I collect bits of writing that strike me, & thought I might begin sharing as I come across them.

I’m especially keen on the last paragraph below, which captures exactly the emotion I always had, stepping onto rides at the Illinois State Fair.

But I never put it into words:

Last month at the Ohio State Fair, 24 people boarded a ride called the Fireball. In the middle of one of its pendulum swings, a cluster of seats broke off and flew horribly through the air, passengers still inside. Someone put a video on YouTube. When news stations broadcast it later, they cut off the video before the inevitable crash, but viewers could still see the helplessness of flailing limbs, and people upside down where they shouldn’t be. One person died, an 18-year-old bound for the Marines. Seven others were injured.

A week later, while officials were still mining the cause — “excessive corrosion,” the eventual report said — thousands of people stood in line at carnivals around the country for all-you-can-ride wristbands.


The horror of “excessive corrosion” is that it was apparently an internal problem. The Fireball ride had been manufactured in the Netherlands 18 years ago. It had been inspected at least three times since it was assembled in Columbus, officials said. Nobody could see that the internal beam was rusted out and useless until it snapped off.

It made the news because it was awful, and because it was awful in exactly the ways we have always feared. A thing the height of a four-story building should not be able to be assembled and disassembled overnight. There shouldn’t be so much rattling when you climb into it. It shouldn’t sound as if there’s something loose inside.

‘It’s fun to be scared’: Life and mortality at the carnival By Monica Hesse August 14, 2017 | Washington Post

Yes! Yes! Yes!

A thing 4 stories high should not rattle.

At all.

Also, while we’re on the subject: creaking and groaning. A thing 4-stories high should not creak and groan. Which way too many of them do.

That it should not sound as if it’s got loose parts rolling around inside goes without saying, though when a writer says it this well, I make an exception.

One thought on “Keeper

  1. Many amusement parks have both steel and wooden roller coasters. In part, the reason people like wooden roller coasters is specifically that they bang around, rattle, and groan when you ride them. The perception of danger adds to the thrill. (FWIW, I prefer high-speed steel coasters, though more for comfort than because of that perception.)

    It’s obviously a tragedy that a person was killed and several more were seriously injured. But given the number of people who ride thrill rides every year (both in big parks an in traveling carnivals), their safety record is pretty exemplary. Here, the people involved (by all accounts) were acting responsibly, and a previously unforeseen danger (an unknown unknown) caused an accident. It is not reasonable to expect that things never break in dangerous ways. And now inspectors are looking for this failure mode, reducing the chance that it will happen in the future.

    Should you choose to visit a carnival or an amusement park, be careful in the car. As usual, the drive to the “danger” is the most dangerous part of the day.


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