sheer and utter majesty of this spectacle — is it any wonder that fairs are cash only?

If I'd had my way, the boy would never have seen a fair, nevermind actually go to one.

Inside Toys R Us. The boy contemplating yet another toy
his selfish parents didn't buy him. 
But, because carnies are calculating, master-manipulators of the highest order, they planted their fair next to the Toys R Us. And, because the universe has a sick sense of humor, we had to go to the Toys R Us while the fair was camped out there.

So there was no avoiding this thing. I could have left the boy at home but, when the destination is Toys R Us, we felt compelled to bring him.

Our only hope was a quick entry inside Toys R Us before the boy noticed the fair. We achieved this, made it inside the store and for 45 glorious minutes we frolicked in the aisles. The boy played with toys, games and touch screens. We rode scooters, threw footballs and in general had a good time.

As we did, the sun was setting and with each passing second breathing more light and life into that mini neon jungle that awaited outside. When we finally left the store there, was no escaping it. The boy wanted to cross the parking lot for the fair, which was now brighter than ever in the darkening skies.

Once we got there, all the old memories came flooding back. As the boy clasped his mother's hand with his left hand and mine with his right, his excitement was palpable.

What better way to commemorate a totally forgettable trip to
the fair than by taking a picture in which you're not even
looking at the camera?
He was overloaded with decisions so, instead of making one he just pulled us along from one attraction to the next, smiling and giggling along the way. He was a little boy being tugged in a thousand different directions in a sea of enticement and sensory stimulation all aimed at kids.

It didn't matter that his curmudgeonly old man was having post-traumatic stress flashbacks. Nor did it matter that his mother was desperately seeking the nearest vat of hand sanitizer each time the boy touched something.

None of that mattered.

What mattered was that he was a little kid awash in a world meant for little kids. And it mattered that he had, quite literally, no worries in the world.

And what mattered more than all that was that his parents didn't bring cash.

So, to recap this adventure: we went to Toys R Us to return something and didn't buy anything new.

Then we followed this up by walking to a fair and, once there, bought nothing, rode nothing and played nothing.

Naturally the boy responded like any self-respecting three-year old should: he went limp and began crying. I told myself it was alright because the fair sucks.

Through no intent of my own, I'm sure the boy agrees.

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