Yesterday we went to Canada’s Wonderland, which if you don’t live around here is a large amusement park just north of Toronto. For our American readers, it’s like Six Flags with only one flag. While we were there, I found out I was too old.
Mrs. MAJ got us a good price on tickets and a meal deal – we’ll come back to that – and we figured it’d be a nice end-of-season blowout with the kids, so we dropped Benny Handsome Goodboy…
…off at doggie day care and proceeded to the park for a day of thrill rides. Canada’s Wonderland is good for thrill rides. It has sixteen roller coasters, which is, believe it or not, the second most of any amusement park in the world.
I learned something about what people fear. Things started off easy enough; we were there at park opened and simply walked onto the rides of our choice. Our third stop was “Behemoth.” Behemoth is a roller coaster and it’s not called that because it’s a kiddie ride. Here’s a video demonstrating what it feels like:
If you’ve got some constipation issues and the usual stuff isn’t working, take a ride on Behemoth and your problems will be solved. Now, my youngest, M, is a timid child, and was hesitant about doing it. As we got on the car she actually started crying, but I insisted she try it, knowing full well she’d be smiling at the end. She was, but she was very scared beforehand, whereas I was excited. I love roller coasters.
Immediately after this frightening experience, M pointed at something and said “I wanna ride that!” She was pointing at something called Windseeker. It’s basically just a spinning chair ride – it doesn’t turn you upside down or drop you or anything. The thing is, it’s 300 feet in the air.
This sucker is a LOT higher than Behemoth. When you’re on Windseeker those 300 feet look like 3000, and, let’s be honest, if you fell 300 feet it might as well be 3000. I found Windseeker very scary indeed, saying “I don’t like this. I DON’T LIKE this” over and over. M, sitting beside me, looked about as frightened as a person taking a drive to the drug store. She was happily enjoying the view and pointing things out with a nonchalance I definitely cannot muster when dangling in the air by a falling distance that would give me just enough time to crap my pants. (“Look, Dad! The cars look like ants!”) She was even reassuring me. I didn’t cry. Much.
This fear differential was also true of Mrs. MAJ, who agreed with me on Behemoth (awesome) and Windseeker (no good reason for a person to do that) but likes spinny rides, which I detest. She advised me not to go on The Fly with M, and she was right; I found it very alarming, because it makes tight little turns and I’m sure my fat ass will cause the cart to go tumbling off the track. M found it perfectly fine. It’s odd how fear isn’t just linear; different rides seem to have different fear effects.
(Our eldest, T, is scared of absolutely nothing. If they built an 800-foot roller coaster called “Devourer of Souls” where you had to sign a waiver to ride and be administered last rites as the train was pulling out of the loading area, she’d show up early to ride it. T even wants to do one of those bungee slingshot things, which I would not do if you gave me a stake in the park’s revenue.)
Things went sour at lunch.
Now, I’m not saying theme park food has to be great. I expect it to be greasy, at least. The food we ate at Canada’s Wonderland was despicably bad. Our passes entitled us to a meal with a drink, and we chose a Chinese food place (Manchu Wok, who should be ashamed their name is on this outlet.) There were ten people in line in front of us and it took half an hour to serve them. When we finally got to the front of the line they were running out of food – it was noon – and didn’t understand the coupons we had and the drink machine was broken. Every guest in the place was pissed off; this was literally ruining people’s happy days. When we finally emerged with our food I apologized for suggesting we go to that place and not the hot dog stand across the way. I took back my apology when we saw the hot dogs looked ghastly. They were wrinkled and gray, like little old men trapped in soggy buns. I would not have eaten one on a dare.
Then we started eating our food and I re-issued my apology. The food was disgusting. I’ve eaten at Manchu Wok outlets before and it’s not great food but it’s edible. This was not. The orange chicken Mrs. MAJ and M had ordered smelled, in M’s description, “like hair dye.” T noted with no small amount of alarm that her rice had “crunchy things” in it. Those were her exact words: “crunchy things.” Neither of those words is good in the context of rice. I had a sweet and sour pork that did not have any discernible pork in it, but at least it didn’t taste like hair dye or have “things.”
I then considered again retracting my apology when I looked at the hot dog line and notice it had not moved once in the entire time we spent trying to eat. The same sad man was waiting for his food who’d been there when we started. I swear he was standing there for twenty minutes, still waiting for the hot dogs he had ordered before we’d gotten there. He looked as if all hope had drained out of him.
From a business point of view I don’t get this at all. I can understand why the food is hideously overpriced; you have the customers hostage and they will pay whatever it costs to make their kids stop yelling about starvation. That’s fine, I get it, and really, I don’t complain about that; it’s part of their business strategy and if you don’t like it don’t go. But making the service and food atrocious makes no sense at all. Slow service simply prevents the guest from spending more money elsewhere; if you get them out of these faster, you make just as much money but increase the time they can spend losing money on the midway or buying souvenirs. Shitty food gives the customer the impression the park is shitty. Dirty, gross food changes your impression of the park, and makes you think, even if subconsciously, that the PARK, by extension, is gross.
If you eat at a quick stop in Disney World, the food is greasy and unhealthy and expensive, but it’s decent food. A Magic Kingdom hamburger isn’t going to blow you away or anything. You can get a better burger at any number of places. But it tastes like an edible hamburger, and comes with fries that are fairly enjoyable to consume. It will not smell like hair dye or have “crunchy things” in the tomatoes. It’s not that hard.
Anyway, after our awful meal we did more rides and suddenly the crowd had arrived. We did a smaller ride, and then the Bat, a roller coaster. I pulled a muscle in my neck on the Bat.
That’s a new one. I have never been hurt before just taking a ride. But I did it, and I’m not kidding around, it hurt like a son of a bitch. I couldn’t turn my head to the right.
We did one more roller coaster, Dragon Fire, which has loops and corkscrews. Did I mention I’d just pulled a muscle in my neck? Oh my God. Now I know why people get massages.
So now it’s 2:30 or 3 and my neck feels like it’s been half sawed off, my right leg is roaring in pain, and I’m hot and much more dizzy than I was willing to say aloud to my wife. We’d been there five hours, tops, and I was beat. Isn’t that pathetic? When I was a kid I’d have stayed from opening to closing. Hell, I would have camped out overnight. At 45, I was beaten in five hours. I might as well get a walker now.
With the line for the park’s biggest, baddest roller coaster, Leviathan, appearing to be 4 hours long (T and I wanted to ride it – of COURSE she did. Leviathan is 306 feet high, goes 125 km/h, and probably isn’t fast enough for her) Mrs. MAJ suggested we just leave. Everyone immediately agreed, with me saying “Sure, I’m too old to go another minute.” Well, I thought it, anyway.
So if you’re visiting Canada’s Wonderland I advise:
1. If you want to do a LOT of rides, you need a Fast Lane Pass. It’s expensive, but there it is. If you can’t afford that, show up early and move quickly to the precise rides you really want to do.
2. For Christ’s sake don’t eat the food unless you take the time to go to one of the park’s few true sit-down restaurants. I don’t know if they’re any good but trust me, if they’re BAD, that’s better than what we ate.
3. There is no good reason for a person to be suspended in a spinning chair 300 feet off the ground.
4. T is scared of nothing.
5. I am extremely old. Go ahead, make fun of me.