All kinds of things made neighborhood kids drool in anticipation of summer. When the last bell rang at school, bursting out of the doors energized us like little else could.
Summer brought the ice cream man with that famliar gong that summoned kids from ball games, swimming pools, tree forts, bike rides, chores, and music lessons. The brightly colored van with pictures of deliciousness all over it was impossible to resist.
Baseball games in the street, played with a tennis ball, made kids feel like they were in the big leagues. Nothing flies like a tennis ball smacked with a baseball bat. Our all-time pitcher even bounced the ball up to home plate to give everyone an extra easy chance to swing away and get a hit.
“Pitcher’s-hand-out-for-first” meant no one was needed on first base. If the pitcher got the ball before we reached first base, we were out.
Tennis balls are soft enough that no kid felt left out if they didn’t have a glove.
There is nothing like riding a bike in a parking lot. The school we just escaped from offered the best place to zoom in any direction without having to think about cars and dogs.
Of all the fun things neighborhood kids looked forward to in summer, nothing matched the carnival at Green Acres Shopping Center. It was like having a mini-amusement park within easy reach of our street. We dropped hints and reminded our parents that discount coupons were available from all of the stores.
Going to the Green Acres Carnival at night was the best. We loved the beautiful flashing lights, the music, the sounds of the rides, and the barkers promising easy wins if we just tried their games.
My favorite ride was always the “Tilt-A-Whirl.” The shell felt safe and it seemed like we were in control of how fast the car spun, plastering us to the back of the seat. Of course we had no control whatsoever.
There was another ride called “Scrambler” that made us feel like we would crash into the other cars, which was the point.
I watched the “Loop-O-Plane.” It was two cars side by side, each with two cages, back to back, on the end of long poles. I could clearly see the cars went upside down but they always returned to right-side-up. I also noticed that one cage went backward, the good side went forward. How bad could it be?
There were a few details I missed. I didn’t notice the cars were stopped upside down, at the top of the loop, while the operator ate cotton candy, a corn dog, drank a Coke, and talked with the girls waiting their turn. I didn’t see the cars spinning sideways as they travelled. I didn’t see everyone went forward and backward. I didn’t see a rider throw up, leaving chunks in the screen.
I talked myself into riding the Loop-O-Plane. When the guy locked the cage I knew I was tempting the Lord and would pay an awful price. I began to repent.
The ride started and my face was suddenly attached to my chest. I was sure my eyes would fall out if this ride from hell lasted another second.
The moment came when I was alone and upside down. I wanted to scream but I knew I was being punished and my pleading would do no good.
As I hung there I realized vomit in the cage was calling me. It beckoned to me. It invited me to give in to urges over which I had no control. I repented more until my cage started moving again.
I hate the Loop-O-Plane. I hate all Loop-O-Planes. I know it’s wrong to judge all of them by one horrendous experience, but I don’t care.
Except for the summer of the Loop-O-Plane mistake, the Green Acres Shopping Center Carnival was the best.