Amusement parks concentrate many of life’s annoyances: waiting, standing in line, noise, spending money, bros. The rides themselves are specifically designed for discomfort, whether the physical slamming and spinning of your body or the psychological torment of height, speed and mortality.
“I’m only doing this to demonstrate to the children that fear can be overcome,” I said while standing in line at La Ronde in Montreal. But wait a sec: there’s a reason for fear. Fear prevents you from doing stupid things, like sitting in a swing several stories off the ground, with only the flimsiest of chains preventing gravity and centrifugal force from flinging you over the grounds before smashing you to the earth or into the jaws of the Viper, the Cobra, the Spider or some other toothy death-ride, an accident that will be attributed to “mechanical failure” or that most ignoble of causes, “human error.” Getting on these rides: that’s human error number one. No, wait, paying 40 bucks for the privilege…
I was thinking about life and the odds of it ending while slowly winding through the sheep-pen to the rides. Here we all were: me, my family, countless teenagers and the entire freshman class of Queen’s University who had bussed down from Kingston to avoid drinking themselves into oblivion on this Sunday and to clog up the rides. Each student wore a blue T-shirt, virtually every single one of them now fringed, de-sleeved, fashionably torn or otherwise destroyed to expose the maximum underarm/bra/pecs. This is the Class of 2017: Wasting Shirts and Taking Up Space.
All this to tell you where my head was at as I waited my turn to look death squarely in the face and yell “AGGGHHHHH!!!” That was when I glanced over and saw a non-Queen’s T-shirt that read:
In my head, I started singing, “Metro-metropolitan life/You can survive but it all depends…” It was a song I hadn’t heard or thought of in years, decades maybe, though I knew right away what it was. It was another from the lost mixed tapes my brother had brought home from university in the early eighties, the cassettes I had foolishly taped over.
The song, “Metropolitan Life,” I figured out later, was by BB Gabor. Who? Wasn’t he the singer for The Tubes. No, that was Fee Waybill (which brought to mind another song I had forgotten was on those mixes – “Talk to Ya Later”). BB Gabor had this and another minor hit, “Nyet Nyet Soviet,” in 1980. Not just any minor hit, but a minor Canadian hit. I also learned that this and a disappointing follow-up were pretty much it for Mr. Gabor. He committed suicide in 1990.
But why? Why, standing in a hot amusement park line, seeing a word I’ve seen probably hundreds of times, would my brain at that moment have retrieved that memory? Why was it stored there in the first place? Why that and not something more important?
When I graduated from university, the commencement speaker was Bishop Desmond Tutu, an eminent 20th century figure. I have no recollection whatsoever of what he said. I can barely remember the ceremony at all. For lack of anything better, I like to imagine the future archbishop spoke about sandwiches.
This freshman class at La Ronde, what will they remember? Will they retain the big event? Or will it be some trivial moment that’s over in a flash, like a New Wave singer’s career or the plunge down a roller coaster track – frozen there with all the fear, joy and grimaces captured on camera at the top of the ride, available for purchase for only $10.99, should you survive.
Holy cows. I had TOTALLY forgotten ‘Nyet Nyet Soviet’. Looking for that will be my task for the evening. Great post!
Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoIyfEH8Bn0
Rides also exist to enable us to get over our fear of public vomiting.
This is a phobia I plan to continue to embrace.
Don’t know the songs, sad to say, but I like how you tagged this both “humor” and “humour.” It’s nice to feel included.
I like to describe myself as “obstinately Canadian.”
i am unable to voluntarily strap myself into anything that spins anymore. both for the common good, and my own aversion to nausea and dizziness, i prefer to hang out at the dodg-em cars. funny post )
“The common good.” I may have to try that one sometime. But, yeah, how come you can take spinning in your twenties but you can’t… later?
my theory is that the gyroscope toy inside of you gets all messed up.
As long as it’s not an old wood coaster, sure, I’ll strap in.
Hopefully, even if the class doesn’t remember the details, the’ll remember what it was like to fly…
La Ronde has The Monster, which is the tallest two-track wooden roller coaster in the world. (How’s that for qualifiers?) I kind of like this one, mainly for sentimental reasons. Sadly, it was closed for the day during our recent visit.
I rode the Cyclone at Coney Island for the first time a few years ago. I wanted to ride it because as a kid, it scared me.
