There have been two times in my life when I was so scared I thought I could die, really honestly fucking die:
- In 1998 when I caused an FBI to flip his car over on the highway. I can still feel blood draining from my face when I think of that day.
- In 2006 when I arrived at the hospital for my C-section.
But then on Saturday, August 17, 2013, I went to the Lawrence County Fair and accumulated one more for that list.
Everything was great for the first hour. It was a fair we had never before been to so it was nice to see some new things, like the Grand Wheel, which was beautiful. (From the ground. From the top, not so much.)
I mean, what DOES make Henry smile these days? WHO THE HELL KNOWS.
I was terrified the entire time we were stuck on the Grand Wheel; it just seemed like it went faster than normal ferris wheels, I don’t know. And no, this was not what made it to #3 on my SHIT THE PANTS list.
I approved of the interesting carousel animals.
And then disaster struck. OK, luckily for me it stopped just shy of being a legitimate disaster, but it was still enough to inflict some hardcore emotional damage.
I saw the Vortex before we even pulled into the parking lot of the fairground and got pretty excited because these don’t pop up at the fairs we typically visit every summer. But it was a different midway company supplying the attractions for the Lawrence County Fair, which was one of the reasons I wanted to go. Because I’m a midway dork, OK!? I found this out one night at work when Gayle told me she was going to be selling her jewelry there and I googled, “WHAT MIDWAY COMPANY PROVIDES THE RIDES FOR LAWRENCE COUNTY FAIR?!” because this is what any normal person would do. When I saw that it was the MIDWAY RIDES OF UTICA, I texted Henry and said, “IT IS A MIDWAY COMPANY THAT WE’VE NEVER ENCOUNTERED SO WE HAVE TO GO.”
Anyway, the Vortex was a big pull for me. I hadn’t seen one of those sons of bitches in years and I was pretty excited to ride it. Chooch was 2 inches too short, but he didn’t really give a fuck because there was some stupid bounce-house nearby and he’s still a three-year-old when it comes to that shit. So he and Henry walked away while I stomped up the steps to ride alone.
I should have trusted my gut, you guys. But then again, my gut is usually telling me to eat 5,000 grilled cheeses. The carnies at this fair did not seem interested in their jobs at all. Oh I know, that whole carny stereotype! But actually, even though I poke fun, the fairs we typically go to employ carnies who pay attention to what’s happening on the rides. Their teeth might be falling into your lap when they speak to you, but at least they’re dilligent with safety harnesses, seatbelts, latches.
I sat in my seat and buckled the seatbelt—which was attached to the botton of the shoulder harness—into the thingie on the seat between my legs (NOT MY VAGINA, YOU GUYS, GOD), then pulled the harness down. It sprang right back up, so I thought that probably it just wasn’t time for that yet. The gate to the ride was still open, and kids were slowly trickling in and filling up the rest of the seats. No one ended up sitting in the seat next to me and eventually one of the non-English-speaking carnies came over and pulled down the gate, trapping us into a veritable metal cage. I motioned for the carny to look at my shoulder harness.
“It’s not locking!” I shouted, pushing it away from my body to demonstrate.
The carny gave me the thumbs up sign and laughed. THEN THE RIDE STARTED AND MY HARNESS WAS STILL NOT LOCKED WHAT THE FALALALALALALALALA-UCK!!!!!!!!!
I was like, “YO! WAIT UP HOMIE! DON’T START THE—–”
Boom. Too late. That first revolution around, I honest to god thought to myself, “This is it. This is how I die. OMFG IS THIS REALLY HOW I DIE!?” I went upside down, the harness dropped away from my chest and my body was 100% off the seat. The only thing keeping me from being thrown around inside a cage like a scene kid rag doll was the fact that the seat belt was still fastened, at least. But there was so much slack on it that every time we went around, my head was literally about a centimeter away from slamming into the top of the ride. I kept trying to bear-hug the harness into me, and had my legs spread out with my knees locked in an effort to keep myself as still as possible, but it was futile: every fucking time we went around, the harness dropped and I followed.
