musings, psychology

Thanks (but no thanks) for the tips, and excuse me for living…

I haven’t had too much trauma being “socially isolated” over the past year and a half. I’ve come to realize that I find a lot of people really annoying. And, sad to say, a lot of people find ME annoying or in need of criticism, too, and have no compunction about telling me so. Sometimes, even when I’m being nice, someone feels the need to offer “constructive criticism” that I never asked for. It is annoying, but I try really hard not to be a bitch about it if I can help it. On the other hand, other people make me really appreciate my dogs. Dogs don’t feel the need to criticize others for being themselves.

Today, I was reading a post I wrote as a tribute to a person I used to know. She died in 2016. I remembered her to be a very lovely person who was always nice to me and super friendly. Below is my tribute to Naomi. It’s proof that I’m not a totally mean and cranky person all the time.

Remembering Naomi

A couple of nights ago, as I was sitting all alone in my house, I remembered a woman I used to work with about thirty years ago.  Her name was Naomi.  We both worked in the German (Rhinefeld) section at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I was in high school and she was a mother and wife.

I used to work in this building. And yes, we had the same music from 1989-92. I could probably sing it all from memory.

I didn’t work with Naomi directly.  I worked in the ice cream shop and she worked in the deli.  Naomi was what was known as a Level B supervisor.  That meant she was kind of akin to the boss of the Level A supervisors.  Level A supervisors were basically peons who had basic managerial powers over even bigger peons like me.

I was at the bottom of the barrel at Busch Gardens.  I worked there for four summers and never once got a promotion.  It was before I realized that I work best alone.  I was also very depressed and anxious at that time, and I admittedly had a horrible attitude, although I was often praised for being a hard worker and very reliable.

Despite my interpersonal demons with some other supervisor types at Busch Gardens, I always liked Naomi.  She was British, very friendly and kind, and always pleasant to be around.  I remember I’d come into the deli to drop off my purse and such.  That was where the lockers were.  There we were in our ugly fake lederhosen, looking rather ridiculous, but there to “put on a show” for paying customers.  She’d always say, “Hello, pretty lady!” in a cheerful tone of voice.  I remember she always made me smile, especially when she described the disgusting non-dairy topping we used on all of the desserts.  It was basically made of beef fat.  She described it as “dead cows” on the chocolate pudding.

Naomi was fun to work with and had a good sense of humor, yet she was quite assertive.  I remember one time, Naomi complained to Busch Gardens’ upper management about one of the bigwigs, an Italian guy named Frank who was verbally abusive.  He’d come barging into the deli and start hurling around criticisms and insults in a way that was very upsetting to the young people working there.  Naomi’s complaint got Frank sent to an anger management course.

Who knew that one day, I’d end up living in Germany for years?

I remember congratulating Naomi on her assertiveness and good leadership and she laughed and said, “They probably put him up in a luxury hotel and gave him an expense account.”  She’s probably right, but it was still pretty cool that she had the guts to complain, and Busch Gardens management actually did something.  She was a good boss, and I think, a good friend.  I even remember Naomi wrote a piece for Busch Gardens’ company newsletter.  It was about how her daughters had worked at Busch Gardens and she had decided to try it herself, to great success.

When I knew Naomi best, she was probably about the age I am right now.  That was thirty years ago, and I learned the other night that Naomi died in October 2016 at the age of 77.  She was a year younger than my mom is.  I don’t know how or why Naomi died.  I gathered from prowling around Facebook that she’d had some kind of medical crisis that was very serious, but didn’t initially trigger a death knell.  The crisis appeared to have happened over a year before she succumbed.  Whatever it was was clearly very serious.  It looked like she never recovered her health.

I quit working at Busch Gardens in 1992.  It was a good time for me to quit, because in my next job as the cook at a summer camp, I did get to be a supervisor of sorts… and I did get to make a lot of my own decisions and work independently.  I found it a less frustrating and less annoying job.  Best of all, I didn’t have to wear dirndls or fake “lederhosen” outfits of blouses with ugly suspenders sewn onto them, black tennis shoes, knee socks, or culottes that gave me constant wedgies.

Some enterprising chap did a walkthrough of Busch Gardens. When I worked there, Ireland didn’t yet exist. Where Ireland now is, there was a medieval town called Hastings. Yeah, it’s kind of schmaltzy, but I liked working there. Makes me appreciate the real Europe more.