Finally riding it scared the crap out of me, and not in the good way roller coasters should either. Wooden death trap.
Keep the classics. I’ll stick with the nice stable 3 G tubular models.
Standing in line watching these things can be either, “Well, no one’s died yet, so it must be safe,” or “Well, no one’s died yet, so chances are someone’s due” — depending on one’s mood…
Oh, come on, now. You’ve never pulled the bottom of your T-shirt up into the collar to form a cute bikini top that magically waives cover charges? I guess it only works with boobs WITHOUT hair on them.
It’s not the gravity I fear, it’s the stomach contents. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC89cgK5Sp0
Anti-gravity: what goes down must come up.
But, apparently, what is followed is not necessarily sent. I signed up to receive your illustrious blog posts a while ago but not a one has been received. I’ve had to check in periodically at your site. Not a spam issue. You’re just doing this to be difficult, aren’t you?
I dunno. I see you listed among my followers. (That sounds so messianic…) You clicked to get notifications by email? Do I at least show up in your reader?
You are in my reader. (That sounds so prurient.) But my email is bereft. Perhaps a clipped word or two with the WordPress Support Gods….
By the by, are you receiving MY new posts?
You’re in my reader but I don’t have you set for email notification; it’s my work address and I try not to inundate myself with WordPress notices.
Two words: Ya and hoo.
Anyway, I understand. What with all the groupies already cluttering your doorstep and mobbing your car wherever you go, it gets tiresome to deal with additional suppliants online. Ah, the life of a famous artist.
I’ve never actually been on any rides. I get car sick after a few blocks. But when you said you were doing this to show the children that fear can be overcome, it reminded me of the afternoon that my niece was learning to ride her bike.
She was absolutely terrified of falling. My brother-in-law, knowing that I’ve always had a penchant for stupidity, asked if I would be willing to get on his bike and wipe out in front of her. If she could see that it wasn’t the end of the world, he explained, then she would be able to build her confidence up. I spent the next half hour riding bikes with her and, when I knew she was watching, accelerated madly and took a turn over the handlebars. She immediately got off her bike and ran to my aid. “Uncle Coy! Are you okay?”
I’m not going to lie…it hurt like hell. I would spend a week nursing those wounds and, being nearly thirty at the time, I didn’t recover as quickly as I once had, so I had mornings that my body was so sore from that fall that I didn’t want to get out of bed. When she stood over me, however, terrified that I was hurt, slowly reconfirming her worst fears, I got to my feet quickly, got back on the bike and said, “It’s nothing, monkey. Just a scratch. Want to ride bikes a little more?” I secretly wished she would say no. The pain was setting in already.
“You’re not scared after falling down?”
“Nah. That’s just a part of riding a bike. Sometimes you fall down, but it’s so much fun you don’t really care.” I pedaled on, bits of me starting to bruise and swell, but I kept a smile on my face for the rest of the afternoon. When she left, I brought out the ice pack.
It wasn’t long after that before she stopped being scared of falling. The next time I saw her she was whipping around the driveway, seeing how much speed she could get up, seeing how long she could wait before slamming on the brakes.
The things we do for kids…
Haha! That’s great but I hate to tell you, she probably would have figured it out on her own eventually.
Thanks for the follow, and I’m so glad you are (clearly) a real person.
Just so you know, I’m wearing a blue T-shirt today.
Going home to change now, thanks…
Don’t worry: Queen’s is a university, not a judgement.
That makes me feel…
Yep, I’m just going to go with that.
Thanks for the article. I was very sad to learn of Gabor Hegedus’s passing. I unfortunately lost touch with his mother (‘Lazerlove’ ) in 1984, when she decided to emigrate to Canada, and help her son get through some problems. I really enjoyed BB’s 2 albums and have many fond memories of Clara Hegedus, my landlady in West London and her love and support to me as a student, for her family and no doubt for the numerous other students who must have lived under her,and her late husband’s, roof!
Glad you found this and enjoyed it. Like I said, it’s all connected.
Yeah definitely. Who would have thought that I was only trying to trace Clara Hegedus and her talented (now late lamented) son. Although I’m still reeling from the shock of finding out that Gabor has been gone for over twenty years, I’m grateful for the article. In a roundabout way it proves your point about connection!……Dave