After the 14th time, I finally reasoned with myself that I was not going to die, probably. Even if the seat belt were to snap (and I know I’m Chubs City, but somehow I think that seatbelts are built to withstand weight even greater than my own), I wasn’t going to fall out.
But then I started to maniacally storyboard all of the different ways I could lose a limb, get concussed, LOSE MY MEMORY, GET SCALPED.
I caught the attention of the kid in front of me. Through the grated partition I called out to him, “SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT, LOOOOOOK!!!” and I showed him how the harness was essentially just flapping in the breeze and that kid’s eyes got all bulgey. Even a kid knew that I was going to perish, maybe!
My heart was beating at a methodical FRIGHTENED RABBIT pace. Then I lost my voice for awhile. I would open my mouth to scream and…nothing. Just a hoarse cry. Like I had lost the will! And what would it matter? Those fucking carnies were probably down there mapping out their rape spots for the night, and definitely not paying attention to the HORROR ABOVE THEM.
And then, oh-ho-ho and then it changed directions and this time, going backward, it was even worse somehow. By this time I was flowing through some fucking mean yoga poses, something that maybe Takasha Shimizu would choreograph if he suddenly decided to leave the horror movie industry and become a Yogi.
Long story ridiculously-lengthed, the ride stopped and my body was freezing cold. And damp with perspiration. When the one carny came over to lift the gate, I shouted at him, “THIS WASN’T LOCKED THE ENTIRE TIME!!!” and angrily threw the shoulder harness up into the air.
HE LAUGHED AT ME.
“No. No, this isn’t FUNNY. That was not a GOOD TIME!” I cried, pointing up into the air at what was now a really sick memory that I get to replay over and over whenever I need to decide whether or not I want to become housebound for the rest of my years.
When I found Henry, I was still yards away and he knew something was wrong. He said he’s never seen me look so white, and I was trembling really bad. I could barely even feel my lips and had some pretty fucking cold sweats going on. I told him what happened and you know it’s a Situation when Passive Henry gets involved. He set off to find a supervisor.
Speaking of carny supervisors, KIRK NEVER WOULD HAVE LET THIS HAPPEN TO ME!
And then I just kind of stood there in the middle of the field, while the rest of the fair swirled around me. I wished I could have went back to ten minutes ago and decided not to go on the Vortex when we realized Chooch was too short. I wished I had trusted my gut, but I didn’t, because my gut is usually always dreadfully wrong. (Because it is lined with paranoia.)
Henry returned with this short fucking troll-lady who made me go back over to the Vortex with her while she shouted indecipherable grunts into a walkie talkie. I did not want to go back over to this ride, but I had no choice. I didn’t want to see someone else get hurt, no matter how much I rant about hating people. She made me point out which seat I was sitting in and then she climbed up onto the ride platform and started yelling at the carnies in Spanish while giving the harness a basic physical.
When she returned to me, she had a laundry list of excuses for me, such as:
- “Well, you must have made the safety latch release by pushing in and out too many times.” (UM, IT WAS NEVER LOCKED TO BEGIN WITH AND IF THAT’S HOW THOSE THINGS ARE DESIGNED, THERE IS ONE REALLY FUCKING RETARDED ENGINEER OUT THERE IN THE WORLD.)
- “You weren’t going to like, fall out or anything.”
- “We actually just had a meeting with the guys this morning about how they need to make sure they check everyone before starting the ride.” (SO IN OTHER WORDS: NOT HER FAULT.)
And then she tried to indulge me by reaching out to give me a half-hug.
I pulled away and said, “Don’t touch me.”
“I know, you were so scared! But honestly, you were safe up there. There are like 4 different brakes that will come on before anything could happen to you.”
And then she said that this happens all the time and then LAUGHED ABOUT IT!
