Schadenfreude: D’y’all wanna go again?!

When I first moved to San Antonio, my little brother Vaughn and I went to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. We were super excited to have an amusement park in such close proximity to us.

The morning sun beat down on us as we entered the gates to the park. My hair was not yet used to the wet heat of Texas and responded by turning itself into a massive ball of frizz. I was already sweating and my orange shirt was starting to cling to my body.

Within minutes of entering the park, we were stopped by an employee with a camera and asked to pose. I did so happily while Vaughn stared awkwardly at the cameraman from behind his Harry Potter glasses. To this day, I still receive emails from Six Flags trying to sell me this picture. One day, I’m going to buy it and send it to my little brother – it’s possibly one of the worst photos of us ever taken.

We rode all kinds of rides, bought overpriced food and zoinked ghosts on the cute Scooby Doo ride. All in all, it was a great day.

One of the strongest memories of it, though, was when we were standing in line for a ride. It was in the boardwalk area of the park; the wood released the heat of the sun in a massive, smothering wave.

After some research, I’ve discovered that it’s called ‘The Frisbee’.  It looked super intimidating. It was a large circular disc that had seats lining the outside. Sticking out of the middle of the ride was a large pole of sorts that all of the seats were facing. It looked a bit like an old toy top.

When the ride started, the outer rim would begin to spin. After a minute or so, the pole would move the entire thing back and forth and swing it like a pendulum. All the while, the seats would continue spinning.

The Frisbee

My brother and I watched with a mixture of excitement and hesitance. This ride looked fun…but also pretty intense. Judging from the laughs and screams of the other riders, it couldn’t have been THAT bad.

As the ride came spinning to a stop, we were able to see the faces of the riders more clearly. Most of them were laughing and smiling, some looked a bit sick. Immediately, my eyes were drawn to one woman in particular.

Her brown hair was styled in a way that made me think she was a mother with two kids in junior high that were on the soccer team. She wore sunglasses over her eyes and a sunburn on her face. I imagined that she smelled like sunscreen mixed with a bit of BO and that she carried a massive floral tote bag. She seemed to be the type of mom who could produce anything from antiseptic spray to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to frozen water bottles wrapped in paper towels.

I watched the riders as the spinning slowed – laughing face, laughing face, laughing face, Sickly Woman, laughing face, laughing face, laughing face, Sickly Woman. Eventually, it came to a stop and I could see her in plain sight.

Her body was slumped in the seat and she was shaking her head back and forth. She looked as if she had seen better days.

Suddenly, I heard an excited female voice ring out through the speaker. It was the ride attendant.

“D’y’all wanna go agaiiiiiin?”

A cheer rose up from the riders. Laughter and whooping from all sides. All sides except one.

“Wha? What? No! No!” I saw the woman’s mouth form words as she slowly realized what was going on.

“I saidddddd,” the ride attendant said, louder and more excited this time.

“D’y’all wanna go agaiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnn?!?!”

Again, cheers and laughter sounded from the pit of seats below her.

“Noooo!!!” the woman was yelling now. She waved her arms clumsily, impeded by the bright yellow harness. Her clunky jewelry danced up and down her wrists and sparkled in the sun. I watched her sunburnt face turn a darker shade of red as she used all her strength to project her clear disapproval at this turn of events. “NO NO NO!”

“Alriiiight!” the ride attendant squealed. “Let’s go again!!!!”

The sounds of pistons and gears clicking in to place filled the air as the circular row of seats lurched into motion and began to spin slowly.

My eyes were locked on the protesting woman. Even through sunglasses, I could see her face morph in to one of horror and defeat. Over the din of the ride and the crowd cheering and laughing, I could just barely make out what she was saying.

“NOOOO” she was screaming as she spun out of my vision.

I saw her again on her way back around: “-OOOOOOO”.

On the third trek, I saw that she was still raging:  “AHHHH! GOD DAMMIT NOOO”

and so she went again…

I eventually lost sight of her as the rotating disc picked up speed began to rock back and forth. My brother and I devolved into laughter at what we had witnessed. It was schadenfreude at its best: There was nothing good about being trapped on a ride that you had no desire to ride again…but watching it happen to this poor woman was just so funny.

After a short time, the ride slowed once again and we watched to see how the woman had fared. I caught sight of her and saw that she was slumped even more in her seat and looked absolutely miserable.

When the gates opened for us, my brother and I rushed forward to experience the ride for ourselves. As our harnesses locked in place, I looked out and saw that the sunburnt woman had apparently composed herself enough and was now yelling at the ride attendant. She clutched her huge tote bag angrily with one hand as she waved her other finger in the girl’s face.

Perhaps the attendant deserved it, perhaps she didn’t. After my brother and I got off the ride, we both felt like were going to throw up. I can’t imagine having ridden on it twice.

Reflecting on it now, I think that this could be a nice analogy for life. Sometimes you’re stuck somewhere and, although you desperately want to get off, you find that you don’t really have much control over the situation. Even though it makes you feel sick or less-than-pleasant, you don’t have much of a choice other than to just go around again. During or after, you can yell at the ride operator or take it out on other people, but it won’t really do much good.

The most important thing is how you handle it. If anything, you’ll have a funny story to tell at the end of it all.

And thus ends this babbling, introspective story. Thanks for reading!

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