Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Amusement Parks: Modern Torture for the Modern Mom

When I was a kid (yes I remember back that far thank you very much) I used to look forward to going to Kennywood Park. Every year the entire school district would shut down, buses would show up in front of each school, and the whole community would pack up and spend the day riding roller coasters, ferris wheels and carousels. For one day we were all equal--we all had enough tickets to keep us sufficiently dizzy and subsequently ill, and we always took a few extra dollars for Potatoe Patch fries.

I'm not sure when I stopped going to Kennywood. I think it was during my college years. Money was tight, and it seemed like there was always something "better" to do. When I had kids of my own I was determined to rediscover the lure of the amusement park and let my brood enjoy those thrills of days gone by. In the past fourteen years, I've taken the kids probably a half dozen times, but this last visit has me wondering where the hell the magic has gone.

First, this park of my youth is no longer a "buy-tickets-to-ride" kind of park. No, they've advanced to the "Ride All Day" pass--and it will cost you $32.00 EACH to enjoy it. Ok, so that's a little much, right? Unless, of course, you go after 5 pm. Then you can buy a "Night Rider" ticket for a mere $17.50. Considering I no longer "ride" but prefer instead to enjoy the benches, that seemed a little high, but it was for the kids...and I had to keep reminding myself of just that.

We arrived at 5 pm on the nose to find that the HUNDREDS of parking spots provided were full. Yep. Not a spot to be had. Except, of course, in the shopping center 1/2 mile from the entrance. The good news was that Kennywood was providing shuttle buses. Oh good. We waited fifteen minutes for the shuttle and were the first to board. Thank GOD we sat in the front, because by the time we were ready to shoot for the entrance, it was standing room only (which incidentally included standing on my FEET, as evidenced by the 100 lb. red headed kid who planted his sneakers on my arches). I commented to the driver that I had never had to park so far away, to which he replied, "This is only the second time this year it's been this crowded." Great.

So it's off the shuttle and in line for tickets. We ended up behind Ms. Congeniality 1981--a woman who sometime in the past thirty years has lost the will to BE congenial and instead looks at the rest of us with great contempt (presumably because the years have also taken their toll on her once perky breasts and tiny ass). She glared, hissed and snarled her way to the front of the line at which point she mercifully left her husband to pay the admission. After paying a small fortune, we all FINALLY entered the park. It was already 6 pm--one hour from lot to park. Things weren't looking good.

The boys took off in one direction, promising to meet up with us in a predetermined location in two hours, and Michael and I took Kaeleigh and headed for Kiddie Land (an area of the park reserved for squealing, screaming, over-sugared children all under 40"). Kaeleigh's lit up like a Christmas tree as we closed in on the first of the kid-friendly rides, while my eyes quickly sent a message to my brain--1/2 hour lines. Yep. Kids of all colors, sizes and temperments, each with an overheated adult in tow (have I yet mentioned it was still 80 degrees?) were lined up, one after the other, in snake-like rows, each awaiting their turn to take a 60 second ride. Michael was sport enough to ride the first one WITH Kaeleigh--"Pounce Bounce", and I was happily snapping photos from a nearby bench (to which I was practically stuck by the time they were done). From there it was off to the Dumbo ride, where Kaeleigh was content to sit in a large plastic elephant by herself as it spun in circles and moved up and down in nauseating lurches. As she was finally coming down, I spotted the train weaving through the trees just off to our right. I convinced Michael and Kaeleigh that it would be great fun, and both begrudgingly agreed to humor me. It was another 1/2 hour wait to work through the line for the railroad ride, made only that much more intolerable by the howling mannequin put in by someone with a truly warped sense of humor. When we finally got to the train, I was able to find us a comfy seat under the canopy and sat back to relax. The swelling in my feet was just beginning to wane when we came to the end of the track, and we were once again forced into the heat. Two more rides, an icecream line that seemed to start half way across the park, and a game of "Guess My Age", and I was ready for bed. It was only 8 pm.

And so my friends, my still swollen feet, aching legs and pounding head are all testament to the fact that amusement parks are, indeed, modern torture. I am already dreading next year's trip to Kennywood and coming up with alternative locations. What do you MEAN I'm OLD?


Anonymous said...

Btw...just to clear up any lingering questions...I'm the one in the pic WITHOUT the bulging eyes :)

Misty said...

Sorry...I'm still confused. Which one are you? ;) Love ya babe....

Anonymous said...

ok to clarify things further...I'm the one with the tired legs from walking miles and the gooey stomach from going on all the kiddy rides...most may think that my stance was deliberate for photographing purposes, but in fact after all that sitting and being thrown about, it was the position i was stuck in :(
N.B. Uninteresting fact of the day....the dogs name is an anagram of our second name.