Monday, August 24, 2009

The Roller Coaster and the Lemonade

Saturday my younger son and I attended my company's picnic, held at a local amusement park. I indulged myself in a double portion of barbecue and many cups of lemonade. My next activity should have been to retire to a quiet, shady bench and enjoy a short nap. Instead, my son suggested that we ride the roller coaster. I agreed, putting aside misgivings about my stomach's ability to tolerate the swerving, swaying, and plunging.

We waited twenty minutes in line for the roller coaster. I was in no hurry. Every minute of waiting was an extra minute of digestion to help all the lemonade settle.

When my son and I arrived at the platform, I positioned us to board at the middle of the roller coaster. From high school physics long ago I vaguely remembered that the most severe g forces were experienced at either the front seats or the back seats, I couldn't remember which. The middle seemed the safest compromise.

The chain of cars arrived at the platform with whoops and hollers. The riders, mostly boisterous teenagers, hopped off. My son and I slid into our seats, buckled our seat belts, and pulled the restraining bars snug. I leaned to the side of the car, looked down at the tracks, and tried to determine my potential spray trajectory if things went bad. The back of my tightening throat was already burning with the sweet acid taste of lemonade.

The attendant did his safety check and gave the all clear. The cars jerked forward.


The cars plummeted and snapped into a tight turn. My stomach instantly clenched. I lunged for the side of the car and ejected a lemony spray. The cheers and shouts behind me changed to cries of dismay and howls of outrage.


The cars plummeted and snapped into a tight turn. I found myself laughing out loud, giddy as a schoolgirl. (A giddy schoolgirl had been placed in the car in front of me for purposes of comparison.) This is thrilling, I thought, as the roller coaster swooped down and around, racheted up, and then zoomed through a pitch-dark tunnel.

The roller coaster finished its run and eased back to the platform. The ride was a success: my son was in bright spirits and I myself was proud to be a successful lemonade container. Not one drop of my contents had been lost.