I never forgot Naomi, though, or many of the other people I worked with.  I did find a lot of friends at Busch Gardens, many of whom I sometimes interact with on social media.

I do have one more memory of Naomi.  This one is more recent.

About twenty years ago, I was living with my parents in Gloucester, Virginia.  I was suffering from clinical depression and getting treatment for it from a therapist and a psychiatrist.  I also took voice lessons.  I find that, for me, singing is good for relieving depression.

One day, I arrived at Eastern Virginia School for the Performing Arts (EVSPA), which is where I was taking my voice lessons.  I happened to run into Naomi there.  She was directing a group of young people.  I overheard her talking about them doing a show.  I want to say it was Godspell.

I never knew Naomi was into the theater.  I was never really into the theater myself, although I’ve been known to sing show tunes, especially when I was taking lessons at EVSPA.  I don’t know if Naomi remembered me, but I do remember saying hello to her.  She looked much the same as she had when we’d worked together, and she was just as friendly and cool.  I remember being surprised to see her, since I never knew she was an actress.  I’m sure she never knew I am a musician.

I don’t know why she popped into my head the other night, but I looked up Naomi and discovered that she’d actually done a lot of good for young people in Williamsburg, Virginia.  She started a theater group called Backstage Productions.  It was open to all comers.  I have a feeling that Naomi’s vision was tremendously important to a lot of people at a tender age, looking for something constructive they could do… a place where they’d be welcome to try something new.

I wish I’d had the chance to know Naomi beyond working with her at Busch Gardens.  I’m glad I met her, though, and that her memory touched me enough to look her up a couple of days ago.  I’m not happy she died, but at least she died having done something amazing for countless people, from the youngsters who were able to perform with Backstage Productions to all of the people who watched their performances.  And that doesn’t even take into account people like me, who were touched by having the chance to work with her while wearing hideous fake lederhosen at Busch Gardens.

On another note, it occurs to me that the last thirty years have flown by… I probably should be more productive myself.  I tried being productive on SingSnap yesterday.  I decided to do some singing rather than open a bottle of wine, which is what I was somewhat tempted to do.  I try not to drink when Bill isn’t home, and he’s been away all week.  It’s been a sober few days, which hasn’t hurt me at all.  But I do get bored and lonely… and sometimes I succumb to temptation.  Drinking helps pass the time.  But it also gives me dry skin, hangovers, upset stomach, depression and anxiety.

Last night, I didn’t succumb to the temptation to open a bottle of wine, but I was feeling a little self-conscious because I can easily hear people outside my window.  I’m sure they can hear me, too, and wonder what the hell is going on in my house.  I can pull down the Rolladen, which gives me the illusion of more privacy, but I know the sound still escapes.  

I did a few songs, including a religious one.  I’m not a very religious person myself, but I like the song “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” (even if this particular arrangement is a tad schmaltzy).  So I decided to do it last night…  Of course, someone felt the need to offer me unsolicited tips about my “bravado” (vibrato?), which I will admit, kind of annoyed me.  It’s karaoke, not American Idol.  Besides, while my efforts may not have been perfect– and they never are– they’re just fine for my purposes.  The better person in me realizes that the commenter probably meant well… and maybe thought she was being helpful.

But anyway… I dedicate this to Naomi.  I have a feeling she’d be encouraging and kind about it.  I don’t know what happens after a person dies… maybe her soul can hear these things.  At least I know my soul can still connect with hers.

END

Above, you see I linked to a “dedication” to Naomi. I sang “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” I had forgotten that I sang that song for Naomi, so I just clicked the link to check it out. Sure enough, I got some comments from people, which I mentioned in the original post. Most were very nice. But I also got a comment from someone who complimented me, but also wanted to play “voice teacher” on a karaoke site. She said she wanted to hear “more bravado” (vibrato?). Then she instructed me to use my diaphragm more. I suppose she meant I should “support” more with my diaphragm. I have a feeling she’s not an expert.

As I wrote in my original post, I’m sure the lady was trying to be helpful, but I must admit her comments were a bit irritating. If I had asked for advice, that would be one thing. But I hadn’t asked for any tips… and it’s just a karaoke site, anyway. She’s also making a lot of assumptions. What if I’m not someone with healthy lungs?

