Sunday, July 4, 2010

T.I.TDMF. Part One: Rides

The first rule of carnival rides: do not take your cell phone with you onto the ride. For real. This advice should be bronzed and/or mounted on a plaque. Why, you might ask?


When I was a kid I went to our local fall festival every year. Equal parts carnival and new-age witch-y craft fair, it was the best thing about fall, next to Halloween (which, for a kid, is a pretty big deal). It was shut down sometime while I was in middle school when the owner fell ill, and to this day I still miss it.

I have plenty of fond memories there, but some of the best involve the moment I became old enough to tackle the “grown-up” rides, all of which were both mildly terrifying and fairly thrilling at the time, and many of which had truly hilarious, budget sci-fi names (I’m looking at you, Gravitron). I would eventually ride most of them, multiple times—but one never got a repeat ride. Likely because, as my late elementary school/early middle school-age self put it, it was a “screaming metal deathtrap” and “like being in a car crash”.

That ride? The Zipper.

When the fall festival shut down, I didn’t think I’d see the Zipper again. But lo and behold, awaiting me at the fair was a little piece of my past.


Since then, I’d matured quite a bit and developed more of a taste for thrill rides. So, upon arriving at the Funzone, I convinced my boyfriend to forgo the free-fall ride he’d been eyeing and go on the Zipper with me first. I suppose I was feeling nostalgic.

“You should put your phone in my bag,” my boyfriend suggested as we stepped into the cage, helpfully holding up his backpack and gesturing with it, ostensibly so as to demonstrate the space still available between his illicit chocolate-chip cookie stash and the tube of SPF 50 he’d packed for me.

“Nah, I’m good. I have tight pockets, so it’s not going anywhere,” I said, ignoring his raised eyebrow. He shrugged, and as the ride attendant secured us and slammed the door (lid?) I attempted to quell the anxiety beginning to bubble up in my stomach.

Look at this shit. Those are twirling PEOPLE-CAGES. How can you not be anxious?

It turned out to be 100% the car crash I had remembered. As we hurtled through the air to the tune of screeching metal, wind whistling past us, and the combination of my boyfriend’s exhilarated laughter and my unexpected and admittedly somewhat pathetic screaming, I was forced to stop squealing in terror and look on in—well, still terror—as the force produced by the roundabout motion of the ride tugged my phone out of my pocket and sent it ricocheting around the cage.

“Oh, shit,” I blurted out, dizzily watching my phone shoot around the cage like an ungainly maroon bullet. Briefly it occurred to me that the holes in the mesh door were too small for my phone to fly through, but the moment of absurd relief at knowing my phone wouldn’t get sent flying across the park vanished when I realized that if it hit me or my boyfriend at the speed it was going, it could deal some serious damage. In my periphery I could see my boyfriend’s eyes widen as he realized what was happening.

“Shit!” He yelled. “Catch it!”

All of a sudden the ride flipped again, and my phone, which had been momentarily rattling around the bottom of the cage, shot up, directly towards my face. Reflexively I brought my hands up in front of me and clapped them together. The feeling of the phone between my palms made me sigh in relief, and for the duration of the ride I kept it in a deathgrip.

Eventually the ride slowed, with our cage still at the top. I shoved my phone into my boyfriend’s slightly-unzipped bag in case we started moving again, but it soon became clear that the ride was over. As we waited for the rest of the passengers to be unloaded and for our cage to clank down to ground-level, I couldn’t help but start laughing. My boyfriend tried to hold out and look sufficiently stern, but ultimately failed, and broke out into an exasperated grin.

“Next time it’s going into the bag,” he declared. “No arguments.” Needless to say, it went into the bag from there on out.


So, yeah. I really can’t think of a better argument for slipping your phone somewhere a little less hazardous on carnival rides than the threat of an extremely ignoble injury (and/or death) by flying cell phone. Especially since the abovementioned incident occurred within a span of roughly ten seconds, which, in SoCal terms, is, like, hecka fast.

But despite our harrowing experience on the Zipper, my boyfriend and I continued on our ridefest*. We went on the Zipper, the Mega Drop, the Evolution, the Magnum, the Sky Flyer, and several others that I can’t remember, either because they were so ludicrously and/or generically named that I can’t match the name with the ride, or because the trauma caused me to repress the memories of them.

After a while we took a break to head over to the Ferris wheel to recover and fortify ourselves, which turned out to be a great idea. See, camera + high vantage point + gorgeous locale apparently = some cool photos. Also, I had forgotten that we were like this close to the ocean for a minute, and the view reminded me.

And this isn’t even a good picture of what we could see. Best city in the world? I think so.

I also got some pretty good shots of the whole Funzone.

That hellacious circle-y thing to the center-left is the Evolution. The doom-tower at the upper-right corner is the Mega Drop. Yeeeeeah.

I personally believe that there’s an inverse relationship between how colorful a game booth is and how likely you are to win a prize. Most of these booths are equally bright; you may draw your own conclusions.

The entrance to the park is WAYYYYYY down there. And yes, those are people dangling from that upper-left corner brontosaurus-looking ride. I politely declined to ride it, as I believe human bodies are not meant to be continuously catapulted headfirst for several minutes straight.

To conclude: I love the rides at the Del Mar Fair, dearly, and in my own prone-to-screaming way. And it’s way cheaper to go to the Fair than to go to any of the more popular SoCal amusement parks. Seriously: adult admission is $13—or free (!), if some awesome stranger gives you a ticket because he/she has an extra, which is what happened with me—and $30 will bag you an all-you-can-ride wristband. So go! Have fun! Spend your tourist dollars in lovely San Diego! And go read the next two installments of the Del Mar Fair trilogy!

*An interesting component of this was the ongoing attempt by the ride creators to name their rides in a manner designed to make us

a) Underestimate the intensity of their rides


b) Associate fairly innocuous household names and terms with unrelenting terror.

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