Everything is stupid, and so are we. Welcome to Jezebel’s Stupidest Summer Ever, a season-long celebration of our worst, most idiotic thoughts and opinions.
Every summer for one week, my hometown turns into overflow parking for the preeminent event of the summer: the Dutchess County Fair. The streets are empty, but the fairgrounds on the outskirts of town are full of screaming children, happy children, tired parents, and dirtbags like me and my friends, who used to sneak into the fair through a hole in the fence by the horses, but now pony up the admission fee like adults.
My tolerance for putting my body in proximity to danger has dropped dramatically the older I get. Heights frighten me and being upside down sounds like a nightmare. Nothing feels “fun” about thinking that at any moment, your shoddy seatbelt could break, sending you plummeting to earth. Yet in my youth, I rode the rides at the fair with reckless abandon, blissfully unaware of my own mortality and death’s icy grip.
Age is inconsequential to the enjoyment of many of life’s finer offerings, but amusement park rides that are not bolted firmly to the ground are a nightmare when you’re over the age of 30. Rides are no longer fun; they are hell; they are 90 seconds of terror and incipient sciatica. I’m too old to go on anything that lifts my body and jostles it around like a salt shaker.
The circumstances in which I came to realize this about myself were, in retrospect, less than ideal. Fair food is a special category that I hold close to my heart. I ate as if I would never see food again, consuming over the course of a few hours the following nightmare slurry of foodstuffs: some mediocre fried dough; a corndog; half an order of bacon cheddar fries; a superior zeppole; an airy handful of maple cotton candy; a fried abomination called Chompers; one third of a 4-H milkshake (chocolate, freshly made); half a chocolate-covered frozen banana; one enormous lemonade; and, best of all, a giant unsweetened iced tea, served to me in a 32-ounce plastic deli container of the ilk that normally holds potato salad. My stomach was full, but my mind was determined. I was going to ride a ride and pretend that everything was okay.
Pharoah’s Fury, a ride I remember for feeling scary but not too scary, was rebranded as Sea O’Ray and adorned with a knockoff Jack Sparrow at the prow. The ride goes up one direction and then swings down like a pendulum. Tame stuff. Very simple. No seatbelt required. The nausea, mingled with nervous laughter, kicked in swiftly. “Why is this lasting for so long,” my friend asked halfway through what felt like four hours. Had I known the answer, I would not have gone on the ride myself. The Scrambler was my favorite ride 15 years ago, when I did not fear death and spent little to no time hunched over a laptop, squinting; though I rode this thing twice in a row and screamed at top volume, my insides felt drunk and my body, jangled.
The Zipper, a terrifying demon from my youth and perhaps the only time I realized that maybe a ride would kill me, was mysteriously absent. We walked around the concourse twice to make sure. Would I have gone on this death trap had it been there? Maybe. But it’s for the best. My body cannot handle this. I’m too old. It’s fine.