I’m not going to listen to the recording because, if I am honest, I don’t enjoy listening to my own stuff that much. I find myself criticizing it and wanting to redo it. But it’s entirely possible that I was emotional when I recorded that song. Or… what is more likely is that I didn’t go full out because it would have blown out the recorder. Sometimes, if I get too powerful, the sound cuts out. It’s frustrating, and after multiple redos, you just want to get on with it.

It strikes me, though, that if we were at a bar doing karaoke, I would not get a “do over”. No one would expect perfection. We would all just clap, right? But if you put up recordings on a karaoke site, you might get an unsolicited “lesson” from someone whose counsel and opinions you never sought.

So what does this have to do with today’s title? I just wanted to comment on people who are annoyed by me… and people who annoy me. I’m beginning to think that I’m just not cut out for interacting with others. Some people have the most amazing “people skills”. They are fun to be with and popular. And then there are people like me…

I was going to write a post today about an incident that occurred in the early 90s. I was in a choir and, back then, I was kind of loud and obnoxious. I wasn’t trying to annoy people, but I know I did. And some of them were not at all bashful about telling me so. I remember one guy, who had just made up a song about punching a guy for making him “feel like shit”, yelling at me because he found me “rude” and “obnoxious”. Remembering that song he made up about violence, I couldn’t help but realize it was the pot calling the kettle black.

Other times, people have criticized me for being who I am. Some have outright had the nerve to tell me to my face that I should change who I am to suit them. I remember it made me feel awful, especially since so few of those people ever took the time to get to know me. I’m actually a pretty good person most of the time.

Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I realize that I used to be more outspoken than I am now. And I am not entirely innocent, either. There have been people in my past who got on my nerves. I used to be less kind than I am now. Nowadays, I find myself not wanting to try to connect to people anymore. So many of them turn out to be disappointing… or I disappoint them in some way. I just want to be who I am. And I want to be able to sing a song on a karaoke site, dedicated to a long lost friend, without someone turning it into an unsolicited teaching moment.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for other people’s opinions about me. I have much less patience for unsolicited advice and verbal abuse. As a matter of fact, one way to permanently get on my grudge list is through verbal abuse. I really can’t take it anymore… and so, that leads me to be kind of socially anxious. I don’t want to try to connect to people, because I feel like it will eventually lead to somewhere unpleasant for both parties.

I think age makes a lot of people set in their ways. I am no exception. I annoy people, and they annoy me… It’s a blessing that I don’t have to deal with people very much anymore. A lot of them make me sad.

I do have fond memories of Naomi, though. She was a very kind lady and, I can see, that she left quite a mark on the world. I’m sure people still miss her very much.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, religion

“He needs to attach his ass to a Soloflex… PERMANENTLY!”

Apparently, we should all aspire to look like Melania, scowl-face, Trump…

Today’s blog post title is a direct quote uttered by my old friend, Jamie, back in the early 1990s. At the time, we were working at Busch Gardens, wearing ugly, polyester, fake lederhosen uniforms. The uniforms were as unflattering as they were uncomfortable, and had an unfortunate tendency to give us wedgies. We had a co-worker who usually suffered more than most in the heat and humidity of Virginia’s summers. Glancing over at our obviously out of shape colleague, who was dripping sweat and had recently annoyed us by being authoritative out of turn, my friend said, “He needs to attach his ass to a Soloflex.”

I probably said something inane like, “You mean he needs to work out on a Soloflex?”

“No, I mean he needs to attach his ass to one. PERMANENTLY.” Jamie snarled.

I had a good laugh at Jamie’s snark. I’ve always enjoyed his quips, which are usually acidly witty, occasionally shocking, and uniformly hilarious. I remember years later, I shared an article with him about how French men supposedly need the largest condoms in Europe. And Jamie said something along the lines of, “Well that only stands to reason, since they are the biggest dicks.”

Sometimes, I wish I could come up with obnoxious zingers so quickly. On the other hand, I do have my moments. Especially when I’m in a certain mood.

Hey Pastor Clark… here’s something for you to think about.

