Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


July 1, 2013

Tidbits: Class warfare on the roller coaster

I used to love riding roller coasters, and then I got older. I'm not sure what happened, exactly. It's just somewhere between my dare-devil youth and my level-headed 30s, I stopped enjoying the screaming, the plummeting and the turning upside down.

Well, it's not that I stopped enjoying it so much as my stomach stopped enjoying it. I would ride those roller coasters all day long, but my stomach has a ride limit. If you don't believe me, you can ask my date to the fair in 1997, the last time I dared board any ride that sent me turning upside down. The vomit eventually washed out of his shoes.

My avoidance of roller coasters hasn't really been a hindrance in my life. After they closed down Opryland, the only option for such thrills nearby was Dollywood, but there you can enjoy lots of other neat things, like artisans and musicians putting on great shows. I wasn't going to drive hours and hours to get to a Six Flags or Universal Studios and, since I hadn't met him before, I didn't see any need to head to Florida and meet the Mouse.

I could have continued on in my no-roller-coaster existence if not for a recent family vacation with my nephew. He's a teenager now. I knew I couldn't expect him to go to the Jamestown colony and tour Colonial Williamsburg without spending a day at Busch Gardens.

There, you'll find several large roller coasters, from Apollo's Chariot with its daring heights and sudden drops to The Griffin with a 75 mile per hour free fall, there's certainly enough thrills to excite a teenager and his dare-devil mother. Aunt Hess, however, was less then thrilled with the adventure. But I'm a trooper. I rode with my sister because her boy, a teenager, didn't want to be seen walking around with the adults. I held out as long as I could but back-to-back trips on the Alpengiest found me battling nausea and nursing an aching head.

We lucked up on timing our trip. Many of the school districts in the surrounding states hadn't let out for the summer just yet, or it was graduation weekend. That meant fewer than usual numbers in the park and we didn't have to stand in the sweltering sun for 30, 45, or even 90 minutes to wait for a ride that would be over and done with in about 90 seconds.

We didn't know this when we first arrived, though, and my nephew had spotted information on the ticket about a "Quick Queue." For an extra fee — that's on top of the price of admission that's not exactly pocket change — you could enjoy the top rides over and over and over again, with unlimited priority boarding.

Never mind that signs warned cutting line was cause for immediate ejection from the park, and no refund of the cash you just put down to get in the place. If you didn't mind shelling out more money, you got to cut line with the blessing of the park.

I'd never heard of such foolishness in my life. That was the thing about an amusement park. You stood in line and waited, patiently, for your turn. You'd figure out how to pass the time. You'd fan yourself with the park map. You'd suck down $8 soft drinks. You'd talk with your ride mates and even strike up conversations with those around you. And everyone was on equal ground. Those that were at the head of the line were there because they'd timed it just about perfectly or they'd been there waiting, just like you. It gave you hope and assurance that, soon, you'd be at the front of the line.

I suppose that's too old fashioned in this new age. Today's youth can't possibly be expected to go 10 minutes, let alone an hour, without some sort of entertainment. These quick passes, which aren't limited to this one particular park, are offered just about everywhere, ensuring that kids never have to be bored — as long as someone's willing to pay.

That brings me to my second objection to these passes. It's created a caste system of amusement park patrons. There's the haves that can waste money on $20, $50, or even $120 beyond the price of admission (per person), and then there's those that don't have the cash for that on top of $60+ per person admission and the $8 drinks and the $15 hamburger and the cotton candy and the funnel cake. Or those that think it's ridiculous to pay all that extra cash just so the kids won't whine about having to wait a few minutes.

Some of the "haves" have taken the quick pass to new levels. There's special park tours you can arrange for ridiculously high prices that sweep you to the front of the line. Apparently that wasn't enough so some parents, according to recent news reports, had taken to hiring people with physical disabilities to pose as family members for the day, taking advantage of policies that would let them skip to the front of the line.

You'd think such abhorrent behavior would be unilaterally condemned, but you'd be wrong. On one such news report, people actually defended the practice, saying it offered a way for those with disabilities to make some extra cash, despite the terrible example it was setting for the kids involved in the schemes.

Some parks are working on ways to reduce wait times at its most popular rides with ideas that don't cost more money or allow for sanctioned line cutting. I hope they can find the happy medium that keeps the lines moving along, but doesn't rob us of the ability to amuse ourselves at the amusement park.

• • •

Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published each Tuesday. She may be reached at

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014