You Must Be This Young to Ride This Ride

It’s Tuesday night and I’m walking through the Meadowland’s State Fair with my girlfriend, Ann. The weather is cool and breezy and attendance is sparse. That’s good because I won’t have to wait to get on a ride. And man, I love amusement park rides.

“So what ride do you want to go on first?” Ann asks, as we leave the petting zoo. I petted dirty llamas and miniature ponies as a favor to her. I don’t like seeing animals cooped up.

“Why don’t we start off easy?” I suggest. ‘”How about the Rock & Roll over there?” Ann can get sick reading on a plane.

The Rock & Roll whips you around on an undulating circular platform which makes you feel like the resulting centrifugal force will throw you out of the car which, if everything is up to specs, it won’t. Because of the forces involved, the heaviest passenger has to sit on the left side. If you reverse that order the smaller person would get squished.

We clamber into the car and I, an amusement park pro, lower the safety bar and lock it myself. That doesn’t stop the operator from checking it anyway. When all the other passengers get on board the operator flips a switch and, within a few revolutions, the ride’a going full speed.

Ann lets out such a bloodcurdling scream that I’m afraid the operator will stop the ride. The carnies, leathery looking guys who’ve logged thousands of hours operating these rides, are trained to watch the passengers for signs of distress. But I guess they’re familiar with every type of scream and, seeing no danger, they let the ride spin away. A big smile spreads across my face. Suddenly I’m ten years old again. The operator encourages up to throw up our hands, so I do. And that’s when the trouble starts.

Beads of sweat form on my brow and something starts tickling my stomach. This has occasionally happened to me before so I focus on the head of the girl in front and my equilibrium issues sort themselves out. The ride ends after two minutes and I climb surefooted out of the car. “Ah,” I say to myself. “You just needed to get acclimated.”

The Crazy Mouse is next on our list. It’s just a roller coaster where the car spins. When we get in Ann tells the couple sitting next to her not to mind the screams. Thirty seconds into the ups, downs and revolutions, that funny feeling returns and I focus on my feet to combat the swimming in my head. Getting off the ride I’m still steady and bound down the stairs. I realize now I was just kidding myself.

“Let’s go on the Gravitron!” Annie says, surprisingly looking none the worse for wear. “That’s my favorite ride.”

“No,” I say emphatically. We’ve all been on some version of the Gravitron. That’s the ride where you stand in a large spinning cylinder and the G-forces pin you to the wall. I don’t like it because your body says you’re moving but, because the ride’s completely enclosed, you can’t see that you’re moving. It’s the one ride I can’t stand.

“I’ll go on the Space Roller if you go on this one,” Ann says. The Space Roller is my favorite ride. Ann hates it.

“Okay,” I say, getting on line. “But you better not wimp out on me.”

The ride is exactly as I remember it. When the cylinder gets up to full speed and I’m sticking to the wall, I turn my head to look at Ann. This cause my inner ear to scream, “What the hell are you doing?’” and I feel my stomach muscles ripple. I close my eyes as a defense and just wait for the everything to stop spinning.

When we exit the ride we are greeted by a huge splatter of vomit just outside the entrance. “Somebody didn’t make it,” I laugh, pointing the puke out to Ann. “Looks like someone had roasted corn,” she replies.

“Now for the Space Roller,” I say, ignoring the “Cut this shit out!” signals my body is sending me.

The Space Roller is, aw screw it, I’m tired of describing rides. Just sample the video. It’s a doozy.

The ride starts and suddenly we’re spinning and tumbling upside down. Now I am definitely not having any fun. Bile starts rising up my throat and a clammy sweat covers my body from head to toe. I’m going to puke. Instead of trying to focus on something, I just close my eyes and start breathing deeply. “Don’t hurl,” I chant to myself. “Don’t hurl.”

The ride comes to a stop. “Oh thank God,” I say to Ann. “I don’t think I can take any more of this.”

“We’re not done,” she says. “Now we go backwards.” Oh shit.

Somehow I manage to keep the contents of my stomach from going airborne and when the ride stops I stumble off the ride like a man who’s had five boilermakers in half an hour. Then I remember something I watched on Modern Family a few weeks ago.

During the episode Phil, a father of three, gets woozy after going on a roller coaster with his son at Disneyland. Around my age and a self-avowed roller coaster junkie, when he gets off the ride he stumbles around in circles, not understanding what’s happened to him.

