Paul and I were walking along one night as is our want here in the Dam. After years of living in LA, the simple joy of stepping out of your front door and taking an evening stroll is one of those inner pleasures; to the outside observer it seems mundane, while inside you feel like you’re skipping through a field.
So there we are lolling along when we come to Dam Square, lit up like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Dam Square is the big public space in the middle of the city. You name the event and somehow they manage to squeeze it into this relatively small area; rock concerts, sports games, national parades and fun fairs.
Yes, fun fairs. On this one particular night a kind of “circus has come to town” beaten up collection of rides were assembled practically on top of each other. A spinning Tea-cup, an Astro Blaster and a Pirate Ship amongst others. We have no idea what these collection of tin can oddities were commemorating. But the one that caught my and Paul’s eye was the Space Swing.
Basically, it’s a merry-go-round but instead of horses you have two-seater swings. And instead of staying on the ground, the thing pushes high into the air and you swing about over the city.
From the ground, this is the coolest looking thing. What fun, we thought as we bought tickets. Can’t wait, we chirped as we took our seats. Here we go, we giggled as the thing started swinging and rising into the night sky.
I don’t know when the point was that the two of went from having fun to trying hard not to soil ourselves, but this joy ride became an adventure in pure horror. This ride went a lot higher than we thought. And a lot faster.
It was also around this point that I realized that the one single bar that was holding us in place was no thicker than a broom handle. And that, were we smaller men, slipping underneath it would be no challenge at all. I was still laughing but it wasn’t out of joy.
It’s also around now that I start looking at this ride and wondering exactly how well it’s put together.
And because no building in Amsterdam is over 5 stories tall we’re swinging over the rooftops of the whole town. With nothing but the broom handle between us and the steeples and spires.
I was clutching onto my hat with one hand and a guy rope with the other. Both in a white knuckled panic. Paul was looking out the right side and wouldn’t turn to face me because he thought it would make it look like we were swinging even faster.
So there we were, two grown men flying over the tops of the Gingerbread Town, tears caking to our faces. There was a brief moment in there where I had a Peter Pan flashback and thought this must have been what Wendy felt like the first time she stepped out the window holding Peter’s hand.
And through all the fear and terror, I was still bothered with that question of why most productions of Peter Pan cast a woman as the lead role. The things that you think of when you’re sure you’re about to die. Honestly.
Anyway, finally the ride begins a far too slow descent back down to the cobbled streets and candy floss. And then there’s the final stroke of fright; the broom handle safety bar doesn’t even lock into place. It just kind of clicks, you can just kind of pull it up with a half-hearted heave.
There is a distinct joy in leaving a ride you thought you were going to die on. And even more joy watching the excited faces of the next round of victims who think they’re going to have a blast.
Who needs drugs in Amsterdam? A fun fair ride is as good as seeing green spiders and dragons.