I hate midway rides! I hate them with a passion. If possible, I try to avoid them at all costs! The only thing I can think of worse than the former is a certain ferry ride from Scotland to Northern Ireland about eleven years ago. I was an unwitting victim late one Sunday evening after a pleasant weekend spent in Belfast visiting AJ’s family and little gran. Julie and I had spent two weeks in Edinburgh so she could experience “hyperbaric oxygen therapy” for brain damage at the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic in Leith. The treatments were incredible, and the volunteer staff amazing. It was with high hopes that I then took my two-year-old on the train to the coast for what was to become one of the most talked-about trips of my life.
The Irish countryside was beautiful, the food incredible, the people amazing. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the ferry for the return trip that I wondered if something was wrong. The ferry stayed on the dock for the L-O-O-O-N-G-E-S-T time. Unbeknown to me, they had cancelled all ferries that Sunday and this was their first run of the day. They had delayed – as was sensible – due to the size of the waves and because (at the last minute) they had started to have doubts. If they had just warned us … I would have had a fighting chance! Instead, I hungrily handed my money over at the buffet, drawn in by the promise of a high-class gargantuan feast and a chance to relax with Julie.
When the ferry headed out I had barely looked at my plate. Suddenly I found I couldn’t look at my plate. Nonplussed by this turn of events, and never having been seasick in the past, I decided to take control over the situation by ordering a glass of fine Irish Whiskey to “settle my stomach.” It soon became obvious that my stomach no longed liked it’s favorite Irish blend. Within minutes, it was impossible to look at my plate, and the waiter (snickering obsequiousely) made a few insincerely supportive comments and offered to refund my money.
I cannot remember much more of the trip except that I tried to order Julie a McDonald’s meal to make it up to her. I also remember with clarity the large number of washrooms on board that vast beast. I visited them all … one by one! I also tried to go outside and get some fresh air, but the deck – alas – was tinged with the salty-sour smell of sea-spray mixed with human stomach. I was unable to find an inch of railing that wasn’t lined with some poor prisoner or another, and finally returned to my ill-fated grande tour of the porcelain sea goddess’ lair.
Julie thought the whole experience was wonderful! Being visually impaired, she loves movement of any kind. She was also intensely fascinated by the gutteral stomach sounds emanating from her mom and couldn’t stop giggling. The louder the sound, the louder the laugh. Perhaps she thought this was some sort of playful experience put on as a special treat for her benefit! Eventually, I could no longer manipulate Julie’s stroller through the accumulated stomach slime of the masses, and started to worry that I would pass out from the effort of vomiting. I had to think fast! I opened the washroom door … picked a “nice” looking older couple (after all, this was an Irish Ferry and there were security guards everywhere) and handed them my baby with a desperate plea for help. I spent the rest of the trip sitting close by with the occasional sprint to the aforementioned closet.
Upon arrival in Scotland three hours later (the typical crossing takes 45 minutes) the last train for the night had long since departed. The only way to get to Glasgow to catch my connection to Edinburgh was by a hot, stuffy tour bus through the mountains. I cannot tell you how I made it to Glasgow, but I can tell you without a doubt that I experienced every single bend in the road through those mountain passes. I don’t know what gave it away – my ghastly green countenance or the smell of my breath, but there weren’t too many people who sat next to me on that ill-fated trip! I held Julie with all my might and concentrated on a specific spot on the floor next to the stairs. If I were to throw up again, I told myself, it would be advantageous to aim for that spot as it would cause the least damage to those around me.
Many years later, this experience came back very clearly at a certain midway last weekend. I avoided going on all the rides with Claire, nudging AJ to accompany her as often as I could. Julie is now too big for the kiddie rides as she can’t “fit” into the carriages even if I wanted to accompany her. Knowing how much she loves “wild and crazy” I felt sad for her, but bought her a bag of cotton candy to keep her busy. The adult-oriented rides all had warnings that participants should be able to sit independently. That definitely ruled out Julie!
Fifteen minutes prior to leaving, I was overcome with guilt and stupidly asked an attendant if there were any options for people with disabilities …
“You mean this girl,” he said.
“Yes,” I responded.
“Well, she could go on this ride. It’s not too bad.”
I looked up quickly at the spinning spyder full of screaming, flailing humans and felt a vast sense of panic. “Couldn’t she fall out?!” I squeeked
He affirmed that she would be safe and I manipulated Julie’s wheelchair closer to AJ.
AJ looked at the ride, considered Julie’s weight and the effect of centrifugal force, and said, “No.”
No amount of persuasion worked and I found myself strapped in, hanging onto Julie with all my might, and trying to be brave. All I can say is that I was brave … I only screamed a little bit and I even managed to open my eyes occasionally. The force of the spins whipped us around at top speed, and it was reminiscent of the bus ride through those Scottish mountains to Glasgow. If I concentrated really hard I could squint through the rain at the ocean in the distance, but I didn’t dare let go. There wasn’t much choice involved … if I had let go of Julie I am sure we would have both perished, strung up on a treelimb somewhere in someone’s yard a few blocks away.
Upon return to earth, the first thing I noticed was that the Spyder was right next to a hotdog stand. And they obviously served the hotdogs with onions. It was very, very obvious. I grinned a big “thank you” to the helpful attendant and then ran for fresh air as soon as it was possible to do so without losing dignity. AJ went to get the car while I weakly leaned against the wheelchair. I desperately needed a quiet moment but I have noticed that peace never naturally occurs in motherhood. I did my best to allow the nausea to abate while trying to avert Claire’s scowl and the “20 questions” she was throwing at full speed including “Why didn’t I get to go on the Spyder?! It’s not fair!” When the van pulled up I was content to settle into the seat and close my eyes, and I am happy to say I managed to make it home with the cotton candy still intact!
If you’re wondering about Julie … no, she didn’t throw up either! She had the best time she has had in over a year and LOVED the Spyder! She laughed and giggled for most of the ride, and had a big, cheesy grin on her face for at least half an hour afterward. I am SO glad I managed to take her on a ride, and SO glad that the attendant “bent the rules” so she could be included. As for me, I still hate Midways! I could tell you with conviction that I will never repeat this experience …. but the smile on Julie’s face was worth more than winning the lottery! Something tells me that I may just find myself at a midway again next year …. and if I should find myself accidentally on a Spyder … well, you can bet Julie will be grinning right next to my terrified face!