“You look like hell,” Jay, his father-in-law says.

“I think that ride did something to me,” Phil replies.

“Fluid in you inner ear is thickening,” Jay says. “That’s what happens when you get old.”

“It is?”

“Yeah, you can’t take the motion. I gotta to pop a Dramamine to get in my swivel chair.”

In full nausea mode, I walk over to a picnic table and sit down. Putting my head in my hands, a realization washes over me.

“It’s official,” I say to Ann. “I’m becoming an old man.”

“Why do you say that?” she says. I remind her about Phil.

Ann laughs. “You’re not old. We just shouldn’t have done so many rides in a row.”

“Last year I didn’t have a problem,” I say. “Now I do. What if we have kids? What am I going to do? I’ll be in my fifties by then. What? I can’t go on the rides with them?”

Annie and I are getting married and the thought of children, whether we have them or not, has been on my mind a great deal lately. But if we do, I’m going to be an “old dad.” By the time my potential children graduate from grade school I’ll be mistaken for their grandfather. And the thought that I won’t be able to do fun things with them saddens me.

“Time to call it quits,” I say, thoroughly depressed “Let’s go home.”

As we start walking out of the park I see men almost half my age carrying their sleeping toddlers and I’m suddenly envious of their youth. Maybe I should have married long ago and had my kids when I was in my twenties. We have only so much time on this earth. Maybe I’ve squandered a good part of it.

“Let’s go on the Ferris wheel before we go,” Ann says. “You can handle that, right?”


As the Ferris wheel takes us skyward something a female friend told me echoes in my ear. “Don’t have kids,” she said. “You’re too old. Trust me, you won’t have the energy to keep up with them.” When she told me that I also realized I could die when my kids are still young.

After giving Ann the obligatory kiss, I sit in silence. Something at a fair always makes me sad. Sometimes it’s seeing the animals in cages, entitled people cutting in line or some crazy person having a meltdown because they didn’t win a teddy bear. This year it’s the realization of my own mortality.

Yet, looking at the New York skyline sparking in the distance, I remember what a wise man in his seventies also told me. “There’s a benefit to having kids when you’re older,” he said. “When you’re young you’re hustling to make a buck and into all that ‘Gotta be a success’ bullshit. Because your mental energy is tied up with that, you often don’t give your kids as much attention as you’d like. But when you’re older, you know all that stuff isn’t that important. So the time you spend with your children can be of higher quality, even if they don’t have you around as long.”

“Maybe,” I replied, not quite believing him.

“You’ll be a good father Steve,” he said gently. “Don’t worry.”

Despite a churning stomach, either from the rides or the fact my life will soon change in a big way, a smile spreads across my face. When I was in my twenties I was a mess. If I had kids then it would have been a disaster. Besides, I never would have met Ann – and that would have been an epic loss. I did the right thing waiting. I found the right one. And late is always better than never.

Slipping my arm around Ann I let out a satisfied and slightly puke flavored sigh. Whatever happens will happen. I can still ride this ride.

And if I have kids and take them to an amusement park, I’ll just pop a Dramamine.

46 thoughts on “You Must Be This Young to Ride This Ride”

  1. Jas says:

    Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, Steve! Best wishes to you and Ann in your life together.

    I’m a somewhat “older” mom myself. I was 33 when I had my son in February. My husband is 36. Our son will be an only child, and while I wish that my body had the elasticity that I took for granted in my 20s, I’m glad that we had him now, when we are financially stable and generally know where we want our lives to go.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Congratulations! I’ve been following your blog for seven years. So happy for you.

  3. Melissa says:

    So what if you get mistaken for the kid’s grandfather? It’s all about attitude! My husband is 37 with white hair. Our 2 year old is often asked if she’s having fun with grandpa. Just laugh it off and know you’re having the time of your life.

    Having our little girl has been the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done – even on bad days. I wish you all the best in your future marriage and possible kids.

  4. Kathy says:

    Congratulations to both of you! My husband and I were older when we married, but as you said, finding the right one is worth everything else.

  5. Kim says:

    Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! I got married at 35, had my son at 39 and now at 46, successfully battled breast cancer. Sure it sucks being an old parent. You’re not spry and you can’t run after the kids like you would like. But in a way, you have perspective and patience which is in short supply when you’re 25. Some times, you just have to have faith in yourself to be able to take the challenge. Mazel tav!

