June 29, 2005

Kiddie rides

Last weekend I got a huge dose of nostalgia when I climbed aboard the old-fashioned carousel at Chicago's navy pier. As the carousel turned and the horse I was riding went up and down, I could see the Wave Swinger -- Navy Pier's only real "adult" ride -- swinging people up, down, and around much faster and much higher than that old carousel horse ever could.

I suppose the carousel is pretty tame compared to the Wave Swinger. Most people would just call it boring, and they'd be right. We expect so many more thrills and chills from amusement park rides now than we did when the carousel was at the leading edge of ride technology. Even as a kiddie ride, the carousel doesn't seem to have as many fans as it once did. All the little kids want to ride the Wave Swinger, and if they don't it's usually only because they're still too short.

Why, then, did I really like the carousel? Why did I like the Rocking Horse, when all that did was rock back and forth as the attendant shifted her weight? Nostalgia was part of it. It brought back clear memories of when I was so small that climbing up on the carousel horse was a real accomplishment. I went around in circles and remembered how that exact same motion thrilled me when I was little, and how fun it was to watch everything pass by me again and again as I went around and around. It also helped that there was a little boy sitting on a horse in front of me with his father sitting next to him, and the father seemed to be having so much fun watching his little kid have fun. I bet the kid was enjoying the ride even more when he saw his dad enjoying it. The fun was infectious.

So I suppose it wasn't just nostalgia; it was also the feeling of doing a fun thing with other people, and choosing to believe that the thing was fun. I'd bet that when a kid's parents tell him that the carousel or the rocking horse is boring, that that's as much or more of a buzzkill than experiencing more thrilling rides and becoming jaded. Our expectations make a thing exciting or boring. I always tell people that if I ever don't want to look out the window of the airplane when it takes off or lands, then they should just shoot me, because I'm burnt out on life. Maybe that's a bit too zealous, but the point is that you're going to choose whether to get excited or not. I'll choose, if I can, to get as much fun out of life as possible. Even if it's mostly nostalgic.

Posted by Carey at June 29, 2005 09:26 PM

I always have fun on carousels! Choosing to believe that something is fun is an important -- very important, in my opinion -- life skill.

Posted by: Denise at July 2, 2005 09:34 PM