line. Many of my fondest memories revolve around experiences at a fair — eating cotton candy and having it magically dissolve in my mouth; laughing at the distorted images of friends as they stood in front of funhouse mirrors; kissing my sweetheart at the top of a Ferris wheel; spinning my mind into oblivion on the Scrambler; or winning a stuffed animal after finally landing a ring around the neck of a glass bottle. So when I was offered an assignment to write a feel-good article about two or three fairs around the state for Georgia Magazine’s August issue, I jumped at the chance. In the editor’s note back to me, she said, “I’d like to see some interesting personal stories woven into your article.” I immediately asked my Facebook friends and family to share their stories about trips to a fair — recent or long ago. Five people contacted me saying they would be happy to share their stories with me. Of those five, four friends shared stories that had something to do with vomit.
“Thank you for sharing your vomit story with me,” I said to each. “But I’m looking for a story that doesn’t have vomit in it. Do you have anything a bit more upbeat?”
They did not. The truth is this — though I have always loved visiting fairs and carnivals, I have my own stories about getting sick. One of my stories involves puking in front of dozens of people after eating two barbecue sandwiches and jumping on one of those spinning rides with a friend. I was only nine years old, and I had gone to the Georgia State Fair in Macon (before it moved to Hampton) with my friend, Julie, and her stepfather.
My other story doesn’t involve hurling, but it was just as embarrassing. When I was about 34, my husband and I took my young niece and nephew (my sister’s kids) to a small fall fair at the Cherokee Capital Fairgrounds in Calhoun, Georgia. We were having a great time — making the rounds on the Ferris Wheel and getting lost in the Fun House. And then they saw “The Wiz.” The Wiz is one of those rides where a spinning bucket seat is attached to a rotating plate that is affixed to a whirling platform. The Wiz is a ride designed to sling your brains right out of your head — and Jake and Savannah wanted desperately to ride it. So in order to score points with them, we got in For me, the ride started out okay, but quickly turned into nauseating agony — whipping me around on three axes at 100 mph. Occasionally, I would open my eyes to see the happiness plastered on Jake and Savannah’s faces as they laughed and screamed in delight. When the ride finally slowed to a stop, they screamed in unison, “Again Aunt Amber! Let’s ride again!” But all I could say was, “Not right now. Aunt Amber needs to find a cool patch of grass and lie down for a while and wait for the world to stop spinning.” And I did. I dove into the freshly- mowed grass and curled up in the fetal position, in front of dozens of strangers, right in the middle of the bustling fairgrounds. Somehow my husband got me to the car and drove us all home. I collapsed on the sofa in the safety of my own home — flat on my back with eyes closed. And that’s where my sister found me when she and my brother-in-law came to pick up the kids that night. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked, looking down at me on the sofa in a tone that only a sister can get away with. In a weak and puny voice I explained that while riding The Wiz, my brain had unexpectedly become dis- continued from page
lodged from my skull causing the world to spin every time I opened my eyes.
I expected my sister’s sympathy, but that’s not what I got. She belted out, “Are you insane? Don’t you know that after you turn 30, you can’t spin any more?”
I managed to open my eyes to look at her for a second, hovering over me. I calmly said, “No, I didn’t know that.”
No one ever gave me a manual that outlined such age-related afflictions, so how was I to know that I couldn’t spin any more? My spinning and comeand- go nausea lasted for two full days after my ride on The Wiz, and I made a personal vow to never spin again. And I haven’t.
Back to the story I wrote last week about Georgia’s fairs… I finally found someone who shared a short, sweet fair story with me that didn’t involve throwing up or lying down on the ground. Her story had to do with traditions and fun and growing up and feeling like a little kid again. That’s what I was looking for.
Pretty soon, as the oppressive heat of the summer begins to lift, fairs will set up in parking lots and fairgrounds all over the Peach State. I plan to go to one this year, but I won’t dare step on one of those spinning rides. Nope. Never, ever again!