Find your carnival ride

Wilson County Fair, 2012

As summer prepares to molt into fall, this thought has crossed my mind:  Carnivals, fairs, and amusement parks are some of the more interesting and enigmatic curiosities devised by the human brain.

Think about this for a minute.

What do we do?  We go through the grueling process (and it is) of loading up the kids with all their various accouterments for the 30 to 40-minute trip to the fairgrounds on a day we could’ve blissfully stayed at home.  Then, we brave excruciating lines, dizzying cutbacks, stomach-churning dips and valleys, pickpockets and hawkers, a crushing, sweating sea of humanity, and a nauseating array of organic odors.

And that’s just in the parking lot.

We bravely persevere through these obstacles mostly for one thing:  the carnival ride.

That’s right.  The reward for our sacrifice is that we happily pay some exorbitant price to stand in line for roughly the same amount of time Otzi the Iceman freeze-dried in the Italian Alps so that we can climb aboard a concoction of rusty tubing and faded plastic that is operated by a guy recently released from a halfway house.  Any concern for the bodily welfare of ourselves or our children somehow is wiped clean as we enter the midway, as if by a Jedi mind trick.

Then, we allow our God-given earthly temples to be flung to and fro, up and down, and side to side.  C’mon!  Let’s ride again!

Why do we do this??

I’m no sociologist, but I believe it’s because we all, at some point in our lives, need to feel slightly out of control.  Some people — stunt men and women, daredevils, kindergarten teachers, astronauts, and the like — take this to the extremes, but for most of us, a carnival ride every once in a while does the trick.  For just a few minutes, perhaps just once a year, we get to soar on swings, spin upside down, and ride a rickety track at breakneck speeds with nothing but our faith in the Good Lord and a bunch of Phillips head screws and metal piping.  It’s an exhilaration that is largely absent in everyday life.

Or is it?

Ever changed the diaper of a boy baby who recently polished off a bottle?  (Gotta be fast.)  Or, watched as your 6-year-old dribbles the soccer ball toward the goal with only the goalie in between, a mash of red-faced parents screaming from either side of the field?  Or watched as a loved one breathes his last breath and passes into the next life?  Or shared a belly laugh with your wife as you email each other from separate offices?

The carnival rides are there.  You’ve just got to spot them.

And you don’t even have to stand in line…


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One Response to “Find your carnival ride”

  1. Dennis Ray says:

    What makes people (my daughter) jump out of perfectly good airplanes . . . or makes people become musicians? : )

    Don’t ask me. I’ve even eaten sushi and I still wonder why.

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