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.