Thursday, August 30, 2012

Year of the Fish

Much like the Chinese calender system of naming years after animals, Siskiyou County residents mark the passing of time by naming years after Siskiyou Golden Fair events.  1994? Ah, the Year of the $6 FFA Hog.  '86? the Year of the Tilt-A-Whirl Upchuck Disaster.  Dylan and Grady have picked up on the practice and 2012 will be remembered as either the Year of the Carnival Game Scam, or the Year of the Minimum Height Requirement.

Dylan came to the fair this year with two goals: be tall enough to ride the Ferris Wheel and to spend money like a 5-year old with no concept of the value of things.  She tackled the Ferris Wheel first.  When she backed up to the "You Must Be This Tall" sign, she was at least two inches over the minimum, so I took off her platform shoes and got ready to ride.  Then she looked up and chickened out.  "Maybe tomorrow," she offered.  We tried again the next day, and again she wavered, but I couldn't go another year of Ferris Wheel regrets, so I loaded her up and up we went.  She loved it.  She walked around the chair and peered over the sides.  She reminded me of a 1930s Golden Gate Bridge construction worker.  Unfortunately, I lost my nerve when I hit the top of the ride and spent the rest of the time nervously trying to talk Dylan into sitting and fighting off the cold sweats.  I let Regina take her up after that.

Grady, too, was finally tall enough for rides slightly more exciting than his two choices from last year:  the "Slow Train to Nowhere," and the Carousel.  We'd zip down the super slide, hit the Boingy Cars, roll on the Topsy Turvy Scurvy Ship and end up on the Go Gator -- a small roller-coaster that he loved.  The 105 degree afternoons were the only thing that slowed our roll, otherwise we'd probably be in an old RV, following the carnival across the west.

Dylan really got sucked in by the carnival games this year.  I wanted her to learn that the prize isn't worth the investment without emptying her (or my) entire piggy bank.  She packed $10 in her Hello Kitty purse and set off.  The first hawker was for a game so that is so ridiculous, and easy, that they prey on the young and weak.  You pay $3, pull a rubber duck from a water trough, and get a prize.  That's it.  Of course, Dylan wanted to spent all her money there, but this year was about learning lessons, so we moved on.  The Dart at Balloon lady wanted Dylan to give her $5 to toss a couple of darts.  I tried to explain that that seemed a little high for a little girl who was more likely to stick the dart in her toe than pop a balloon, but she wouldn't budge on the price.  I let my "Board President" badge reflect in the sunlight but she couldn't see it through her red eyes, so we left.

We skipped any game that involved tossing heavy balls at even heavier milk bottles, or ones that the prize was a "Slippery When Wet" mirror, or any that required one to toss a basketball through a hoop that was smaller than the ball.  Then the fish caught her eye.  For a couple of bucks, Dylan got fifteen ping-pong balls and had to land one in a jar with a tiny mouth.  It's an impossible game unless you want to spent $40 on a goldfish that has a lifespan of twelve minutes.  Perfect.  Low investment, long play time, no worthless return, and a valuable lesson learned.  I was pretty smug until I heard the plunk of a ball landing in water.

So, we came home with two fish that didn't live to see the following weekend.  Dylan is now a carnival expert and Grady treats every car ride like he's back on the Go Gator (he unbuckles and stands up with his hands in the air).  Minus the cigarettes and poor dental hygiene, Regina and I are like the carnies.  We make sure they stay safe, we buckle them in, and we give them crappy prizes when they do something good.  And 2012 is now officially the Year of the Fish.