Melissa's recent posts talking about Malcom Lowrey's novel Under the Volcano
got me to thinking about the book again. In particular, it got me to thinking
about the ferris wheel scene. But it is strange the circular way things
sometimes have of coming before our perception; and so I got to thinking
about a ferris wheel ride I took in Dallas in 1985.
I was with my friend Jim. We had decided to go over to lower Greenville
to hit the surplus store and the bars. In the course of that we ran into
one of these little neighborhood carnivals that they will sometimes hold
in parking lots. We wandered through the little carnival and, having about
four beers in us each at that point, figured it would be a really great idea
to take a ride on the fairly good size ferris wheel they had.
We paid for our tickets and stood in the short line. Eventually we climbed
into one of the cage-type gondolas and the carnival guy made sure our seat
belts were nice and snug and slammed the gondola door. A few seconds later
the gondola moved forward a bit, and then stopped to load the next riders
into the gondola behind us.
Now, ferris wheel gondolas are designed on a hinge system that allows
the gondola to rock a bit but which keeps you basically head-up and
feet-down through the ride. But as they loaded the next people on, I got
a little bored. At the front of the gondola, and on my side, there was a
thin steel bar. Boredom led to curiosity. I reached up and pulled it.
Then the gondola moved forward again. And when it did, I realized that
the hinge mechanism on the gondola was now locked. I reached up and
grabbed the steel bar again and tried to slide it back into its original
position. But it wouldn't budge. "Oh this just CAN'T be good…" I said
The ferris wheel started revolving. And Jim and me revolved also, but
when our gondola got to just over the top of the loop we were now head
over heels. "Mild astronaut training!" I yelled out to Jim. "Just mild
astronaut training!" Jim screamed back at me. I figured that eventually
the guy running the ferris wheel would notice that our gondola was locked
and stop the thing. But that didn't happen. Jim and me took the whole ride
I can say that neither of us puked or peed our pants. Which was some
consolation. And of course after our ordeal we just had to hit the nearest
bar and have another three or four beers to recouperate from our
I don't think that me and Jim were ever in any real danger. The gondolas
were enclosed, so there was no chance that we would fall out. The worst
that might have happened was that our seat belts would have slipped or
broken from the strain and we would have fallen a bit inside the gondola
and broken our necks. I have also wondered over the years if locking the
gondola might have caused some weight inbalance that would make the
ferris wheel unstable. But if that is the case, it didn't happen on that
particular ferris wheel on that particular day.
Looking back on it, it really is a wonder I'm alive today with some of the
stupid things I've done in my life. "But I am here" as Samuel Beckett wrote.
Yeah, I'm here. At least for now.
HELPFUL HINT: Don't touch ANYTHING on a ferris wheel ride. And I wouldn't
exactly trust merry-go-rounds, either.