Last week, Miles and Reed, 10 and 8, spent two nights with us. Our grandsons are easy to have around, into Legos, sidewalk chalk and water guns at the pool. But the highlight of their visit was the Fair. Like me, their biggest draw is the food, a slab of vanilla sandwiched between toasty-warm waffles, melt-in-your-mouth cotton candy and corn on the cob dripping with butter.
After I rode the Ferris wheel with Reed, my legs felt like butter. I wobbled off car No. 5, Spark and Miles waiting, all sympathy and support. Poor Miles felt responsible. He was going to ride with his brother, but didn’t want to at the last minute.
Earlier, I’d escaped the experience, panning Miles off on a friend’s daughter. Lauren and her pal were sweet, kindly said Miles could ride with them. I breathed a sigh of relief, unaware that Reed’s wheels were turning. As soon as Miles got off the ride, Reed was ready to get on.
I really didn’t think I’d have a problem. The Ferris wheel looked short from the ground up, positively tame. “I can do it,” I thought, pooh-poohing the skittish lady in front of me acting all frightened. I wasn’t going to make a spectacle of myself, but as I inched forward into the shadow of the demon, I caved.
“I hope it doesn’t stop at the top,” I told the carni-operator. He mumbled something about not counting on that and locked us in.
Usually life whizzes past, but it stood still at the Fair that afternoon. Just thinking about the nightmare amps up my anxiety. This particular Ferris wheel had cars that faced out. When I managed to sneak a peek, all I saw was air and the ground, not the back of the car in front of us.
Instead of making five quick revolutions, our car jerked to a halt four times on its upward path, as I sat paralyzed, my arms extended in back of me like I was on a cross, hands woven between strips of metal so I wouldn’t pitch forward, my head splitting like a coconut at Spark and Miles’ feet.
At stop number three, I had a full-blown anxiety attack. I fought against screaming so Spark would alert the carni-guy to get me off before I turned blue. But at stop four, Reed brought me to earth.
“Mee Mee,” he said, “We just have to face our fears.”
Poor kid was scared just like me. The realization helped me gain minimal control — I had to act brave. Of course Reed’s fear was temporary. After one revolution, he urged me to open my eyes. “Mee Mee, you’re missing it — you can see the bridge.” To heck with a bridge, I wanted Jacob’s ladder, or Greek horses with white wings to rescue me.
When I didn’t think I could take another minute, the ride began a series of jerky descending stops. Car No. 5 finally swung into home plate, and I gushed my relief to the carni-operator, hardened by too many tales from anxiety-ridden riders to show a morsel of empathy.
But Spark was a safe harbor of support. He gave my shaking shoulders a squeeze and acknowledged my sacrifice, while Miles asked me repeatedly if I was OK.
We spent the next 10 minutes watching crazed teenagers being tossed, sped in circles and turned upside down on rides like “The Ring of Fire,” aghast at their fortitude, amazed they weren’t upchucking.
On the way home Miles said “Mee Mee, now you’ll have something to write about this week.” He was right, but I’m not sure the experience was worth it. Two days later I saw a movie with parasailing in it, and was right back on the Ferris wheel. Hopefully time will heal.