By Stephanie Hickner
Not all rainy days are riddled with bad luck. More often than not, I will tread through a dreary, wet, Thursday, feeling as if the sidewalks are paved with gold. When skies are clear and weather is temperate, however, it’s as if that gold turned to quicksand. There. That’s something I never learned from a book. I never understood why scary stories would begin with, “it was a cold and dreary night.” Because what if the horror happened in the bright, August sun, no cloud in the sky, and just enough of a breeze to dry any perspiration that might form on your face? It’s very much possible.
The chance of rain is something I never pay attention to whenever I’m planning a trip. I try not to let water droplets dictate my pastime. I was once attending the festival my small town had arranged. They blocked off all roads leading to the court house; food venders, craft makers, and carnival games lined the sidewalk. It was close to dusk, where the sky was just starting to change to periwinkle. It was warm, and there was a slightly high humidity. Not enough to leave pools of sweat on the plastic carnival ride seats, but just enough to make you uncomfortable, no matter how you sat or stood. As I walked, hand in hand with my friend, I could hear small sketches of conversation.
“What you want? A candy apple?”
“Well I get to choose next ride and we’re going on the Rock O Plane.”
“News lady said it’s gon’ rain ‘round seven thirty.”
“Well you’ll get ten tickets now and ten after we eat dinner.”
Close to the giant Egyptian boat ride that rocks it’s passengers back and forth in an unsettling manner, a boy was standing as straight as he could next to a sign. He was on his tiptoes, trying to convince his mom he was finally tall enough to be rocked into weightless oblivion by a Pharoah boat. A small girl to the left of him was carrying a stuffed animal so large, it looked like a living, fluffy bear had somehow made it into the festival.
My friend and I were making a trek to the scariest ride at the entire event. The Rock O Plane. I know, it probably doesn’t seem scary, does it? Well, this ride was special. Each passenger car was shaped like an egg. The bottom half of the car was hard steel and the top half was metal grating. As the wheel that the eggs were fixed on rotated, so did the eggs. The passenger cars would make their way around the outside of the wheel like a normal ride. However, the cars would spin too. Making the passengers flip upside down, and around.
The scariest and most unsettling thing about this ride, as with most town carnival rides, is the concern of safety. Sure, the ride isn’t Mr. Freeze from Six Flags, but it probably hadn’t been inspected since 1999. With rusted doors, creaking passenger cars, chipped paint, and a rather untrustworthy ride operator, you just didn’t know when your next broken arm was going to happen, or worse. And that was the real danger. Not the idea of the ride, but it’s condition.
But my friend and I were ready. We were finally 10 years old and we thought nothing could stop us now.
“You’re not too scared, are you?” she asked. Crooked smirk overwhelming her face.
“Not I’m not scared. I’ve been on upside down roller coasters and I never even put my hands down for one second.” That was a lie. I cried the entire ride and held tightly onto my mom’s hands.
“Yeah well, those roller coasters have probably been inspected in the last 20 years.” She replied.
“No. I’m ready.”
We slowly made our way over to the ride. I was able to spot it from a block away because of it’s bright, neon blue lights. It spun quite slow, really. What didn’t was the individual cars. It was dependent on who was riding in the car. But if you rode with some teenagers in there, they would spin the car so fast, flipping upside down and right side up, you would cross your fingers the ride didn’t fall apart. My heart was beating fast, but not out of fear, anticipation. By this age, I had learned to appreciate the rush of adrenaline, so I welcomed it.
Once we passed all the food venders smelling of fried vegetables and sweet elephant ears (all so tempting, but I would have never even considered eating before doing what we were about to do) we made it to the ride. It was much larger when you came close, the circular frame was about as wide the moon, and it was about 20 feet taller than it too. At least, that’s what I perceived in my young age. The metal sign that was fixtured accross it read, “Rock O Plane.” The letters looked similar to Back to the Future font, and the corners of each letter were no longer blue, but rusted brown. The cars were white and blue, and one was spinning so fast, it just looked like a baby blue toy top. It’s passengers were two teenage girls and a boy that must have been 17, who was wearing all black and turning the metal rod with all his might, spinning the car faster and faster. The girls were screaming for him to stop, but he had this evil look in his eye I will never forget. I knew that car was not slowing down.
