Monday, July 11, 2005


When I was about 16 and fearlessly eating everything, I had a bad experience at the Florida State Fair on the Pirate Ship ride. We’ve all been on variations of the Pirate Ship— you know the boat that swings back and fourth, sometimes they’ll go in a complete upside down 360s. This Pirate Ship ride just went back and fourth (no 360s). A group of my friends and I were at the fair and thought we’d give this ride a try, and as a roller coaster and fun park veteran, I didn’t foresee the disaster about to unfold and empty itself all over several innocent fair goers.

After a busy afternoon of eating 2 cotton candy spools, a hot dog, a greasy slice of pizza (strangely similar to school lunch pizza), several strings of red licorice, an elephant ear, and a few cans of soda, I sat in the second to the last row with my date, Eric, and the lap bar closed over us. The carney who was running the ride was missing a few teeth, covered in bleary blurry tattoos in greens and blacks that faded to navy blue, and was complete with a sleeveless holey faded black t-shirt (wife beater), a mullet, and a belt buckle the size of a coffee saucer. The t-shirt depicted a skeleton riding a motorcycle, holding a large confederate flag (someone tell them that the war has been over). Reflecting on this incident in present day, I wonder if there is a mandatory uniform for carneys. I envision the interview going badly-“I’m sorry, Mr. Smith, you’re just too clean cut for this job. Come back when you’ve lost a few more teeth. And get that suit off if you ever plan to set foot in my trailer again!”

The Pirate Ship began to lurch forward and back, and REO Speedwagon’s greatest hits began to churn out of giant amplifiers strategically placed so conversation was impossible. After a few passes back and fourth, I felt a lurching of motion sickness in my stomach, and the contents of my stomach began to roil and feel heavy. My date looked at me and asked, “Are you going to be sick?” I opened my mouth to answer, and only a shower of technicolored vomit came out. Eric was covered, and panicked, frantically shouting “STOP THE RIDE!” waving his stubby arms wildly to the carney operating the ride. The carney, drunk, stoned, mentally deficient or otherwise, didn’t acknowledge what was happening, and Eric instructed me to puke over the side of the swinging ship. I leaned over the side, and saw a snaking line of people, all waiting to get on the Pirate Ship, and threw up. The tiny ant-like people all scattered, and I could hear muted yells in horror as realization of what the putrid fluid raining down upon them was. Eric was still waving wildly to the carney, yelling at him every time we made a pass over the base of the ride, and the carney looked up, and replied with enthusiasm, “HELL, YEAH!” and it seemed he cranked the ride up for two turns in one, which normally I’d be psyched about if I wasn’t so busy throwing up. While all this was happening, there were four or five women sitting behind me, wearing heavy amounts of hair product and perfume baking in the Florida sun. The smell wasn’t doing anything to combat the queasiness, and they began to obnoxiously tap me on the shoulder, shouting in my ear, “GIRL, YOU PUKIN?” I turned around to explain the situation (while the boat was swinging back and fourth…I don’t know what I was thinking) and ended up heaving the remainder of my stomach all over them. At that point, they were screaming bloody murder, a chant of “STOP THE RIDE, STOP THE RIDE!” but being from the south, it sounded like “STAHP THA RHADE.”

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