Sunday, October 24, 2010

Herculean Achievements And Other Small Miracles Part II

I'm not sure where the obsession with trains comes from, but it seems to be universal for kids of a certain age. Thus we have Thomas The Train Engine and Chugginton and those wooden train tracks sold by everyone from Ikea to Toys R Us. Then there are the other incarnations, train rides in shopping centres on small electric carts kitted out to look like 19th-century steam engines, outdoor gasoline-powered mini-trains manned by former engineers and those who have taken their hobby far too seriously.

You don't notice it until you have a little boy or girl who goes absolutely ballistic at the first sign of anything that goes on a track. It's the Blue Car Syndrome with multi-ton uni-directional transport vehicles. Owlet is fairly far past it, but Owl Jr. is deep in the throes of this near pathological mental disability. On the merest hint of one, he drops whatever he was doing (invariably, playing with a small train) and shouts out "CHOO CHOO!", then looks around to see if, perhaps, one has snuck up behind him, or behind me. (A meerkat like response that is much like Owlet, actually, when her favourite shows goes on, as she bellows (yes, bellows) "MOMMA!! TOOPY AND BINOO IS ONN!!!").

So for the second day of questionable childcare by their father, the kids are taken to an outdoor train somewhere deeper in the wilds of the suburbs, bordering on the exoburbs. Somehow, like all jobs that one does day in and day out, it must become somewhat commonplace, watching the jittering uncontainable excitement of little ones as they come face to face with their obsession; the tired, vaguely triumphant face on the caregivers as they set their kids down in the tiny cars for a full five minutes of peace.

It then comes to my attention, as the train is pulling from the station, that the ride is being set up for a night-time Halloween mode. All innocuous children's outdoor activities take on a demonic alter-ego during Halloween. Amusement parks, train rides, petting zoos, you name it, if it's outside, there's going to be a Halloween version that would make small children and lesser men, like myself, suddenly become aware of how tenuous bladder control really is.

This isn't 'billowing sheets and funny jack-o-lanterns', this is 'something scary enough to chip through teenager's jaded skepticism', the same teens who watch horror movies that make the Dresden Fire Bombing look like a mild city-wide heat-wave.

I'm told that nothing is really set up,that it'll be fine for the six or so kids on the train, all under the age of 5. Which, to some extent, it is. But there were a few tunnels a little bit too well prepared for the night's event. Hideous monsters, bloodthirsty monsters glare out, although the lights were dimmed (which made it somewhat worse, actually). It's then that the powers of suggestion, all the powers I could muster, came into play.

Owlet : "The tunnel, it's SCARY!?"
Me : "Nonono, it's not *shudder* scary. Nono. It's fine"

Repeat that conversation about thirty times over five minutes.

Much later, I'm sure Mrs. Owl will be regaled by Owlet's disturbingly accurate memory, "Dadda! Remember when we went on that SCAAARY train!?". After which she will reduce me to ashes with a withering glare.

Owl Jr., of course, simply loved it.

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