So what brings up today’s topic? It’s this post I read today about a pastor in Missouri who advises his female congregants to “look pretty” so their husbands won’t go astray. This dude, Stewart-Allen Clark, who looks like he ought to “attach his ass to a Soloflex… PERMANENTLY!”, as Jamie would say, told the ladies of his flock to lose weight, look hotter, and submit to their husbands’ sexual desires, so they won’t stray. And he said this with a straight face, as he looks a bit like ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag himself. Clark also told the ladies to wear makeup, choose appropriate hairstyles, dress up, and avoid looking “butch”.

Here’s the sermon in question.

This guy, walking around looking like a fucking slob, says it’s “really important” for a man to have a “beautiful woman” on his arm. He says that to your man, you “should be the most beautiful woman in the world.” Then he goes on to talk about how women “let themselves go” after they get married. Then he qualifies and says, “I know not every woman can look like a Melania Trump trophy wife… maybe you’re more of a ‘participation trophy.'”

Here’s a little mood music for Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark and his ilk.

Wow…

And as I listen to this guy speak, I can’t help but notice he ain’t no great shakes himself. And there “ain’t nothin’ attractive” about a big fat slob on a stage spouting off sexist bullshit about how women look as he talks about how “visual” men are. He says, “God made men to be drawn to ‘beautiful women'”.”

This showed up in my Facebook memories yesterday. How apropos! Guys, it goes both ways.

What qualifies a woman as “beautiful”? I know some women that most people would consider quite plain in terms of their physical appearances. It has nothing to do with their being lazy. They just weren’t blessed with what many people would consider classically attractive looks. And yet, in many ways, they are still beautiful because of some other quality that doesn’t immediately meet the eye. They’re intelligent, or quick witted, or talented in some way. They have a kind heart; or they’re generous. They’re good cooks or athletic or easy to talk to. There are so many ways a person can be “beautiful”, and not all of them are limited to the physical.

On the other hand, I can think of some women that many people consider beautiful, but they’re not good people. They’re dishonest, or narcissistic, or manipulative. They’re disloyal or irresponsible or mean. Lots of people are attracted to them because they’re nice to look at. But the minute you start speaking to them, you find out they’re shallow and callous. And they’re not much fun to be around because of that.

Pastor Clark goes on to admit that he doesn’t do marriage counseling anymore because a lot of times, when married people would come to him for advice about intimacy, he would be brutally honest and upset the wives. He says one couple came to him. She looked like a “sumo wrestler” and he was a “little guy”. The guy said he wasn’t attracted to his wife because she was a fat “beeeep”. The woman then proceeded to beat the crap out of him. Then she lost 100 pounds and got pregnant with their second child… which would, of course, cause her to gain weight.

But, I mean, seriously… Clark excuses men for looking like the Michelin Man and being all sweaty and gross. Then he says that his wife used to be quite “robust”… then someone corrects him with the word “healthy”. Oh yes, “thank you!” he says.

Then he says that she knows he looks at other women. She wants him to look at her, and nobody else. So she lost a lot of weight and goes around saying, “Food never tastes as good as skinny feels.” Clark says he’s glad that his wife understands that all men are this way… and he also loves make up. Apparently, all men like make up, too. And you don’t want to be “ugly” and “stink”… or look butch. Because God forbid you smell of hormones or sweat or menstrual fluid… or any of the other body fluids we all encounter. Don’t ruin the illusion of beauty, girls, by letting your men know that you have to shit, too.

But then I look at Clark and hope his wife doesn’t get crushed under him or repelled by his body odor and bad breath. He really ought to take his own advice… especially as he talks about how women gain weight because of thyroid and prostate problems. Hello? I don’t know any women who have prostate glands. Then he bitches about how women “always” cut their hair after they get married.

The Bible does come up. He says that men should post this on the headboards of their beds:

1 Corinthians 7:4

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

How egalitarian! But I don’t hear Clark saying that men need to look their best for their wives. I only hear him berating women for not trying hard enough… (heh heh, I said hard…) to make their men hard by looking “hawt”. And that’s the only way to keep them from straying. I also don’t hear Clark emphasizing that second part AT ALL. He’s probably a lay preacher… (heh heh, I said lay…)

I’m really lucky. My husband is a wonderful, classy, and loving man. He is intelligent, sensitive, evolved, and loyal. And he appreciates me for the way I am. I know he does. I don’t know how I got so lucky. But then, Bill didn’t choose me after seeing me across a crowded room. He chose me because I engaged his mind first. He appreciated my imagination, my sense of humor, my ability to keep him interested and the fact that I was just as interested in him. And Bill is smart enough to know that the sexiest part of anyone is not something you can see externally. It’s the mind… it’s what’s inside that matters most. I also know that Bill has already been divorced and doesn’t want to divorce again.

