Summer is upon us and you know what that means boys and girls. It means scary, dangerous, parking lot carnivals. You know – the kind kids especially love.
Not all carnivals are creepy, but we’ve all been to one that was. The one where giant black electrical cables run out from under the rides across the lanes where people walk, covered by black and yellow “safety mats” which you have tripped over many times. The one where the port-o-potties are lined up along the outer ring, beckoning your kids to “take care of business” in the most awful way possible. Or, better yet, the one with the “fancy” port-o-potties/trailers where a mysterious liquidy substance leaks from the bottom thereby making you BEG your children not to walk on the “wet stuff”. The one where you were forced to buy a minimum number of tickets that will never match up to the number of rides your children will go on, forcing you to either (a.) disappoint one of your children by making him/her sit out a ride, (b.) buy more tickets so one of your kids don’t have to be disappointed, or (c.) bring a pocket full of tickets home which you will find four months from now and make you say to yourself “boy was I a sucker.”
This particular carnival was the perfect storm of creepy. All it was missing was a scary clown. The employees were miserable, and looked and acted miserable. They could not be bothered to stand at the entrance to each ride, groaning each time they had to stand up to open a gate and let kids on or off. Heaven forbid you asked them a question, each answer was prefaced by a deep sigh and a muttered response that you had to make them repeat three times since the first two were inaudible. They never checked my kids’ heights unless I asked them to check it. (Let me tell you, there is a BIG difference between 44″ and 48″ and if you are a professional carnival ride operator and this has to be pointed out to you, well Mr. company owner, you better hope your insurance policy is up to date.) You’d think in this day and age for liability sake alone they would do it. Most of the cables didn’t even have the rubber mat over them, and even my nimble kids were tripping over them. The port-o-potties… there were none! (That might have been a blessing, come to think of it.) And on the pirate-boat-ride-from-hell the edges of the seats were bent out of shape and so sharp that I actually ripped my shirt. And the fish tank had the least fish to water ratio I have ever seen. I can’t believe the fish actually survived in that tank.
There were two saving graces. The first a lovely woman with almost no teeth (reinforcing my point about low pay) who operated the “fun house” and actually made sure the kids went through it safely. The second was the lady who worked at the win-a-fish game who treated my girls very kindly and mentioned that she had four daughters of her own. I reflected on these two women yesterday evening and thought about how hard life must be when you can’t afford to replace front teeth, or you have to leave your four daughters behind to hand broken beach buckets full of ping pong balls to other people’s kids so they can win a crappy fish which won’t last a week. And yet these two women, who were the only carnival employees who were working like they actually cared about their jobs, showed pride in what they did. They are noble people in my eyes.
And so, with all that said, here are my two cents on how to attend one of these events with your kids, as safely as possible:
- Watch out for automatic safety bars on rides. Give them a lot of clearance on their way up or down. The one on the scary pirate boat ride snapped up with such force at the end of the ride that, had it not been for the 2 inches between it and my daughter’s face, it would have easily broken her jaw.
- Check the ride height requirements for yourself. Don’t rely on the workers to tell you whether it is safe for your child to ride it.
- Look at the faces of the riders who have been on the ride before you. If the majority don’t look like they enjoyed it, chances are your kids won’t either.
- Look where you walk so you don’t crack your head open on the pavement in a moment of distraction.
- Don’t stand next to speakers, generators or blowers.
- Stay hydrated particularly if it is hot out.
- If you want to eat something while you are there, consider whether the food operator is the same as the carnival operator. If they are one and the same, and the carnival is not clean and safe, walk away and get food elsewhere.
- Check out the rides before you buy tickets. If not you may realize too late that your youngest kids won’t be able to ride, and chances are there are no refunds.
- If you aren’t sure they place is safe, get out of there and take your kids somewhere else. It’s hard, I know, but better safe than sorry.
And if you are a member of an organization planning to host a carnival, please make sure to do some due diligence on the companies you are considering to run the event for you. The last thing a well meaning, hard working, concerned and caring not-for-profit company (whose business it is to take care of others) needs is a tragedy on its hands.
Have you ever been to a creepy summer carnival?