  6. Kathleen says:

    Congrats Waiter and Ann!!

    Some advice – Remember the tapestry Steve, all the knots are a beautiful pattern. You are where you should be now. Be Zen and don’t live too much in the future or the past. If you have kids they will be part of the tapestry too. And if you stay in the moment I assure you, you will discover your age doesn’t matter nearly as much as everything you can offer. Every season has its drawbacks….and its perks.

    (But if it’s really concerning you, consider adoption. Older children have trouble finding homes, much less high quality ones like yours will be. You will offer them healing, they will offer you a chance to turn back the clock and be a 30 year old dad. After 6 is when they start to get really interesting anyway.)

  7. Waiterrant Fan says:

    I had my first when I was 28. Three more later I realised last year (when I was 40) that funpark rides were really no longer fun.
    It catches up with everyone eventually.
    That said, I really do not want to have little kids when I am in my fifties – they were hard enough work in my thirties.

  8. Lauren says:

    You sneaky little …!!! Dropping an engagement announcement halfway in! 😀 Congratulations though, so happy for you!

  9. det-res says:

    Congratulations. Your wedding is great news. I will always remember late is always better than never.. Thanks!

  10. Wendi says:

    Congratulations, Steve!! 🙂

    I had the same “Oh no, I can’t handle the rides anymore!” realization a few years ago (I’m 47 now) and it really does suck, especially when you were a big fan of roller coasters before.

    My trick was to bring someone to go with the kids — their friends, usually — and let them be their ride buddies.

    I had my kids in my 20s, my brother had his in his 40s. He has less energy than I did, but I had less patience than he does. It all evens out in the end. 🙂

  11. Lynn says:

    I’m amused because my husband has to “man up” now. He’d never go on rides and coasters with me, but now that our daughter is 8 and she loves coasters, he feels like he has to.

    We’re in our 40s. And don’t worry, kids are adaptable. My daughter has NEVER run away from me, even though she’s always known that there’d be no way I could catch her. For that matter, having kids young is no guarantee of anything… you can still get cancer, get hit by a car, etc.

  12. Head Ant says:

    Do you have any hearing trouble, Steve? If so, get tested for Meniere’s. It can cause problems like you experienced–even off the rides. Best of luck to you with that.

    My husband and I had kids “late” and never regretted it.

  13. Jimmy Rogers says:

    Way to bury the lead! Flume rides (oh and I’m getting MARRIED)…congrats!

    I have an “old dad” and while he couldn’t always “hustle around with me,” he did always seem to have the time and interest in participating in stuff I cared about.

  14. h2o_girl says:

    Congratulations on your engagement, Steve! I hope you have many many happy years together! And don’t feel like you’re too old to have kids. I know many “older” parents and they are doing great. Plus I read somewhere that as “older” men’s testosterone levels drop, they are more patient and loving with small children. So you’ve got that going for ya. 🙂

  15. Kane says:

    Hello Steve. I missed you.

    Wow, after all these years, a marriage! You truly are blessed to have found Ann. I still remember the early days of your blog and how difficult your then-break up was. Isn’t amazing how things change?

    Whatever happens will happen. Glad to hear from you, and glad you are well =)


  16. Jen says:

    I’m a child of older parents (my mum and dad were 36 when they had me – I’m almost 30 now) and I tell you, I couldn’t have hoped for better parents. They were settled, happy, stable, loving, patient and fun.

    Congrats on your engagement from down under by the way! Very cool news 🙂

  17. ukmountie says:

    Congratulations. I guess we know why the posts have been a been less frequent. Good luck with marriage and kids. I’m sure you will do wonderfully.
    Don’t ever think you are too old for children. My wife and I had our first four months ago and I’m 49 years old. No-one has called me granddad yet, and frankly if they do I’m too happy to care.
    Sometimes I feel a bit sad that my time with my little girl will be more limited than most, but there’s nothing I would trade for seeing her smile.

  18. Nikki says:

    So glad to hear you are getting married! Congratulations! When is the happy day?

    Don’t worry about being an old dad. My grandfather was 35 and 42 when he had my mom and aunt respectively. He lived to 103, leaving them orphaned at 68 and 61.