When the situation calls for it, yes, I do gussy up. When we go out to a nice restaurant that doesn’t require PPE, I’ll put on a dress and makeup. I fix my hair and wear jewelry. So does Bill. We still look like a cute couple, too. But if I’m just going to hang out with the dogs all day, no I’m not putting on makeup for that. I’ll be clean and brush my teeth and hair and take care of all of that other hygiene stuff. Bill doesn’t mind. He never has, because he’s a man of substance who sees beneath the surfaces of everyone. He’s probably a much better man than I deserve, to be honest.

I know there are a lot of men out there who are like Pastor Clark, though. They aren’t attracted to women who don’t “meet their standards” or ring their chimes sexually. And then, when they get older and their wives get tired of being told how fat and ugly and unappealing they are, a lot of the men wind up alone. My mom is single now. She’s happy that way. A few years ago, she decided to do a river cruise in Europe. She got many offers from men to accompany her. She declined. After years of taking care of my dad and putting up with his shit, she’s much happier on her own. Believe me, I can tell.

Rosie O’Donnell makes sense… and Donald Trump hates her for it. I’m sure that Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark does, too. Incidentally, Bill has told me his favorite parts of my body are my eyes… followed by my boobs. But if I lose my boobs because of cancer or something, I expect he’ll still love me anyway.

Anyway… I’m glad I don’t go to Pastor Clark’s church. I think he’s a hypocrite, and I don’t like hypocrisy. I hear what he’s saying about the importance of physical attraction. That is important. But it’s a two way street, and there has to be a lot more to the relationship than just physical attraction. Otherwise, you’re gonna get bored. Real women are better than fake ones… and after awhile, real women get tired of having to put on makeup, curling their hair, starving themselves, and whatever else simply to keep a man’s attention. Especially guys like Pastor Stewart-Allen Clark, who needs to attach his ass AND his mouth to a Soloflex… PERMANENTLY.

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complaints, disasters, dogs

See you next fall…

Many years ago, when I worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had a friend who worked on the Rhine River cruise ride. He was a big, strapping guy who sweated profusely and carried his lunches in Igloo coolers. I knew this guy, not just because we worked in the “German” part of Busch Gardens, but also because we were both from Gloucester, Virginia. He was the eldest of a large Irish Catholic family. I think he had eleven brothers and sisters, but I can’t say for sure. ETA: A mutual friend says that Shawn is the eldest of fourteen.

Anyway, this guy, name of Shawn, used to get a huge kick out of me. One time I asked him why he was so amused by my comings and goings. He said it was because I was always hurting myself somehow. And because I could swear a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

This morning, I’m not so proud to admit that I did both of those things. The sad thing is, this morning’s injuries come almost exactly a week after my last significant injury… significance being a relative thing. I’m not talking about broken bones or even sprains. I’m talking about scraped knees and sore muscles from breaking sudden falls.

Last week’s accident happened when I was about to walk the dogs. It was cloudy and a little rainy. I was preparing to walk the dogs when I decided to check the mailbox. Noyzi has been getting a lot braver lately, so he followed me outside. Suddenly, I had a flashback to about a year ago, when the beagle we tried to adopt escaped the pet taxi driver who had brought him to us. He panicked and took off, as we watched helplessly. Hours later, he ended up getting killed on the Autobahn, which is very close to our house. Watching our would-be family member run to his death was devastating. We had been so looking forward to having him, only to see him take off running before we even got to pet him.

Noyzi runs like a locomotive. I don’t think he wants to run away. He seems to enjoy being a pet. He has his own big bed, doesn’t have to fight over food, and loves to take walks. He also seems to like me a lot, although he’s still afraid of Bill. Still, I knew that if he got spooked, as he occasionally does sometimes, I might be shit out of luck in getting him back. He is really fast! I panicked a bit when he came outside. I made a grab for his collar, but missed. I fell down, having lost my balance, and made another grab for him, which I missed. He quickly hit the deck, peeing submissively in the process. I tore off part of a thumbnail and badly scraped my right knee. I also got a big bruise.

