Friday, September 30, 2011

Trading The Misery for Thrill

Trading The Misery for Thrill I can see the instant rush of nausea dominate my friend's distorted face. We had just walked into the entrance of the sole indoor roller coaster at Cedar Point, and a young, obviously miserable boy spewed a deep orange vomit half in the trash can and half dribbling down the side of the vertical opening.

The room was pretty dark, so all I could see was the half lit face of my friend and eerie lights that were flashing dully deeper in the line of this particular ride. We had thought that an indoor ride might supply us with a couple hours of refreshing air-conditioning, but it turned out that the air was just as hot as outside and even more stagnant. It seemed that the carbon dioxide I was exhaling was coming right back into my lungs, kind of like suffocation. This unmoving air didn't help my friend's predicament of being over come with nausea and being in a line with nowhere to go.
Right then an image popped into my mind of him loosing his bite size corn dogs and garlic Parmesan fries to the greasy concrete floor, and this would set off a chain reaction that would have others around us surrendering their equally horrible and expensive lunches. After only a few minutes the whole contingent of people in line would be yaking and they would have to close down the ride due to the mass amount of puke that needed to be mopped up. This thought magnified the already existing sour milk vomit smell that was not dissipating due again to the lack of circulating air.
Coming back to reality, I glanced back at my friend and called his name to make sure he was alright, and all I got as a response was a raised index finger indicating that he needed a second of silence to regain his composure. He must not have imagined the same scenario I did, because after few minutes he recovered and we went on our way through the line.
This was one of the many puke stories we heard thrown about throughout the day from others on our Jr. High trip. Any other place and we would assume that these unfortunate roller coaster patrons were coming down with the flu, but in a theme park, this is completely normal.
I hate getting sweaty when I'm not participating in a sport of some kind or working outside. The feeling of the gritty salt that dries to my skin after sweating then cooling off disgusts me. Sandusky, Ohio in the middle of July could possibly be one of the worst places for this sweat, dry, repeat routine. My head builds with pressure and pain after hours of walking on concrete hot enough to cook my breakfast and humidity that can make a normal human being feel like they are drowning.
That morning we watched the forecast while enjoying cheap sugar cinnamon rolls and burnt coffee, the high of 75 degrees and relatively low humidity had us thinking that today might be the perfect day for an amusement park. I never got a chance to check a thermometer that day, but either the meteorologist smoked crack that morning or being under constant sun with no reprieve doubled the perceived temperature.
Certain parts of the roller coaster lines were shaded by trees or awnings, but others had us stuck under nothing but the bright sun that seemed to burn skin through my SPF 85 and even my v-neck t-shirt. If I sought shelter I would be getting out of line, and that was out of the question considering I had waited for an hour already and the line behind me was only building. I was wet with sweat on parts of my body that I didn't even knew had sweat glands. Were beads of sweat coming out of my eyes or were they tears? Either way, I was miserable.
Any other place and I would full-heartedly search out an air-conditioned building to loiter, but in a theme park, this is normal.
I was told that the metal fences that we had to walk through for our roller coaster rides were called "turnstiles." I never knew they had an actual name, I just thought they were there to piss people off. It's incredibly daunting to join a line, look ahead and see an endless mass of people neatly weaved through these turnstiles. Walking through this organized death march we passed the same people at every turn, and they all looked just as miserable as I must have. Well, either they looked miserable or they were teenagers making out and groping each other. I would love to be making out with and groping my wife, but I can't touch another human being in my sweaty and nasty condition, even my own sexy wife. Plus, I'm supposed to be an adult now; groping has to be done in private.
To pass the time I do math. I count the amount of people that fit on one of the roller coaster cars, the number of roller coaster cars running on the tracks, the time in between take off of roller coaster cars, the amount of people waiting in line, all in hopes of figuring out how long it will take me to finally sit and pull down the awkwardly uncomfortable restraints. This time passing technique never works. Math is hard, and by the time I come up with an estimate, it's been so long that I have to start over.
Sometimes I consider getting out of line to search out another roller coaster that might have a shorter line, something old and lame like Top Gun at Kings Island. At the right time of day, one can ride in the front seat of Top Gun, then run back around and get back in the front seat without stopping once for a line of any kind.
For this ride though, I know that if I get out of line I will never get a chance to get back in. I have already invested half an hour and the line is even longer than when I started. It's a weird feeling being trapped in line, yet having full control over where I went. What fool would stay in this unbearable heat and stand for hours only for a 67 second invitation to vomit? What fool would leave the line and miss their opportunity for this award-winning thrill? Only one more hour.
Americans as a whole are not patient people, long lines get us irated and uncomfortable, and normally we would stand up and seek out someone to yell at for a line that takes longer than 10 minutes, but in a theme park, long lines are normal.
Jonathan Degler is the author of the novel "Gone Astray," and more information can be found at

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