    The ride buiness? Oi! Just the mention of the Tilt-A-Whirl makes me queasy. There I go. Must. Lay. Down. Now.

  19. Linda says:

    There are pluses and minuses to having kids at all ages young or old. Great parents express love, praise and encouragement and I’m sure your future kids will get all this from you.

  20. laurie says:

    Congrats waiter, I miss reading your stories like when you were working. Do you think you’ll ever go back blogging to us that way? the way that made you famous? I miss reading your work stories. I have to admit I don’t enjoy reading your stories as much in the past year and a half.

    Take care

  21. Ohlala says:

    Hey Steve , I am truly happy for you , visit India sometime. We do have fans here .

  22. J.R. Locke says:

    I know how you feel, I chickened out on the Lightening Loops during my eight grade class trip and there are still some guys hanging around my life who won’t let me forget it.

  23. The Other Elle says:

    Oh, lovely news! Congratulations, Steve, and best wishes to Ann and you for a long and happy life together. She sounds like exactly the right woman for you. How lucky that you found her!

  24. Bill McNutt says:

    I had the same realization this year. Took the Chosen Niece (4) to a sleazy roadside amusement park. Discovered that the formerly iron gut has become a rust bucket. Spinny, twirly rides and coasters now cause nausea and incipient hurling.

  25. DF says:

    Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! Had my kids young and just spent a week with the grandkids. I’m now 58. Still recuperating but wouldn’t miss the time with them for anything. The only thing that will change your life more than marriage is having kids…do it, you won’t regret it!

  26. nunya says:

    Congratulations on your marriage 🙂

    Having kids IS a big deal. The decision is yours and your wife’s. If you do decide to have kids please try to remember that there is no such thing as a “perfect parent.”

  27. Caypso says:

    If you choose to have children, you are going to be *such* an excellent father. You wouldn’t be the writer you are if you didn’t know how to listen, and to love, and that’s really all a child needs to be happy.

    One of my favorite people who didn’t have his kids until after age 50 is Penn Jillette—check out some of what he’s written-video blogged about that and how great it’s been for him (and he’s no “younger than his years” than you are).

  28. Nighthawk700 says:

    I wonder if that’s what happening to me. I used to love going over the big bridges. The higher and longer they were, the better. In my car or on my motorcycle, I’d look down and see all of what was underneath. Now I find myself experiencing vertigo when on a high bridge and looking down. Now I just focus on the length right in front of me. I’ll find out next summer how I do at the rides in Disney World…

    As for kids when older, my youngest was born 3 years ago, when I was 39, so I’ll have to delay retirement if I want to get her (and her older two sisters) through college. Still, they are worth it. But of course, that’s a personal decision.

    Best of luck in the wedding and decisions afterward!

  29. Mike says:

    Steve, this is the first time I’ve ever read your blog, but I feel obliged to shed some insight. Growing up, I had a much ‘older’ dad. When he died at 68, I was 16. Despite that, I have no regrets – I had the best childhood that anyone could ask for. Like what everyone above has said, what older parents lack in physical energy, they make up for with emotional energy. While my father was never running along with me, he was always cheering me on and providing me with the guidance to get me to where I am today – and I’m quite happy with where I am.

    I wish you all the best.

  30. kathee says:


  31. Bryan says:

    I was 40 when my daughter was born. One day a stranger casually asked me a question about my “granddaughter.” It inspired me to get in and stay in shape. Now I exercise every day and I’m really careful about how much I eat. And people are routinely shocked when I tell them I’m turning 50 in a couple of months. They tell me they simply assumed my gray hair was premature because I “don’t look that old.” I guess what I’m saying is don’t simply accept things that make you unhappy — do what you can to change them.

  32. Marsha says:

    Well, good. As others have said, take care of yourself – walk seriously every day, eat with care, enjoy everything for what it is (even when you are choosing to eat something good for you instead of something yummy). Also, for heaven’s sake, get life insurance and make a will and then you can forget about both and get on with the fun! You are where you are in life, and it sounds like it’s a wonderful place – congratulations to you both.

  33. Ms McDermott says:

    Congratulations Waiter! Like all the others before me, I too am v. happy for you. Of course you and Ann will be having children, how else will you be writing your new blog “old dad rant”?
    Can’t wait to read it.

