No.20: Being On A Fairground Ride And Noticing Bits Falling Off

Or sundry experiences to that effect. The point of many fairground rides is to scare us. To scare us safely one might add, but if they were not dangerous would they encourage the fear so much? Scary things get with the fear, and anyway it is not just the rides which bring on the fear at the fair.

Imagine if you will that you had designed some sort of fiendishly clever death defying ride. You have worked out all the stresses, tensions and possible things which could go wrong and worked out sure fire ways to stop the punters from getting hurt. Of course this is a fine art, and your precision engineering will stop people from getting hurt.

Then you hand it over to a tattooed neanderthal who is probably only working at a fair because he is on the run from society (possibly for a crime he did not commit but probably for a crime he did). His knowledge of engineering is such that if a bit falls off his motorbike he will stick it back on with sellotape. He is of the opinion that “scream if you want to go faster” leaves us adequate ways to tell him that we do not want to go faster that he will notice. He is, fundamentally, the last person you want to entrust your life with. And he is the reason bits fall off of fairground rides.

Wooden rollercoasters where the “safety bar” comes down, but seems to go back up again. Ferris Wheels which stop when you are half the way round to dangle in the wind. I was at Alton Towers once in the ‘coaster called “The Beast” Its schtick was that you were not strapped in. It should not have been that you got stuck at the top of the ride in the rain with no way forward or backwards.

Fairground rides are supposed to be scary. That is why they are fun. But when bits fall off mid-flow, or a funny rattle sets in, or people on the ground wave at you in a panicked way: it stops being fun. And it starts being frightening.