We didn't leave the amusement park in total disgrace.
We didn't leave the amusement park in total disgrace.
Witnesses – in this case, our fellow Disaster Transport riders – might say otherwise, but "disgrace" to me suggests being frog-marched to the exit by uniformed guards, and we weren't.
It's true that we left the park the moment our string of Disaster Transport cars had come to a complete and final halt, but that was because we wanted to and not because security personnel were waiting, shiny toes tapping, to escort us out.
Furthermore, we weren't frog-marched. We were staggering entirely on our own. Yes, staggering. I'm not ashamed to admit it. On top of everything else, Disaster Transport turned out to be a real roller coaster.
Not that I'd thought it was a baby ride, a mere trip up the escalator to Housewares. I rode Disaster Transport the year it opened, and I remembered it as moderately exciting, rollicking but no big screamer. An escalator ride point two, in other words.
Well, I remembered wrong. It's a number 4, a High Thrill according to Cedar Point's website, and I can only surmise that my memories were skewed by the fact that I came through alive, similar to a woman's memories of childbirth.
So of course I wanted to ride it again, for the same reasons that I have two children. Anyway, the air-conditioning inside Disaster Transport's building was reason enough to ride. On a 93-degree day, people would have waited in that line regardless of what hideous torture crouched at the end. A pit full of snakes? Fine. A life insurance salesman, wanting to review our coverage? Anything.
Disaster Transport turned out to have the longest line of any my husband and I had waited in all day. No doubt the AC had something to do with that, and of course most park guests weren't rushing through the midway to be the first to ride the train.
Our troubles began when we reached the foot of a flight of stairs that led to the boarding platform. We were waiting there in a crush of fellow passengers when the ride operator came to the top of the stairs and asked for twos.
"Twos?" she called, holding up two fingers as a visual aid. "I have two. Any twos?"
We watched heads shaking all the way down the stairs. When they got to us, we exchanged delighted glances and bounded up the stairs, through the tunnel the waiting people obligingly made for us.
At the top of the stairs, we saw the situation. There were the cars, all filled up except for two seats. Two single seats, one in the front car and one in the car just behind it. In each of the cars was a young man, not the kind of young man with the confidence to smile and wave us over, saying "I don't bite," but the other kind, the kind who sits hunched over, staring at his knees and refusing to acknowledge the existence of us or anyone else. I could see immediately that both of them were prepared to block out the world until the park closed down, if that's what it took.
"Oh. Oh no, I'd rather wait," I said. My husband said nothing, but neither did he hop into one of the seats.
"Get in, guys," said the ride operator, a woman of perhaps 22.
She apparently was accustomed to being obeyed, because she strode inside a cubicle that contained the ride's wheels and levers without looking back.
"No," I said stubbornly. I couldn't imagine clambering into a car beside a stranger. I couldn't fathom being thrown against a stranger when the ride took sudden curves and dips. Also — I remembered suddenly — this ride took place in the dark. At the risk of sounding like a little old lady,. I couldn't ride in the pitch dark with this guy.
"I'm waiting," I said.
The ride operator came out of her cubicle.
"I'm waiting for the next one," I said, as if Disaster Transport was a city bus and I a commuter.
"Guys," said the ride operator. Had she been in full dominatrix garb she couldn't have been more in charge. "Just. Get. In."
We got in. Without discussion or further hesitation, my husband took the seat in the front car and I found myself in the seat behind him. "Pull the bar down," the operator said, this time using her microphone. I pulled down the bar.
"Pull it down tight," said the operator. By this time Disaster Transport must have been several minutes behind schedule.
I pulled it tight, squishing the long linen skirt that until now had been an ideal clothing choice for a hot day at the amusement park, and finally, the ride hitched forward and began to climb the first hill.
Never mind the next few minutes, during which I clutched the high top of the front seat, willed myself not to fall heavily into the right arm of what's-his-name beside me and screamed my head off, entirely silently. The cars plunged down and up and down again, whipping left and then right and left in quick jabs, giving me to understand how a rope feels in the jaws of a playful dog.
When the ride finally slowed and stopped, I continued to clutch the back of the seat while I gathered my wits, some of which had rolled under the feet of my fellow passenger.
"Arms up. Arms up!" the operator said, seconds before the bar flew from my lap to the upright position, just missing breaking both of my wrists.
I followed my husband down the ramp to the exit, and we watched as our respective seatmates met up and walked off together.
"Why those dirty dogs," I said, watching them go.
"Your guy didn't want to ride in the front car, I'll bet," my husband said. He'd never ridden in the first car himself, he added.
Then, by mutual agreement, we reeled toward the exit. We were not accompanied by escorts. We were not under arrest.
But we were, we knew, not welcome at Disaster Transport, at least until the next shift change.
I could live with that.
Margo Bartlett is a ThisWeek staff writer. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.