The Cameron Column #101
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Theme Park
Copyright 1999 W. Bruce Cameron
http://www.wbrucecameron.com

      One of the most endearing traits of children is their utter trust that their parents will provide them with all of life's necessities, meaning food, shelter, and a weekend at a theme park.

      A theme park is a sort of ARTIFICIAL vacation, a place where you can enjoy all your favorite pastimes at once, such as motion sickness and heat exhaustion.

      Adult tolerance for theme parks peaks at about an hour, which is how long it takes to walk from the parking lot to the front gate. You fork over an obscene amount of money to gain entrance to a theme park, though it costs nothing to leave (which is odd, because once you've been inside the walls for a while, you'd pay anything to escape).

      The two main activities in a theme park are (a) standing in line, and (b) sweating. The sun reflects off the concrete with a fiendish lack of mercy--you're about to learn the boiling point of tennis shoes. Your hair is sunburned, and when a small child in front of you gestures with her hand she smacks you in the face with her cotton candy; now it feels like your cheeks are covered with carnivorous sand.

      The ride your children have selected for you is a corkscrewing, stomach-compressing roller coaster built by the same folks who manufactured the baggage delivery system at the Denver International Airport. Apparently the theme of this particular park is "Nausea." You sit down and are strapped in so tightly you can feel your shoulders grinding against your pelvis.

      Once the ride begins you are thrown about with such violence it reminds you of your teenager's driving. When the ride is over your children want to get something to eat, but first the ride attendants have to pry your fingers off of the safety bar. "Open your eyes, please, sir," they keep shouting.

      They finally convince you to let go, though it seems a bit discourteous of them to have used pepper spray. Staggering, you follow your children to the Hot Dog Palace for some breakfast.

      Food at a theme park is so expensive it would be cheaper to just eat your own money. Your son's meal costs a day's pay and consists of items manufactured of corn syrup, which is sugar, sucrose, which is sugar, fructose, which is sugar, and sugar, which is sugar. He also consumes large quantities of what in dog food would be called "meat by-products." When, after another couple of rides, he announces that he feels like he is going to throw up, you're very alarmed--having seen his meal once, you're in no mood to see it again.

      With the exception of that first pummeling, you manage to stay off the rides all day, explaining to your children that it isn't good for you when your internal organs are forcibly rearranged. Now, though, they coax you back in line, promising a ride that doesn't twist, doesn't hang you upside down like a bat, doesn't cause your brain to flop around inside your skull--it just goes up and then comes back down. That's it, Dad, no big deal.

      What they don't tell you is HOW it comes back down. You're strapped into a seat and pulled gently up into acrophobia, the city falling away from you. Okay, not so bad, and in the conversation you're having with God you explain that you're thankful for the wonderful view but you really would like to get down now.

      And that's just how you descend: NOW. Without warning, you plummet to the ground in an uncontrolled free fall. You must be moving faster than the speed of sound because when you open your mouth, nothing comes out. Your life passes before your eyes, and your one regret is that you will not have an opportunity to punish your children for bringing you to this hellish place.

      Brakes cut in and you slam to a stop. You gingerly touch your face to confirm it has fallen off. "Wasn't that fun, dad?" your kids ask. "Why are you kissing the ground?"

      At the end of the day, you let your teenager drive home. (After the theme park, you are impervious to fear.)


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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1999
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