Here I am in St. Louis, on business, but staying with Betsy and Alex. I love being here (although I miss my boys so much), and I am loving spending some time with Taya. What a dolly she is. She wrinkles up her nose and scrunches her eyes closed and grins with her one little tooth. And the cheeks, oh the cheeks. What a babe. I'll be here until Thursday, when I'm off to Minneapolis for some more meetings. Back in Music City Friday afternoon.
I've figured out the trick to keeping my readers interested! Throw in a little near-death experience! I've spent a few days thinking about our trip to the fair, and I guess I'm ready to expound upon our troubles there. So the waiting is over...
We spent most of Sunday at the fair, but before we left, we told Owen he could pick one ride. There were so many that he had a very hard time choosing. We finally settled on the kiddle coaster, because he met the height requirement, and I could ride with him. So we bought our tickets and got into the very front car. The ride was empty except for us in the front, and an older boy behind us, maybe 10 or 12 years old. We went round and round on the coaster, and Owen didn't like it. He wasn't crying or upset by any means, but he kept saying that it was "too bumpy" and he was done. After about three passes around, we pulled into the station area and slowed down. I thought the ride was over, but we actually started around again. Maybe because the ride was so empty, I don't know. Owen was upset about this - not crying or screaming, not scared, but he was tired of the bumping and ready to get off. As we approached the highest point of the coaster (Keith estimates the highest point at about 20 feet, but we weren't quite there yet), all of a sudden, the front of the coaster goes off the track. I watched the front wheel mechanism fly out in front of us, and I realized we were no longer on the track. At this point, we started leaning inwards, towards the middle of the track, which just happened to be the side Owen was on.
So as we dangled there, I listened to the screams of the people on the ground. And I thought. Although we probably hung there for only a few short minutes, I seemed to have plenty of time to think. My very first thought was - how bad is this going to hurt before we die, and how quickly will we fall? My second thought was - is there anything at all I can do to get Owen out of here? And I knew immediately that there was not. We were going over the edge (hanging there already, actually), we were in the front, and he was on the side to which we were falling. We were lost. So then I thought about why this was happening. Why Owen? He's only two years old, after all, and there are a lot of things left for him to do. Then I thought about how this would split my little family into two - with Keith and Ari (who was snoozing in the stroller) waiting for us below, and Owen and I fixing to meet our fate in the Orient Express coaster disaster of 2005. No kidding, I actually had time to think all this, to reevaluate my life, to see in my mind's eye (and a million times since) my 2-year old sailing 20 feet down, underneath a pile of metal. You think that won't traumatize you? You think I don't wake up sweaty after seeing that in a nightmare?
So then the operator, trying to get us to safety, puts the train in reverse. Immediately the front of the car (us) pops a 4-foot wheelie into the air and slammed back down onto the track. And thank God it did. I can't imagine what would have happened if it had slammed back down and missed the track (actually, I can, and I did). This is when I heard the crowd scream again. And then he backed us into the station. Of course, Owen was screaming and hysterical, and I was shaking so bad, I couldn't move. I yelled at the operator to open the lapbar, screamed at him. He didn't speak much English, and kept telling me, "No problem, no problem." I'm sure he was almost as scared as we were. He opened our lapbar, and I handed my son out to him. I made it out of the cart, but not down the stairs to the ground level. I was shaking too badly. Keith grabbed Owen and was able to comfort him. The crowed was riled up, yelling at the operator to shut down the ride. Other people were pulling at me, asking if I was okay, trying to hug me. I really just wanted to get to Keith and the boys. I was so shaken up. Keith held us all for a few minutes until we could calm down.
So that was that. We did get our tickets back for the ride (thanks), and the management offered to give Owen an armband so he could ride all day for free. I swear, when she said that, I almost punched her. It will be a freezing cold day in hell before we set foot on another roller coaster. And she thought I'd put my baby back on her rides. Bollocks.
We're both okay, no aches or pains, and Owen doesn't appear to remember much beyond "that bumpy ride that we didn't like." I'll recover, when it's less fresh in my mind's eye. And we've learned a good lesson about roller coasters (hopefully you have, too).
On the way back to the car, Ari woke up and reached for Keith and grinned the happy grin of the oblivious. "Baby," Keith told him, "you don't know what you just missed." I find it scarier still to think about what he could have missed.