My friend and I got in what we thought was the line. We stepped behind a young girl with pig tails and her dad wearing a ribbed white tank top with tufts of fur peeking out from his neck line.
“See,” I said to my friend, “if that little girl can do it, so can we.”
“Yeah you sure can,” Said the ride operator who had a tattoo of a spider web on his elbow, noticeable from my height, “But you’re gonna have to wait. Line’s way back there, ladies.”
We took a step back and looked behind us. The line stretched down the sidewalk, the people waiting were giving us dirty looks on our alleged attempt to cut in line.
“We’ll be here for an hour!” My friend stomped her boots slowly, back slouched, to the back of the line.
“Oh well, at least we can practice this paddle ball thing.” I said optimistically.
The line did seem like it took forever with my childlike patience. Every few minutes or so, we would scooch forward three steps. I started to drown out all outside noise and only focus on my paddle ball. I saw kids walking around the festival who had mastered it, and I wanted to be one of those kids. Something that continually interrupted my focus was a man who ran a game close to the Rock O Plane. He had a microphone and a thick Australian accent, and was basically begging any passerby to play his water gun game that we all knew was rigged.
“Come on, come on. I know you want this pink bunny. Get your mom to let you play, it’s loads of fun!”
Part of me wondered what got this man to be working for a carnival when he was so clearly from Australia. What choices in life get you to begging children to play a game where they shoot water at a bullseye in southern, hick town, Indiana?
That was when I felt the first drop of rain. I looked into the sky and it was a bright pink. It didn’t seem like a storm was coming, but then again, I could not see what the sky looked like anywhere around me. I knew I felt the drop. At first I thought it might have been spillage from the boy’s sno cone in front of me, but I was not mistaken, it was rain. I didn’t mention anything to my friend because I didn’t want her to change her mind and head home. But then a tall, blonde girl in front of me mentioned it instead.
“No it’s definitely raining. Are you sure you still want to stay in this line?” his older sister asked the boy with the sno cone.
“No… I guess not. Let’s just find Momma and head home.”
My friend tugged my shirt, “Stephanie. It’s raining. No one will be in line!! Let’s wait it out.” I was so pleased by her reaction. Rain never bothered me in the slightest. I could be having a picnic in the pouring rain and continue to eat my soggy sandwich. I refuse to let a little water ruin my time.
So, we stood there watching people leave the line, one by one. Before we knew it, we were face to face with the ride operator.
“Did that spider web tattoo hurt?”
“Oh yeah. Tattoos hurt real bad little lady.”
“Hey, we’re still okay to ride this, even though it’s raining?”
“Oh yeah, this little bit of rain won’t hurt ya. If we see one bolt of lightning though, we’re gettin you off pronto.”
My friend and I gave each other quick, thrilled looks. It was our turn. The ride operator opened the door to the passenger car and a group of boys piled out. One fell to his knees, looking green. The ride operator gave the boy some water and walked him to his parents who were off to the side, seemingly concerned. My heart pounded faster and faster. The raindrops fell on my shirt and hair, making them damp and sticky. I knew since I was slightly wet, I would slide around in the car’s slick seat.
The ride operator motioned us with his hand to load the car. He tightened our belts, then swung the metal door and it screeched shut. He took two L shaped rods and slid them into place in the door. My friend and I sat patiently on the metal seat. There was the metal pole horizontally in front of us. We looked at it as if it were prey. We knew when the ride started turning, we were going to spin as fast as we possibly could.
“Hang tight ladies!!” The ride operator shouted.
And off we went. As soon as our car jolted upward, we turned the pole as fast as we could. Spinning and spinning, for one second we would be up side down, the next we would be right side up. I could feel my stomach flip and hair fall off my face. Rain drops would still enter our car every once in a while, and everything was quite slippery. But that didn’t matter. We spun until our arms were too tired
then we would just leave our car upside down while we rode as you normally would on a plain ferris wheel. We thought this was the funniest thing on earth.
Once the ride was over, we looked back at the front, and realized there was very little people still at the festival. Only the ones who didn’t mind a little rain. And there was no line to this ride. So my friend and I rode it over and over until we ran out of tickets.
And then we ate ice cream under a tree on a picnic table by the courthouse. Mine was vanilla but the rain drops would fall down on it, leaving it to taste more metallic.