After a series of post-lunch gentle rides, Chooch and I got in the short line for the Swingshot, a ride that used to terrify me and I boycotted it for a good five years after the first time I rode it. I felt ready to give it a second chance two years ago, and it’s been heart-eyes, death-trap edition ever since. It’s basically like being on a giant swingset, but the only thing that really freaks me out is that the safety bar only goes over your lap and not over your shoulders, so there isn’t anything to hold on to. And the scared little four-year-old girl in me desperately needs something to cling to!
A girl and her younger brother were in line behind us and the brother was very calmly stating over and over that he really did not want to ride this. She was very firm with him.
“Too bad, you’re riding it,” she said bossily, her youthful visage already in the beginning stages of memory-foaming her future resting bitch face. I mean, she was probably only 10 or 11 and already had a semi-perma-scowl dripping off her jowls. We made eye contact and I smiled nervously at her because I’ve seen Village of the Damned and it’s better not to anger the children, but my smile was met with unspoken haughtiness.
Again, people who are not amused at amusement parks can GTFO.
“Oh my god, look at that old man!” Chooch cried, pointing at the Swingshot, currently in motion. “He’s like as old as grandma!”
“I was just noticing him too,” I said, meaning to imply that hey, look at us! Always on the same wavelength, this mom-and-son duo! But of course, Chooch took this opportunity to make it into a competition and sneered, “OH OK. I SAW HIM FIRST.”
There was only one side of the Swingshot running that day, so the line moved a little slower than normal. We ended up just missing getting on the next round, but the ride operator said we could ride that one if we wanted, we just wouldn’t be able to sit together.
“No way, I can’t sit by myself,” I laughed nervously.
“But you can sit next to our VIP!” the ride operator continued, trying her best to fill the ride to capacity. “He’s 80-years-old and trying to ride this 80 times in a row today.”
“What?!” I cried, ogling the Elder sitting patiently at the end of the ride. “That’s amazing.”
“Earlier in the season, he rode the Jack Rabbit 80 times, too,” she said, before sliding the gate closed and giving the “all clear” to the ride operator behind the controls. I watched in awe as the Elder maintained his relaxed composure while being catapulted into the air. I forgot about hating on the girl behind me and focused all of my attention on this new subject.
“That man is a bad ass,” I said to Chooch. “I’m going to sit next to him when it’s our turn. Will you save me a seat while I put my bag in the cubby thing?” I was already tossing furtive glances over my shoulder at the people behind us, trying to determine if any of them seemed like a threat. I felt compelled to cry out “I CLAIM SEAT 3!” but everyone knows you never announce to a crowd what you want! That’s a sure way of handing some motherfucker the ammunition to give your dreams a head shot. Chooch did that once at another park, I can’t remember where we were, but we were in line and he opened his big mouth and said, “I WANT TO GET THE BLUE CAR” or something, and no fucking shit, I watched the boy’s ears in front of us as they perked up and he side-eyed Chooch, and I knew it was over. Chooch just gave this asshole his idea and sure enough, once the entrance gate was unlocked, that little fuckboy bolted straight to the car that Chooch had his heart set on. (Because these are big issues, you guys.)
I mean, not gonna lie, I would probably do the same thing.
So, I was really getting anxious, feeling like I was going to pee my pants, nervously doing the standing-in-line jig. Even though we were going to be the first ones on, I had this fucking bag that I had to stash away first. GODDAMN YOU HENRY FOR NOT BEING THERE. He always holds my stuff for me when I’m on rides. :(
I whispered one more to Chooch, begging him to make sure no one took that seat.
“No, because I’m going to sit next to him,” Chooch said defiantly. So then we fought about who was going to sit next to the old man for the next minute until the ride was over and the entrance gate slid open for us.
I ran over to toss my bag into one of the cubbies while Chooch ran to claim a seat. I was pretty much ready to accept defeat because Chooch is the worst, but when I turned around, I saw that Chooch was climbing into a seat two down from the old man, leaving the seat next to him open for me! I COULDN’T BELIEVE MY GOOD FORTUNE.
“I don’t feel like talking to him, so you can just have that seat,” Chooch mumbled, which is his way of saying I LOVE YOU MOMMY AND I WANT NOTHING MORE THAN FOR YOU TO BE HAPPY.
I happily stuffed my ass into the spare seat and immediately turned to the old man and yelled, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ARE RIDING THIS 80 TIMES.” There is this weird dichotomy with me in that I am often pretty reserved and introverted because I just don’t have the energy for small talk. But the other side of me is a blown-out Leo, almost a caricature where I am TURN ALL THE WAY UP. A few years ago, for example, I was having lunch with an acquaintance. This person doesn’t really know me very well outside of my blog, so when we would meet up, he would get the sweet, polite, intense listener version of myself. One time he said to me, “You know, I love your blog. I love how you developed yourself into a character. But I gotta tell you, if Blog Erin was who you were in real life, I wouldn’t be friends with you.”
This really took me by surprise, because “Blog Erin” is very much who I am. This isn’t an act. I am actually at times even more full-blown “in real life” than I am “on the blog,” and it was just incredibly frustrating to sit there and listen to someone act like they know me, when they had only been given the opportunity to see one facet of my personality—ya gotta earn the rest. I feel like most everyone is like this! But, what do I know. I’m halfway to recluse when it comes to interacting with people these days.
That being said, as I sat there on the Swingshot, waiting for the ride attendants to finish their safety checks, I was Full Force Blog Erin with this guy. I was eager to meet him, to talk to him, to give him the chance to touch my life. I just felt drawn to him, I don’t know. Any 80-year-old who is attempting to ride something 80 more times than my dumb boyfriend, who is practically a spring chicken by comparison, is worth talking to.
“This ain’t nothing more than a giant swing,” the man, whose name I had learned was Stanley, answered my maniacal statement.
“True,” I agreed, thinking about it. “I love this ride, but it still scares me.”
“Pffft,” Stanley swatted at the air with his hand. “This ride is safe. I like the Black Widow too, but it takes too long to load that ride, so I chose the Swingshot instead.”
Whoa. If Stanley rides the Black Widow, then I should definitely stop being a bitch baby about it. I asked him what number he was currently on and he held up a metal counter in his hand. Ride #16. What a goddamn bad ass.
“What are those on your fingers?!”
I held up my hands and curved my fingers into air quotes so he could see my quotation tattoos.
“Are those real?” he asked skeptically. I nodded and he did a little eye roll and shook his head in a “kids these days” fashion. I asked him what made him want to ride this for 80 times that day, and he said, “Because it gives me the chance to sit with pretty young girls like yourself!”
OH STANLEY, STOP! No, don’t really stop.
And he continued to talk to me as the Swingshot fired up, sounding like a dragon swooping down from the sky, and I began to scream because it gets me every single time. You are literally staring face-first at the cement below!
“What’s the worst that can happen?” Stanley yelled against the rushing wind. “We go soaring over those trees!” he laughed.
YEAH, AND THEN LAND WITH A WET SPLAT AGAINST THE ROAD!
“You make sure you show that to your boyfriend!” he said in that sleazy way that only men his age can get away with. I laughed and said I would, and then after retrieving my bag and walking passed him to the exit, he yelled over his shoulder, “You keep that picture forever! Don’t you forget me!”
Honestly, how could I? We may have only spent 5 minutes in each others’ lives, but it was really inspirational—don’t laugh! Stanley had me so stoked on life! I walked away feeling giddy as fuck, like I could do anything, perhaps maybe even tackle my knee-buckling fear of the Black Widow later on.
Stanley, you are the motherfucking man.