OK, but the main issue here was negligence and I was super pissed with the way it was handled. I was in a major state of shock so at first I said I didn’t want to leave. We walked around for a little bit, me feeling like a ghost, Chooch scolding me for not listening to him when he said I shouldn’t ride the Vortex, Henry hoping to emerge from the fair without hemmorhaging money.
Then Henry pointed out a sign that said “Cowlick Milkshakes, the Best at the Fair” or some other superlative, and I don’t know why, but at that moment I had to have a fucking Cowlick Milkshake. I wasn’t even sure what it was because my brain was still trying to piece itself back together, but I knew that if anything was going to help me heal, it was a Cowlick Milkshake.
Turns out a Cowlick Milkshake is just a regular milkshake in your standard milkshake flavors of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry.
“I thought it was going to be a cowlick flavor,” I said in a pouty tone when we walked away with two chocolate shakes.
“Ew, why would you think that? How could ‘cowlick’ even sound like a good flavor?” Henry asked with a disgusted look wrapped around his moustache.
BECAUSE I WAS NOT THINKING RATIONALLY OK. Maybe I was confusing it with a Cowtail candy thingie. Cowtails are good. I imagine a Cowtail milkshake would be as well. But probably not a Cowlick Milkshake; you’re right, Henry.
About two hours after we left the fair, the shock wore off and I started to cry. I was in total Final Destination mode for the rest of the weekend after that.
Gayle texted me later that night and said that they had stopped running that side of the Vortex, which tells me that this probably happened again to some other dumb asshole!
The next morning, I woke up feeling like I had been bench-pressing a car. I had some fucked up Indian brushburn under my left arm, my right shin was screaming, and I had a piercing pain in my right shoulderblade anytime I leaned against something.
I told Henry that I’m done. I’ll never go to another fair or amusement park again. And I HATE that I feel that way. I hate that I’m practically a bubblewrap burrito now, because these were things that were fun for me, and now this one shitty experience could ruin it all for me. What will summers be like without riding shit like this until I get sick? Without getting excited because the Big Butler Fair has a new ride? Without at least one spin on the Zipper?!
I hate this. But I think I might be done riding things, for real. At the very least, I’m DEFINITELY never going anywhere near a carnival or county fair hosted by MIDWAY RIDES OF UTICA. They can suck a fucking dick. MIDWAY RIDES OF UTICA SUCKS, PASS IT ON.
(Um, I might still go on this ride though, if I ever come across it again.)
I will now address some FAQs that I have been getting ever since this happened:
Do you actually expect to go to county fairs and be safe??
While I try not to “expect” anything in life, yes, I do go to the fair with some sense of being safe. This is what state laws and regulations are for. This is why rides are required to be inspected. This is why you don’t hear news reports of thousands of people dying at the county fair every summer. Freak accidents can and will happen, but most of this shit can be prevented by the diligence of trained ride operators, which is what I hope to find at these places.
Don’t you know you shouldn’t ride the rides at the fair?! Only amusement park rides are safe!
We aren’t “safe” anywhere. In one weekend this past summer, seven people were injured at Cedar Point when the log flume tipped over while it was ascending a hill and at a Six Flags in Texas, a woman was flung to her death from a roller coaster. Dude, a toddler died after contracting e.coli from a PETTING ZOO at one of the fairs. Last year, some guy was shot OUTSIDE of a county fair. It’s not just the rides. A bitch can get killed pretty much anywhere.
Don’t you think you’re being dramatic?
Look, I was pretty certain after a few seconds that I probably wasn’t going to die, but if you honestly think I’m blowing it out of proportion, well, just pray that something like this doesn’t happen to you someday.
How were you able to squeeze your fat ass into a ride like that to begin with?
An ass-corset made of strategically-placed industrial strength Ace bandages, Spanx and a wreath of tiny elven butt-huggers.
On the brightside, before we left the fair, Henry bought me a pretty necklace that some Ugandan broad made out of paper. I wanted two of them, but I guess my near-death experience wasn’t worth $30 to Henry. Oh well, it will be a nice accent for my new bubblewrap suit.