Two weeks ago, I was at the fair, looking at rides. By looking, I mean just that. I suffer from both acute anxiety and a fear of heights, and so I wandered from ride to ride watching the portable “amusements” toss people much braver than I into the air and calculating the odds that their soon-to-be injuries would warrant a class-action lawsuit.
At one point, as I stood by a smaller version of the claw ride (this one for very brave children who have not yet learned that death is permanent) blithely ignoring the “do not lean” signs posted along its railing, a man wearing a novelty visor walked up to me, clapped a large, friendly hand on my shoulder and said “Listen, buddy, you don’t need this shit. You’re a grown man, an adult. What the hell you gonna mess around with these kid rides for? It costs just the same to go on ‘Inversion,’ and trust me, baby, that will change your entire flippin’ life.” Then, he laughed and whispered, “you know what I mean by flippin’, but there are kids around.”
It took me awhile to realize that the man was using the word “flip” to replace “fuck.” I also realized that this man, who saw swinging headfirst 80 feet above the bruised concrete as something to be endorsed and recommended, not vehemently warned against, was probably very dangerous.
The bile rose in my throat — this is the first sign that I’m going to need the emergency Xanax I keep tucked with my mints; the second is a metallic taste in my mouth that I imagine is not unlike what it must feel to tongue fight a Transformer. I shouted a half-hearted “Hey, kid, I’ll see you by the ticket stand,” in the general direction of the attraction to cover my tracks and scurried away as casually as I could. Then, to quell my embarrassment, I rode a spinning boat made for the smallest children. I’d like to show you a video, but the thrills are so minimal that even the most loving parents don’t find filming their kid’s experience on this ride worthwhile. The attendant let me on for free, saying “I just don’t think this is going to be fun for you.” But it was, and as I exited the ride, he stopped me and said “maybe you should give me those tickets, after all.”
I’m explaining all of this because I feel you needed the context. How else were you going to understand why every ride on this list is ranked number one? Without context, you’d only be able to say “this guy is stupid and wrong.” Now, you can say “this guy is stupid and wrong, but also suffers from serious psychological problems that I hope he’s getting help with.”
I can’t help it. Fair rides shake me to my very core. Maybe it’s because they’re portable; maybe it’s because they run on mini generators; maybe it’s because — as I once noticed before hurtling out of a ferris wheel compartment that had the words “chicken, bitch?” scrawled on its inside door — ride operators sometimes wear headphones and loudly sing along, indicating that they would not hear my desperate screams if something went wrong. Maybe it’s all of these things.
But I can tell you this: What follows is a definitive list of the scariest rides in fair history and no one will convince me otherwise. (Please stop trying: The Pirate Ship That Doesn’t Go Upside Down isn’t even that bad!)