  34. Maggie says:

    Congrats Steve! I’ve been reading your blog for a very long time, and I’m so happy that you’ve found Mrs. Waiter Rant 🙂

  35. Hilldawg says:

    Hey! Steve, your book “Waiter Rant” has given me so much more confidence in waiting tables. I truly want to thank you for that. It’s not just with waiting tables either. Your words have helped give me confidence in other areas of my life(i know i sound a bit dramatic and corny). Normally I’m very shy and I’m very sensitive, but every night that I come to work I have a better attitude. I actually just so happen to work at a place called The Bistro and the people that come in aren’t much different than the people you mention in your book. I struck up a conversation with a customer the other day about waiting tables and he agreed with me that it seems like a difficult job. I don’t know if it was the way I was explaining my job description to him, but he asked me if I hated waiting tables so much (which I don’t, I don’t know how he got that from the conversation) that why do I not just find another or better paying job? I had no idea how to respond and I felt awkward. I hear it from people all over, especially those who don’t leave tips. They ask that if I don’t like them not tipping, to find a better job. How do you usually respond when people ask you that? Or have they asked you that? If you can, email me back. It would be much appreciated.

  36. Irina says:


  37. nycwhofan says:

    Congrats on the engagement! Even if you can’t ride the rides as well as you did in your youth, I bet you’ll be a great dad like this guy, scared out of his gourd but going back up for his kid:

  38. Bob Dobbs says:

    Great post. And, congratulations.

    As for getting married and having kids, you’re ready when you’re ready, as you’ve figured out. My sister adopted — at 53. If she can do it, you sure can.

    Yes, parts of your body don’t work like they once did. This won’t improve, though you can compensate in many ways. But I do think, as others have said, that as a person you reach your peak of maturity at around 50 — you know yourself as well as you ever will, and some”problems” that used to bedevil you constantly will become recognizable as you doing dirt to yourself. Isn’t that a great perspective to have while raising children?

    Sure, after 55 the mind gets a little softer — but the maturity, with care, will remain. Good luck to you both.

  39. Aliza says:

    Mazal Tov! I’ve been reading your blog almost from the beginning, and I’m so happy to hear that you’ve met your wife. I know that you’ve had some rough patches, but from the parts of your personality which come through your writing, you seem like a funny, insightful and supportive guy, who can give a lot to the right woman. May you have many happy, happy years together.

  40. Angela says:

    I’m going to chime in with others about having kids later. My husband and I were 45 and 37, respectively, when our daughter was born and 50 and 43 when our son was born. He has been a much more hands-on dad than a lot of the younger dads in our area. It’s been hard in some ways but we have a lot more patience than we would have had in our 20’s. If you want or have kids, though, work on keeping yourself in decent shape. It will make a big difference when your kids want to play frisbee or catch.

  41. Patty says:

    Congratulations on your upcoming marriage I wish you both the best. My dad was 30 when I was born and 46 when my sister was born. He has always said that having her when he was older allowed him to spend more time with her and attending all her games that he could not do when I was playing sports.

  42. Zoë says:

    I had an “older” dad, one who was fifty when I was born.

    A good father is always better than an energetic, distracted, and/or distant one. If you know you’d love your kid(s) right and do it with more care and presence than you would have at a younger age, do it, mate. That’s all I can say.


  43. Almost American says:

    “late is always better than never.”
    Agreed! So glad I waited and found myself a good one 🙂 Wishing you much happiness!

  44. J. R. Locke says:

    I grew up in West Harlem during the 70’s and remember watching the Pallisades Amusement Park burn down on the other side of the Hudson. I didn’t mind then because I was afraid to go on the rides and now, with the park burned down I didn’t have to. You can be “too old” for amusement park rides at any age and you can be a father at any age too. Look at Anthony Quin or Tony Randal, besides if you want to feel energetic all you have to do is work out regular, these days people live to be a hundred.

  45. TJ says:

    LOVE LOVE your writing! You and Ann are refreshing & charming. Congratulations on finding the right one!

  46. Janie says:

    congratulations on your upcoming marriage. I had kids really young. 19, 26, 34. we really spread them apart. I think there is no perfect age to have kids. I would have rather enjoyed my 20’s, finished college and had fun, than change diapers at 20.
    you will do fine. for the record, i’m 48 and i hate roller coasters. I leave that for my son to ride. – Janie in Md.

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