Monday, August 16, 2021

PNE 2017

NOTE: This continues my unofficial series of finding blog drafts I've written years ago and finishing them. This one was started in 2017 and stopped about 3 paragraphs in

NOTE: PNE is the Pacific National Exhibition, a state fair, more or less.  Well, provincial. Which means, from what I get from movies. Slightly less firearms, almost no pig rustling, and a very informative farm exhibit.

Why is it that some rides have operators that have that weather worn look of someone evading several statewide warrants, and others are manned by fresh faced high schoolers, steadily checking off the prerequisites for a well rounded college application?

And the two groups are never mixed. You never see the guy packing at least one form of concealed blade with that girl lugging around the pre-SAT preview review prep books to lunch. It's not, I don't think, linked to the rides, like the rides didn't seem to have perks I one group over the other. Does it have to do with competence? Surely the woman with the lazy eye who looks she can bench press my car is kept around because she has the least fatalities on TeaKettle Madness? I have no idea.

Must of my expertise in rides is worrying about how to best maintain fatherly non-chalance as I'm whipped at G's most likely to terrify me with the least likelihood of killing me with some sort of embolism. Because as long as my kids wanna do the ride, I better.

This year, my daughter has taken a more measured approach to the rides. Last year it was WHATEVER RIDE THAT'LL LET ME ON, which was all of them. Now it's only if the ride can go fast enough to be used to train astronauts, in a pinch.

One thing she carried over from last year is the dreaded, 'Can we go again?'. It's one thing to maintain composure during the first go around, I mean, it's your first time, you can fool yourself at how long it'll be, how much your stomach will churn, how thorough the safety inspections are. The second and third time you have no such illusions.

Some rides have that quaint quality of being built just a little too long ago, that misty, hallucinations halycon days when men were men, air was fresher, and many, many fair goers were crippled or killed by lax safety regulations.

And in those rides, there's always that one inflection point, when I'm floating free, putting just a little too much effort in keeping my seat, when I start to think a little too much about just how carefully the engineers put into edge cases.  But then I'm back again, exposed to another terror, another extreme limit of the human body, another reminder that Middle Aged Office Dad is NOT the average case they are planning for. Young things with everything to live for and untouchable invincibility and the sort of spring back ruggedness that makes tackle football seem like a good idea. That's what these machines are built for. 

And some of these machines are built for not even that. Some of these machines were built in a time when they were for the young invincibles who wouldn't sue. You can tell when there is a little too much paint over the rivets. When the framing and general look of it says 'this was likely a repurposed sherman tank'.


Oddly, it's not those ones that summon a deep existential dread in me. No. At least, not this time. This time it was The Beast. Which couldn't be named better if this was an episode of the Wonder Years and Daniel Stern was speaking earnestly about a character changing childhood event. It's a pendulum, that has a circle of seats that face outwards, and then quickly swings back and forth while rotating the seats, until very serious thoughts of life insurance flash across your mind. It's a ride where they have you take off your sandals beforehand, check for pacemakers, and make sure rider is with good standing with the Federal Bar Association.

Of course Owlet wanted to ride it. Ride it so bad she could forgo all other rides and just ride this meatblender of a behemoth. So, we get in the line with the unreasonable number of people in it. The fearful, the seemingly unperturbed, the braggarts, the excited, the parents. It's the screaming that gets you. The screaming of the machine as it throws meatsacks back and forth while trying not break itself in two, and the screaming of the people.

At first it's just the general 'oh this is fun isn't it', scream. Then it gets to the 'oh I'm really pretty, scared, mostly.. mostly', then 'I'm definitely not faking it I just hope Roger is screaming louder than me', then it ends with a hollow scream of, I dunno, acceptance of death?

It doesn't help that a few months previously this exact ride model did come undone at the fulcrum and went daisy wheeling away. There were deaths. 

We finally get on. Only when I'm on do I realize that it has one of those delightful features where the restraints don't really seem to be restraining enough. Like there were standards set by the intern (intern at a safety regulations department, that, that could happen), then watered down by the senior engineer who was wheedled by the project manager, then further loosened when they had to price it out and get the parts. "Always" withstanding breakout g-force at 45 degrees is so much more expensive then "Usually".

So it's rattling and rotating and spinning and the screaming starts. Luckily I'm not beset on all sides by the death throes of my neighbours as my own screaming drowns it all out. Right before I lose all hope and right after I remember what 'beneficiaries' means visions of the operators pop into my head. They were young kids. But they had outrageously dyed hair. For the remainder I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out if that's the youth of a keener or the stick it to the man dye job of someone who is on first name basis with the local pawn shop brokers. And in the end that doesn't matter because I still can't remember in whose hands I'm safer.

We make it to the end. Owlet is hopping with joy. We totter off and I try desperately to ignore the pleas  'Can we go again?'.

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