As you pull into the Fairfield County Fair, you must pass through two human gates. The first person takes your money for admission ($5.00 for adults and Greg was free as was the parking) and they hand you x amount of tickets according to how many people you just paid for. The next person is about 30 feet up and they take the tickets that the first person just gave you. This is very inefficient and I still don’t understand why they first person just doesn’t collect the money and send you on your way. (I should clarify at this point that the people at the gates are Lancaster folk and not carnie folk.) As you pull away from the second set of people, you are guided towards the grass field to park. There are people to guide you and, on this day, it was like driving in reverse past a human evolution illustration. The first guy seems normal, the second was hunched over with a stalk of corn waving me past and the third guy was covered in hair and waved me on with a jawbone. The field was a muddy mess and I noted that a “Park at Your Own Risk!” sign was mounted about 50 feet past the point of no return of having to park. So we risked and parked.
The field was a muddy mess because it had been raining for about two days. The temperature was hovering around 47 degrees and there was just enough of a breeze to make you regret not wearing a sock hat.
I had to pee and tried to get Greg to go. He wouldn’t. The facilities at the Lancaster Fair Grounds aren’t primitive, but damn are they old. The stalls are about 18” wide and if you had to poop, you would have to do it in shifts.
We stopped and got fair fries. As the fairgrounds were pretty empty on a cold, wet, Wednesday afternoon, we got quick service. The fries were awesome. Greg likes his with vinegar and ketchup. I’m a vinegar only man, but will split a medium cup with both vinegar and ketchup with the boy. Greg kept saying, “These are good. I don’t know why the vinegar tastes good. These are good.” They were hot and delicious and kept the cold and wet at bay. I spent a good 18 napkins wiping off the 6” diameter ring of ketchup from Greg’s mouth.
The plan was to hit the fries, play some games, get a fish, and grab a candy apple on the way out the door. It was wet and cold and I was post-flu weak and already just wanted to go home. So we headed towards the row where the carnie games are located.
Oh dear god, the depression and sadness that filled the fair that day. I thought carnies were sad enough, but you get them wet cold and without customers they all ooze desperation and sweat processed methamphetamines. It was a gauntlet of pathetic taunts and barker’s sales pitches.
“One dart, you win!”
“Every kid wins!”
“Come on dad! Win one for the boy.”
“Only a dollar!”
“Easy win here dad!”
“I killed my wife in 1986.”
“One dart gets your choice!”
“Three balls only a dollar.”
We checked out the different booths as Greg eyed the huge stuffed animals and I pointed to the tiny ones. I was looking for the “Kids win every time” booths. They actually have games of no chance were you just pay one, three of five dollars and pick your prize. They fool the kids with some random floating duck mumbo jumbo, but in the end, everyone is happy.
We finally decided on a booth that had small SpongeBob Square pants. It was a balloon pop game and Greg was keen to throw darts this year. I asked the carnie guy what the deal was and they had a tiered pricing system for three darts that would gain larger and larger prizes as the price point went up. I settled for $5. Greg actually hit two balloons, but he needed three for the win. At that point, carnie guy reaches in the kids win every time basket for a tiny stuffed banana. He then leans into me and says, “For $5, you throw one dart and hit or miss, you get anything over here.” He gestured along the wall and the corner where a small SpongeBob sat. I said, “Sounds good,” and forked over another $5. I actually hit a balloon. Carnie said, “OK sonny, pick anything from this area.”
Greg pointed to SpongeBob again and said his choice.
Carnie said, “Oh no. Not there. Any where in this area.” And he pointed to a small area next to SpongeBob.” So I pulled out the Dude.
“Dude! You said $5 more bucks and we could have the SpongeBob.”
“No I didn’t. I said in this area.” His hand strayed even further from Bob.
“Dude. You completely pointed to the SpongeBob. Give us the SpongeBob.”
“That’s not what I said.” A whistle came out from between his eight teeth when he said said.
“Then give me back the $5 and we’ll take the stinking stuffed banana.”
I’m not sure if they guy felt bad for Greg or if I started to actually go Berserker on him, but he said, “All right, you can have the SpongeBob.” He pulled it off the wall and handed it to me. I turned to hand it to Greg who was now not standing alone. He had a new carnie friend who was watching me interact with his cohort. I handed it to Greg and pushed him off to the other side of the path at the same time. I’m not sure if carnies have a secret, sub-vocal alarm system, but that guy appeared from out of my blind spot, seemingly to ensure there was not a problem.
We went the other way. Quickly. I then realized that I had gotten into an argument with someone over a $3.99 stuffed toy and that I had won. But there’s an old carnie saying that goes, “If you think you’ve won an argument with a carnie, check you wallet and then your heartbeat.”
I realized that the next part of our stop to get a poster required us to travel past SpongeBob’s old home. We tried to sneak by. Carnie was chatting with the got-your-back carnie that showed up. I didn’t try to listen or look.
We made it to the poster booth where all you have to do is throw a dart and hit the wall and you win your choice. Greg did and selected a Scooby Doo poster. I tucked the poster in my jacket and stood up just in time to see my carnie pal walk by with a cigarette in his mouth. He didn’t notice me.
I then realized that perhaps he was going on break and the other carnie guy was there to relieve him. Maybe I’m just a jerk. Maybe the guy realized that he had made a mistake and didn’t want to see a little kid upset by his dad making a scene. Maybe carnies aren’t that bad.
We tucked away our spoils from the carnie booths and ended up at the goldfish booth. This game entails throwing ping pong balls into narrow necked bowls of water. You make one in the bowl, you win a gold fish. I bought Greg 12 balls for $2, knowing I’d probably need to buy 12 more.
He made one on the second shot. I started to do the math. At that rate, we’d have six fish. We could only make room for one more. Two would really be pushing it. Six and PETA would be dropping by.
Luckily, the goldfish booth also has one jar with red water in it. If you hit that, you can win a stuffed animal. I had Greg aim at that. He’s got good aim, but not that good. By aiming for the red, the missed shots were flying over the other containers. We ended up with only the one fish. The carnie filled a plastic bag with water and deftly reached into a tank and picked out our new friend. He tied it off and handed it to the beaming Greg.
After the fish, we scoured the fair looking for kettle corn. There’s a difference between caramel corn and kettle corn and I hope you get to taste the difference some day. We did not find any, so we settled for caramel corn for mom, a caramel apple for Ann and a candy apple for Greg.
We trudged back through the parking lot mud and we were about forty feet from the car when Greg announced that he had to pee. I said he could pee at the car. We pull the trick where the car door is opened and you can pee with 240 degrees of privacy. Greg stated that he would no be able to pee with other people around so I said we could go to a restaurant and pee. He was OK with that.
Somewhere in the forty foot walk to the car, Greg’s bladder informed him that it was going to let loose right now. He started saying, “I gotta pee! Right now.” I tossed all the prized possessions into the car, except for the fish which I stuck on the roof. We got the door open and he was fighting his pants down.
“You got it?”
“I got it.”
A laser thin stream of urine shot out of his body and began to carve a hole in the soft wet earth. That kid had really had to pee. I was standing behind him making sure that things didn’t go awry when shit went awry. He lost his grip and that pee stream went fire hose and started to fly up on to the open door and into the car. “Greg!” He started laughing. “I can’t help it.” I reached over and tried to do damage control. Pee was deflecting off the door and on to the floor mats and seat and dashboard. His pants had come up and were forcing his wiener in every direction but down. I ended up pushing everything in the groin area down; his gloves and jacket and shirt and pants and penis all got shoved down. The pee gave a last ditch effort to continue to hit the door, but gave up and decided to soak his jeans. Greg was still laughing. I was trying not to. We got his wet gloves off and I shoved him into his seat. I didn’t forget the fish on the roof. We drove home.
So after a whirl wind trip to the fair, Greg only remembers one thing and the entire trip I only took two photos. Two photos of the pee damage to my car. Enjoy.