I like to search the Internet in hopes of finding odd holidays each month. I discovered one for March: “I Want You to be Happy Day.” I cannot attest to whether this is a legitimate celebration, but let’s just go with it.
Today happens to be “I Want You to be Happy Day,” so here’s my unselfish gesture in hopes of making you smile today–an embarrassing story from my teenage years. I have affectionately titled this one “The Rides of My Life.” Names have been changed to protect the innocent, because this story might not make them happy, and it’s not “I Want You to be Unhappy Day.”
One dull afternoon during the summer before my freshman year of high school, I got a phone call from my friend Rita. Her older sister Shelly had offered to drive her, our friend Lola, and me to an amusement park for the afternoon. Not only that, but she’d agreed to let two of our guy friends join us. Rita’s call felt like cool rain quenching the parched soil of my teenage summer day.
Since my mama was out grocery shopping, I couldn’t ask her permission to go until after she got home (remember the days before cell phones?). But I wanted to ensure that Mama would say “yes,” so I started cleaning our house like the woman on a mission that I was. By the time Mama arrived, the house was noticeably cleaner, although she didn’t seem so impressed with my work once she learned I wanted to ask her for something. I practically hopped from foot to foot explaining our plans to her. She gave me the thumbs-up, and I rushed around getting ready, packing my purse.
All five of us kids plus Shelly crowded into her little tan hatchback, and I don’t think anybody wore a seat belt. There weren’t enough to go around. With the windows rolled down to keep cool (since the vehicle had no air conditioner), we played “Truth or Dare” while Shelly sped us away from our small town and toward the city on the coast where we’d play at Fun Time USA.
Once we arrived, the boys went in one direction, the girls in another, and I have no recollection of where Rita’s older sister went. Rita, Lola, and I enjoyed the Tilt-a-Whirl, laughing and screaming the whole time. When that ride ended, we jumped off and made our way to the next one. Later we caught up with the boys and had some fun with them—I’m not sure we actually spent much time with the boys that day, but simply having them on this trip elevated the adventure in our boy-crazy minds.
As the sun began to set and our time at the park came to a close, Lola, Rita, and I wanted to take a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl one more time. We were the only passengers on this ride, so we asked the operator if we could go several times in a row. He agreed, so we piled into one of the bowl-shaped seating areas ready for some fun. As our bowl spun round and round the platform with the other seat compartments, and then spun individually at the same time, we squealed and begged the operator to make our bowl spin faster. He gave us our wish. The ride stopped and then started again; then stopped and started for a third time. At some point, my shrieks of glee turned to desperate groans.
When the ride ground to a halt, the three of us stumbled out of our seats and shuffled our Keds tennis shoes off the platform. We all complained of feeling queasy. I quickly realized my feeling was turning into action, and whatever had gurgled around in my stomach during those repetitive rides was making its way back up.
Horrified, I confessed to my friends I had to vomit. They followed me to the public restroom, where I retched while they waited for me. One of the other girls threw up later in the parking lot of a mall near the amusement park. I begged my friends not to tell the boys who had come with us. I was actually the oldest of our little group that day (not counting Rita’s big sister, of course); Rita and Lola and the two boys were only entering eighth grade, while I was going into HIGH SCHOOL. The thought that those boys might find out I couldn’t hold my Tilt-a-Whirl rides embarrassed me to no end. I’m not sure if those boys discovered my secret, although I think they suspected it. We played some more “Truth and Dare” on the drive home, and I’ve never stepped foot on a Tilt-a-Whirl again.
For almost eighteen years, that afternoon at the park would remain the last time I threw up. And it all could have been avoided if we’d been content with just one—or even two—rides on that old Tilt-a-Whirl. As my daddy says, it was too much candy for a nickel. Or, in this case, too much fun at Fun Time USA.