Dad is odd man out when it comes to the fair

‘Because I Said So’ column for The Commercial Appeal

Sept. 11, 2014

Photo by William Deshazer

Photo by William Deshazer

Dad is odd man out when it comes to the fair

My family loves going to the fair. I do not like the fair.

Somehow, this makes me the odd man out. A house full of carnies and I’m the weird one.

Fair season is the most wonderful time of the year for my wife and kids who, along with my mother-in-law, all went to the Delta Fair & Music Festival at the Agricenter last weekend.

They ate the food, rode the rides, and walked among the crowds.

I stayed home where it was quiet and air-conditioned and comfortable. Sofa-And-A-Book is my favorite ride.

I don’t like fairs and never have. I am 44 years old and I’m scared of carnival rides. There, I said it. It’s something I never would have admitted as a teen; peer pressure was scarier than the rides to me then. But I’m OK with it now. Why? Because I’m the father of four and that takes a stronger constitution than any roller coaster you can dream up. I can eat a deep-fried Snickers bar and watch Nickelodeon for hours on end without feeling nauseous.

As a boy, though, I begged to go every year. Excitement built as September neared with the promise of a whole day spent wandering the Mid-South Fairgrounds and Libertyland. I would pester my parents to take me until they relented.

Once we passed through the ticket booth, though, and into the land of Pronto-Pups and sideshows, I knew I didn’t want to be there.

I know, too, that this made me a curmudgeon at the age of 8, a kiddie killjoy.

And I still am at 44.

So, my family went without me this year, as they do every year, and came home visibly vibrating with adventure and sugary cotton candy coursing through their bloodstreams. They regaled me with stories of spinning rides and bouncing rides, rides that turned them upside down and pulled them backward. I grew dizzy trying to follow the conversation as it bounced among the kids.

I’m somewhat surprised at this enthusiasm for the fair. It’s the gene of risk from their mother that, thankfully, cancels out the gene of anxiety they got from me. You must be this neurotic to ride this ride.

One daughter in particular surprises me. She has a natural, healthy, if not somewhat overwhelming, sense of self-preservation. She is terrified of storms, for example. She loves funnel cakes, but fears funnel clouds. The Tunnel of Irony is her favorite ride. Yet she is not a fair-weather fairgoer and would have gone back again and again if we’d had the tickets.

I’m glad they’re brave and find so much pleasure every fall. I get a vicarious thrill from their thrills. Do I wish I could join them? Sometimes. But then those roller coaster cars start whirring, the sideshow barkers start calling, the smell of farm animals permeates the air, and I lie back on the couch, open my book, and become fairly dizzy with the silence.

Link to The Commercial Appeal