It hurt. Falling down is not as painless when you’re middle aged. I literally saw stars and felt nauseous after I fell. Like, I might have been in danger of fainting from the sharp pain. I yelled a bit, because I was pissed off, humiliated, and hurt.

Healing takes longer, too. That knee is already pretty badly scarred from other spills, including one that happened during the summer of 1991, when I was working at Busch Gardens. That was by far the worst knee scrape I’ve ever had. I had just finished work and was taking my till to the cash control office when I slipped on the pebbly walkway. Because it was dark outside and had just rained, I didn’t realize how badly I was hurt until I went into cash control and handed over the till. I looked down and saw blood streaming from my knee. I asked the teller if she had any paper towels. She got a load of my knee and called the first aid office, who carted me off to the first aid station and patched me up. It took weeks for the wound to heal and I still have a deep scar.

So all last week, my knee has itched, bled, stung, and throbbed. My right thumbnail hurt like a motherfucker, since I broke the nail at the quick. As of today, it doesn’t hurt anymore, since the nail has grown. I’d say that injury, at least, is about recovered. But then I renewed my clutzy woes this morning.

Arran woke up at about 4:30am. He wanted his breakfast, since I didn’t have much of a dinner last night and he got few scraps. I got up, let him and Noyzi out, and fed them. Then I went back upstairs, but noticed that Arran hadn’t followed me. I know this trick. Arran will often stay behind and stealth pee if I don’t watch him. Not wanting to clean up an unnecessary mess, I went back downstairs to get Arran. Somehow, I tripped on a shoe. I remember feeling horrified as my ankle wobbled and I went down on my nice rug.

Mrs. Fletcher and I have something in common.

“FUCK!” I screamed. For the second time in a week, Arran was looking at me with a mixture of concern and fear. The expression on his face was like, “oh dear… she’s fallen and can’t get up!”

Yes, I literally screamed and wailed, in part because I was hurting, but also because I’m angry and frustrated. Because now, not only did I reopen the wound on my right knee and undo a week’s healing, but I also now have a scraped left knee and my left big toe is fucked up. This time the scrape is on the top part of the knee. It’s more of a rug burn, so I don’t think the flesh wound will take as long to recover. However, I also have a big bruise on top of the knee, and walking hurts. Add in the normal pain and stiffness I experience just for being old and fat, and you have someone whose Monday has gotten off completely wrong!

The kicker is, I’m supposed to drive somewhere today. It’s literally been months since I last drove anywhere. Like, it’s been so long, I don’t remember when I was last behind the wheel. It might have been in 2019, it was so long ago. And I have to drive the Volvo, because my car’s tires are low on air and even if I wanted to drive on low tires, I’d need to move Bill’s car anyway. Bill has been trying to find a working air pump at a gas station, but for some reason, the Wiesbaden area is low on functioning air pumps. We’ll probably end up ordering one.

Fortunately, the Volvo practically drives itself, and I only need to go about two or three kilometers. But the reason I have to drive is because I need to drop off a sample of Arran’s shit at the vet’s office. That just seems like a perfect Monday morning chore, doesn’t it? I still need to collect one sample before I go, too… and I’m not sure I can manage our usual walk today. My left knee really hurts. But the sun is out, and the dogs need the exercise. I need it too, but maybe only after I put on knee pads and elbow guards. Shawn would be so proud to see that nothing has changed since the 1990s, except now I’m older, heavier, and even more profane.

I haven’t even had an alcoholic drink since Saturday afternoon, so I can’t even blame this on being drunk. At least I finally finished binge watching Growing Pains.

You’d think I played rugby.
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memories

The Zipper…

Special thanks to Wikipedia user David Carroll, who gave permission to use his photo, which I have not altered.

A friend of mine recently posted a photo of a local fair in her town that had just ended. There were still a couple of rides set up, but they were in the process of being dismantled so they could be moved to their next stop on the carnival circuit. I noticed one of the rides was The Zipper.

