I have officially become an old man.
I say this not because of any impending birthday or arbitrary date.
No, it's not because of the frequent AARP offers in the mail. It's not because my bones ache when I walk two blocks, or my elbow throbs when it's going to rain.
It's not because of any urge to trade our thrifty compact car in for a Buick the size of Rhode Island.
It's not because of the tufts of gray sprouting on my head and face, nor the increasing size of the hairless spot on the top of my skull.
The reason I'm declaring my youth over? I have completely lost all desire to go on carnival/amusement park rides that spin at great speeds.
I didn't even know this had occurred until presented with a plethora of dizzying options this week at the County Fair. Should I spin backwards, forwards, sideways? In the past, my choice would have been "all of the above."
This time my choice was to feign indigestion — "Oh, guess I better cut back on that fried dough" — and send the kids on the rides by themselves. Not that the stomach being upset was completely fraudulent.
When I was young — last year — I could eat three slices of pizza, a giant pretzel and a 12-pound hunk of fried dough and go on any ride without feeling the tiniest tremor in my belly. I could wash down the ride with ice cream, cotton candy and french fries soaked for four days in pure lard, then get in line for more.
Now, just typing this, I'm starting to feel a little queasy.
I don't think the problem is fear. I still love roller coasters, of all heights and speeds. Loop me, turn me upside down, send me backwards, it doesn't matter. I'd gladly commit to a trip to Cleveland right now if it meant a day at Cedar Point, the nation's roller-coaster capital.
Throw in a dose of centrifugal force, however, and I want to stay away. The rides go by different names — Tilt-A-Whirl, Roundup, Orbiter, Mad Tea Party, Scrambler, Spider, Gravitron, Himalaya — but they all turn in fast circles, and they all turn me off.
Yes, I'm scared of the Tea Cups at Disney World. OK? If that doesn't make me eligible for Social Security, I don't know what will.
Is the merry-go-round now my speed? The horror; the shame. At least I can still ride on the bobbing horses. When I move to the stationary seats, it may be time to have me cryogenically frozen.
I suppose this day had to come. Kids, as we all know, begin spinning at a young age. They'll just walk into a field and joyfully begin to turn in circles for no reason. Pediatricians say this is because the children's brains are also spinning, so turning their bodies in the opposite direction is the only way they can think straight.
Spinning rides can bring on feelings of near ecstasy in the young. As a boy, I nearly soiled my pants with excitement when I found a ride at Canobie Lake Park that spun around and then pulled out the floor, leaving the riders stuck giddily to the walls. Heck, a year ago, I found the same ride at a small Wisconsin park and went on it twice, willingly.
I wasn't an old man then.
As we age, the brain calms down, or calcifies. Spinning makes us feel ill, not normal. Instead of thrill rides, our stationary minds crave caffeinated beverages and home-improvement shows.
I suppose I had a good run. By my carnival-ride scale, my wife became an old lady when she was 26.
Unfortunately, my children have several years of amusement-park riding left in them. Sooner or later they're going to notice my absence, and the fried-dough excuse won't cut it. Then what do I do? Close my eyes and spin? Oh, no, that just makes it worse.
Stupid Tea Cups. You'll be the end of me yet.
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