Journal entry: July 10, 1976 (age 7) – Bumper Cars
“No way, John – save it for the bumper cars.” Although my older brother, John, is 17 and has his driver’s license, there was no way my dad (or my mom, for that matter) was going to let him drive today. We were taking a long road trip to Ghost Town in the Glen, an amusement park in Avoca, Pa.
John sulked for about five seconds, before “calling” a window seat in the back of our green, wood-paneled station wagon. My brother Bob, 14, called the far back seat so he could stretch out. I tried to call the other window seat, but my brother Dan, 8, said that age trumped calling it. John and Bob backed him up, so I grumbled “Then what’s the point of calling it” as I did my best to get comfortable in the middle seat. My feet were forced to “rest” on the floor’s carpeted hump, which meant that I couldn’t relax my legs for the entire trip, lest they touch the adjacent legs of larger back-seatizens.
When we got to the park, John insisted we ride the bumper cars first. Dad, having just driven for several hours, was happy to sit this one out. As the rest of strapped ourselves into the little cars, John and Bob gave each other a snide smile. Within the first lap, one or both of them had slammed into the cars that contained Mom, Dan, and me, sending us careening into corners of the pavilion.
Mom and Dan soon regained control of their cars, and spent the rest of the ride carefully avoiding John and Bob. Bob is usually my nemesis, but it was John that had sent me spinning into the corner. As luck would have it, I ended up surrounded by still, driverless cars. My attempts to exit this fortress of bumpered inertia were futile. Like a pinball in Pompeii, I was trapped by natural forces beyond my control.
After a few minutes of spinning my car around in a pathetic circle, I saw that John and Bob were taking turns clearing the unmanned cars that stood between me and freedom. In a few laps, they had opened a path for me, and I felt a surge of gratitude for their rare display of brotherly concern. They both waved and gave me a thumbs-up as I started off on my first real lap. As I came back around to the corner I had escaped moments earlier, I was still suspicious enough to look around for fraternal predators. Right on cue, I was rear-ended with enough force to make me thankful for my seatbelt. I could hear Bob laughing as he left the scene of the non-accident.
Momentarily disoriented, and sitting in a car that was now sideways in the middle of the track, I looked up just in time to see John’s evil smile peering over the wheel of his red car. As the ride-ending horn sounded its mournful cry, John’s full-speed slam into the side of my car sent me back to a familiar and horrible place. I was in the clutches, once again, of the dead cars of Ghost Town.