Star-power Trivial Pursuit

Stop the ride, I want to get off

During the recent blackout, you might have suffered some rather annoying inconveniences. Maybe your TV shut off during a good show, or the fridge melted your favorite dish. But you know what? Just thank god you weren’t one of the luckless souls who decided to board the Cedar Point roller coaster — because when the power went off, they were stranded three-quarters of the way up the first hill. After almost half an hour, they had to walk down the rails.

This news actually pleased me, because I’m too chicken to ride rollercoasters and am continually looking for excuses to explain my terror. Though really, if you want arguments against roller coasters, one need look no further than the Saferparks watchdog group and their report on “Amusement Ride Passenger Containment Failures”, which is precisely as ghastly as the title suggests. A few examples:

“Sidewinder”, Darien Lake Theme Park, 10-Aug-98
Child ejected from car due to centrifugal force. Child’s parents said he fell from between the lap bar and the side of the car.

“Gyroscope/Spiroscop”, Carnival Services, 18-Jun-00
Victim came out of waist and ankle restraints, was struck by spinning bar, and ejected from the ride, striking the ground.

“Flying Dragons,” Jersey Shore Beach & Boardwalk Co., 22-May-99
While buckling patron in ride child began to cry, operator asked dad if he wanted to remove him, dad said no. For 15 mins. into ride child cried, op stopped ride dad removed belt while ride still moved. Lifted scared child over fence & fell.

Mangled limbs, blinding-force blows to the head, small infants hurled like meaty cannonballs off into space by centripal force … oh, yes, amusement-park rides sound like a blast. Read that third entry again, and note how wonderfully it captures the gorgeous family dynamics of park rides: A cackling father forcing his terrified child to ride some rusting torture device, probably to “toughen him up” or something. Lovely stuff, alright.

It reminds me of the horrible and fatal accident that happened at the West Edmonton Mall in 1986. Three people died when the wheel assembly of a roller-coaster car came off and the car smashed into a concrete pillar. During investigations into how it all happened, the government discovered that — among other deliquencies — the mall hadn’t bothered to have the roller coaster’s operations manual translated from German.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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