I distinctly remember times during my childhood in which I felt extremely sorry for my parents. Actually, given the fact they had to deal with me, I frequently felt sorry for my parents when I was a kid.
Never did I feel more sorry for them, however, than when we visited Kings Island Amusement Park.
Every summer, my parents would pack up their five children in the family station wagon — a death-defying experience in and of itself, considering the lack of seat belts in the car — and cart us down to Kings Island. We would stay from the time the park opened until it closed.
In the intervening 12 hours, all of the kids would go racing around the park like the Brady Bunch in search of missing architectural plans, zipping from one roller coaster to the other, in search of the latest, greatest thrill ride. My parents would follow dutifully behind, never once getting on a ride themselves.
They would see us off to the front of the line, then meet us when we got off the ride.
I always wondered why they chose not to partake in any of the rides themselves and what they possibly could have been doing while we were standing in line and then riding the roller coasters.
Now I know. They were enjoying every second of the peace and tranquility, while at the same time avoiding the headaches and upset stomach.
I have come to the conclusion, in my ever-advancing years, that roller coasters simply aren’t made for folks of a certain age — or body type.
When I was younger, I couldn’t get enough of the roller coasters. My parents would practically have to force me to stop riding them for 20 minutes to eat lunch or dinner during our time at the amusement park. I simply couldn’t understand how they could spend an entire day at Kings Island and not get on a single ride.
They would always report back to us that while we were on the rides, they were walking around inside the shops, sipping sodas and eating slices of pizza. Didn’t sound like much fun to me.
Like so many other things I am finding out in adulthood, however, my parents were right. Roller coasters and other thrill rides are, in general, a painful physical and psychological process.
For starters, there are the lines. Long lines. Seemingly never-ending lines. Lines that remind me of waiting to pay my taxes until the last possible day and standing there, zombie-like, at city hall, hoping that by the time I get to the front, I’ve remembered all of my paperwork.
The lines themselves are bad enough, but the worst part is the people you get trapped in line next to, which is a total roll of the dice. There is always a chance you could get stuck in line next to someone who is, to use a technical term, a total moron. You just never know when you are going to be fortunate enough to spend the better part of an afternoon standing next to someone who talks about inane things, invades your personal space, doesn’t practice good hygiene or — if you are lucky enough — some combination of all three.
There are generally people you would not associate with during the course of your daily life, but since you both have a burning desire to ride “The Beast,” you are thrown in with them for a few hours and forced to endure all of their foibles.
Then, if you are lucky enough to survive your time in line, you actually get to ride a roller coaster. This is a regular barrel of laughs because, in some sort of technological marvel, all roller coasters now being built are much smaller than roller coasters used to be. Even the roller coasters that were built 40 years ago when the park opened are smaller than they used to be.
Somehow, the people who build roller coasters figured out a way to go back and shrink the roller coasters that already were built. The seats are smaller and the safety bars they use to keep you in place — and from suing the park — are much, much smaller than they were when I was a teenager. No longer are they suitable for a normal-sized adult — or me. The only people meant to ride roller coasters these days are people under the age of 15 and former Romanian gymnasts.
Of course, should you manage to shoehorn yourself into a roller coaster, then you are faced with the pleasant chore of actually riding a roller coaster. This usually consists of three minutes of having your body tossed around from side to side and all of the softest parts of your body that you managed to squeeze into the safety devices pinched.
All of this tends to leave you with a headache, stiff neck and upset stomach for the rest of the day — which just makes standing in line for the next roller coaster that much more pleasant.
My wife and I took our children to Kings Island earlier this week. They rode all the rides in the park. At the end of the day, my daughter looked up at me and said, “Dad, what was your favorite part of the day?”
To which I replied, “Eating pizza.”
Reach David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong