Oklahoma Bar Journal
The Back Page | My Day in the Amusement Park
By Travis Pickens
I learned through a text that I had been accepted for admission to the famous amusement park – expensive, hard to get into and with terrifying rides.
The day came, and I jostled with the morning crowd through the narrow entry gate and into a new world, through a courtyard packed with large, fanciful character statues hewn from leafy bushes and hedges at the beginnings of an expansive forest. I started down the narrow beginners’ path and merged into a group about the same age who seemed to share my anticipation – part joy, part terror.
We started with the brightly painted flying mice and swirling teacups. But even these relatively tame rides could be noisy, rattling and shaking, unpredictably operated by those whose contracts with the park were to disturb the patron’s peace. After the bumper cars, a few in our group had experiences punitive enough to discover they had made a mistake in coming, especially if this was just the beginning. They quietly left. For those who remained – some brave, some ignorant, some reckless – we laughed and congratulated each other as courageous survivors each time we finished a ride and graduated to the next.
We continued into the heart of the park and took rides with long drops and dips and floated winding rivers and rapids, splashing and swirling and curling above and through the beautifully landscaped grounds. As we walked through the park, we heard snatches of screams, laughs, muffled chatter and gasps.
Finally, we proceeded up the trail to face the park’s signature and highest ride: the “Scream Supreme.” We anxiously strapped in and rolled past a mysterious, black-robed figure waving a slow goodbye. Then, we quickly grew lightheaded and rueful as the “click, click, click” of the metallic giant slowly pulled us to the top of its squeaking track, what seemed to be a thousand feet above the park, for the easy level prelude of a few feet before the steep drop ahead, straight down, shooting us like an unguided missile on wheels through the rest of the ride. We were jerked left! Then right! Screaming with every bend and twist and drop ... then finishing and slowly realizing our survival, we began to laugh with relief as we rolled to a stop. We leapt from our roller cars and skipped strode away from the coaster and down the trail as happy warriors. Triumphant, exultant.
And on we went the rest of the day, gradually looking for milder, less demanding attractions and finally, reluctantly retiring to the shade of a recessed patio boxed in by tall trees. The aroma of popcorn and roasted nuts hung in the air. We said our goodbyes, and I started to leave the park, still feeling the emotions the day had wrought. I had a sense of completion, even accomplishment.
I passed streams of eager faces coming into the park’s entrance. Their fresh clothes were dry and clean, and they looked younger and had the same air of anticipation as my comrades and I had that morning. They were there for their own discoveries, trials and dramas until it closed at midnight.
I thought about the fun they would have and the imagined dangers and nervousness they would face, a lifetime in a day, and for a moment lingered, thinking I might stay a bit longer, perhaps one more pendulum turn on the scales of “Lady Justice.” It was hard to leave what had been so exhilarating, so enjoyable and now over. But then I realized I had been lucky to have my day in the park at all. I should be grateful for that.
Better to move on. It was their turn now.
Mr. Pickens is an ethics and civil litigation lawyer practicing in Oklahoma City.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 95 Vol 10 (December 2023)
Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.