Daily Archives: 07-03-09

August 15th 1973

“Went + bought coat – Dad didn’t like it. Went to fair wiv gary & Trev – smart fun on dodgems”

I wonder if Dad didn’t like the coat because HE paid for it?

I LOVED the dodgems – or to give them a far more colloquial English terms… bumper cars

It was always a weird set up back then. Unlike now, where customers seem to get into an ordered queue to spend some time whizzing round the oval circuit, back then it was a veritable free-for-all. People would lurk around the rink’s perimeter, identifying the ‘best’ dodgem car then running to it when everything stopped. The bigger ‘lads’ and grown-ups almost always gaining precedence over the weak and feeble looking. (Shyly raises hand). Woe betide any unfortunate couple who may decide stay in their car for a second trip round. If the new driver was bigger and burlier than you, you got out… and waited your turn (again) around the railings.

Once in the car, what a hoot it was. For a few minutes – and it was always just a few minutes – we would all be the worst drivers in the world, deliberately crashing (bumping – hence the name) into one another.

I have noticed that – in this more ‘safety-conscious’ 21st Century – dodgem operators now try and and instill a set of rules, where drivers are supposed to all drive in the same direction round the circuit. There was NONE of this namby-pamby nonsense back in 1973 let me tell you! The intent then was to drive head-on into as many people as possible, dodgems whose bumpers ‘mounted’ one another conjuring extra kudos for the ‘attacking’ driver. This was mainly because it necessitated the ride’s operators to come out onto the dangerous rink and disentangle the cars, resulting in jeers, shouting and the exciting possibility of another car injuring them in the process.

Not that these guys ever got hit – at least as far as I saw. Instead, they adopted a somewhat cocky attitude, running across the track and hanging fearlessly onto the rear pole of the cars to (as was the case back then) collect the fare from each rider. It was a role I never wished to emulate, but captured perfectly by Ringo Starr in the 1973 movie “That’ll Be the Day” (which I am sure will make another appearance in these diary posts before the year is out)

I still like bumper cars. But these days I like watching kids play on them as much as riding them myself. (I think the seats have gotten smaller… *cough*)

The wife and I have whiled away many an hour at places like (the local to us) King’s Island theme park enjoying seeing young children initially bemused – then fascinated – by the idea of being able to bump into each other in their dodgem. Funnier though is when we espy a kid who really doesn’t ‘get’ it or is immediately intimidated by it. (I often wonder if these kids are then ‘scarred for life’ in terms of ever driving a vehicle again?) It’s true that getting the hang of driving a dodgem car takes a little patience and skill – spinning the steering wheel quickly to get out of a blind corner for instance not immediately logical – but most kids get it eventually. Not so one little girl we saw a few years back. She got in the car, somehow managed to spin the wheel and then hold it in a manner which meant she spent her entire go merely circling backwards in one corner of the rink. She spent every minute of this bawling her head off, with parents (seemingly) nowhere to be seen. It may just have been five of the funniest real life moments I have ever witnessed. Yes, I might be evil.


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