Friday, August 25, 2006

I'm back

After being injected with a radioactive agent that won't pass out of my system until Thanksgiving, I like to leave town for a day or two.

We went to Cincinnati, Ohio.

The pictures first:

Paramount's Kings Island is gorgeous. They pipe in theme music from various Paramount pictures on International Street. I didn't recognize the theme from the first Star Trek movie and my husband called me a barbarian.

Part of the view from the park's scaled-down Eiffel Tower. You ride a glass and steel elevator to the observation area at the top. A woman standing next to me had a panic attack before the doors opened up on the top level. I found this intriguing, since it's not the ascent that disturbs me, it's the landing.

The walk-up view of the tower.

It's funny what people wear when they're out and about. I saw a family dressed entirely in identical clothes from The Gap, recognizable by the GAP logo emblazoned across their chests. They had two little boys in Gap clothes too, complete with matching Gap ball caps. Economics students: can you say conspicuous consumption? But the youngest boy took off his ball cap and threw it in the trash while we waited in line at the train station, which delighted me no end.

The coupling between two cars, because I'm weird and like to examine things like that. You'd have to understand my childhood. I was raised on railroads and pipe organs and steamboats.

Speaking of which:

I love carosuels. This one, from the Twenties, evoked every childhood memory of my grandparents. Oh, it was lovely. The lights, the colors.

It's not like I could really ride anything at Kings Island (except for the merry-go-round) but I so enjoyed watching the kids and taking in the sights.

Later in the afternoon, right after my husband decided to take the older two boys on a roller coaster, the youngest and I walked hand-in-hand behind them on our way toward the Nickelodeon Universe to meet Scooby Doo when a very small boy staggered past us howling, "Mom! Moooooom!" His cry was so piteous that I stopped cold; is he lost?

I watched him wander in and out of threads of people, looking upward and sobbing helplessly. I watched the people glance down at him and keep going, uneasily. No one claimed this kid. No one was stopping to help.

It's funny, the mood you get in when you're at an amusement park. Maybe it's such a hedonistic, insular pleasure that you start to forget about everyone else. I don't know. I know for a split second I actually hesitated. I did! I didn't know what to do about that kid. (Suppose I try to help him and then the mom comes up and asks me what the hell I'm doing talking to her child.)

I think when you're out in public you see so many things that you can't comment on --people slapping their kids around, blowing cigarette smoke in their faces, unconcernedly letting them run about unsupervised (because it isn't polite and people will tell you to mind your own business, and not very kindly either) you get...inured, almost, so that when you see a small child walk past obviously lost you almost have to think about it before you respond. And I don't like that.

Come on, Sharon. He's just a kid; kids trump everything.

I wheeled around and went back after him.

The kid moved so quickly. It was warm, I was already tired and perspiring. I could see his little blond head bobbing in the crowd ahead; I knew I'd never catch up. Just then a park employee jogged past importantly (not making eye contact) and I grabbed his arm and made him stop.

"Are you a park employee?"
"Yes, I am."
"That little boy is lost and crying for his mother. He's over there, in the blue and white shirt. Please get him and help him."

He turned and followed the kid, instantly. Man, could that guy move fast. I felt envious.

I lagged behind, still holding my own child's hand, to observe from afar. Just to make sure. You never know about people.

He got to the little boy in about two seconds. The child had sat down on a bench, wiping his eyes and sobbing almost hysterically. I watched the employee talk to him; a crowd gathered. People started calling: "He's lost! A little boy is lost." The employee guided the child inside a Fifties Diner, where he appeared to be radioing more assistance.

Well, then. The kid will be all right.

As my child and I retraced our steps back toward Scooby-Doo, a woman ran past us calling ahead: "We found the mom! We've got the mom." And then I felt okay about going ahead and leaving.

I looked over my shoulder: a crowd had gathered around the kid and people were telling each other, with some excitement, what had transpired, looking around for the mom to arrive. I felt a pinch of irritation -- just a pinch -- because I couldn't be the one to talk to the child myself and let him know everything will really be all right. My heart went out to him, sitting there all alone on the bench crying like that.

Everyone else got to help him while I stood back at a distance anonymously and watched. But isn't that the way it is? Even when all appearances are to the contrary, there are still good people out there looking out for you, even if you can't see them (and you usually can't). And maybe that's all we ever need know.