I always cringe when I see The Zipper at any rinky dink county fair. I made the mistake of riding it once, back in 1983. I was eleven years old and my dad, the adrenaline junky, had taken me to Virginia’s State Fair. I think it was the first time I ever went, although two years later, I would start showing my horse there at the state 4H horse show. Showing my horse at the fair was a whole lot more fun than just going as a visitor. Unfortunately, the 4H show is no longer done at the state fairgrounds. They have it at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington instead.

Rusty and me, showing at the State Fair of Virginia… I miss these days.

I really enjoyed visiting the State Fair as a spectator. I loved the greasy food and campy rides. The Zipper looked like it would be fun. It was shaped kind of like an oblong ferris wheel, with cars on it that looked like apostrophes. The cars each seat two people and can spin. Riders get in the car and are held down by a lap bar and bars on the doors to hold onto. Riders must hold onto the bars or they will smash into the door. The oblong “boom” rotates as the cars spin and it’s very disorienting. My dad really enjoyed it, but I was absolutely petrified. I remember crying and screaming in terror as my dad laughed at me. He loved the ride and, perhaps, seeing me so scared out of my wits.

This ride scared the shit out of me. I was terrified. My dad thought it was hilarious.
My reaction probably wasn’t unlike this boy’s, although at age 11, I wasn’t quite his size, nor did I have benefit of a harness. A lot of people seem to think this is very funny. I suppose it is for those who aren’t in that situation… but I can relate to how scared he was, so I don’t think it’s particularly funny. I feel sorry for him.

People have died on The Zipper. It was created in 1968 and patented in 1971, but it took a few years before they got the safety standards down. In some cases, the doors have opened while the ride was in operation and people have fallen to their deaths. Four people were killed in 1977 when the doors opened. In 2006, despite enhanced safety measures, two teenaged girls from Hinckley, Minnesota were badly hurt when their compartment door opened. The ride operator later admitted that he hadn’t property secured the door with an “R” key before starting the ride. Since Erica Matrious and Breanna Larsen survived the accident, they were able to be interviewed about what happened. Newer Zippers have an enhanced and supposedly safer door system. I still would never get on that ride again. I’m way too chicken.

I think later that summer, my parents took me to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. Years later, I would work there, but as a kid, I’d go just for overpriced fun. Somehow, we talked my mom into getting on the Battering Ram. I wasn’t all that scared of the Battering Ram. It was basically like a big swing. My mom, however, hated it. I was surprised she hated it, since it really didn’t seem that bad to me. Now that I’m older, I get it. Bill hates rides, too, which is one reason why I don’t get to visit amusement parks anymore.

This was fun for me, but my mom hated it…

A couple of weeks ago, I called my mom and we talked about our memories of my dad getting us on rides that scared us shitless. My dad was a classic adrenaline junky. He loved doing dangerous things. One time, he and my mom went to Colorado to go white water rafting. I don’t know how he managed to talk her into getting in a raft. She did it and said she was glad she did… although she never wanted to do it again. Mom says she doesn’t even like riding a porch swing. But my dad… well, he was the exact opposite.

The tour guides for the Colorado rafting company told their group that there was a cliff available for jumping off of. They would take a picture. And if anyone in the group wanted to take the plunge, the guide would also do it. Well… my dad was the only one in the group who raised his hand. My mom said she thought he regretted taking the leap. He might have even been a bit hurt by it physically. However, we do have a hilarious photo of him in mid air with a definite WTF look on his face.

I’ve noticed a lot of the men in our family are adrenaline junkies. They love to take physical risks. I can’t say I share that propensity to take risks. I will take a risk if I must, but I don’t do it for sheer pleasure. I am aware of the things that can go wrong and that makes me hesitate before taking action. Even “fun” carnival rides can lead to life changing tragedies. I’ve read of too many people being killed or disabled due to someone else’s negligence. I have enough aches and pains.

I almost fell off of this ride once, back in the 80s.

I think the rides over here in Europe are scarier than what I used to see growing up in the States, although I once had a very scary experience on Da Vinci’s Cradle at Busch Gardens in Virginia. Back when the ride was first opened, the only restraints they used was a lap bar. At that time, I was still pretty small. I got on the ride and as it became more “thrilling”, I slipped under the bar. I remember holding on for dear life as the ride continued. Fortunately, I was strong enough to hang on until the ride stopped. Today, I would never have that problem. Not only am I too big to slide under the bar, I’m also less interested in getting on the rides. Life is “thrilling” enough as it is.

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