I don’t mean those big merry go rounds you find at travelling fairgrounds. The ones with the giant horses that go up and down which are fun for about twelve seconds before you start to feel nauseous. I mean the teeny tiny kids sized ones you find outside of supermarkets and in malls, meant to placate your kids into thinking the grocery shop or browsing excursion was in any way meant for their own amusement.
We have a couple such rides at our local shops, and R is completely at the right age to find them fascinating. I often see small babies placed on them, with parents looking eagerly at their little nonplussed faces, camera phones at the ready, while the baby in question continues sucking its hand or gazing into the semidistance in total disinterest. The parents-unwilling to admit they just wasted the extortionate sum of money paid, start pulling faces and making noises to elicit the desired smile or giggle. When successful, and photo snapped, they consider the job well done and no doubt head off to develop the photo and frame one of many pictures in every parents home which basically depict a lie. Ruby had so much fun on the merry go round today-just look at her little face!
Slightly older kids have the opposite problem to poor bored Ruby. Too much excitement. When R was about a year, he loved the rides probably even more than he does now. But all that excitement, expressed mainly with clapping and bouncing, meant that he was constantly on the verge of falling out of the mini seats as they went round and round. (Why are they open like that? How much could they possibly save by omitting doors in the design-and surely any saving is offset by lawsuits anyway?) It basically meant I had to dance like a moron around with him as it rotated, holding him up or filling the gap so that he didn’t land on his head every 4 seconds. Fun for R? Maybe. But far too few photo opportunities to prove what a fun mum I am, and certainly no fun for dizzy ol’ me.
I am pretty certain that in a few months time, he will pass the age where he enjoys monotonous music and repetitive motion, and the rides will be boring once again, so I am taking as much advantage as possible of these few enjoyable weeks where I can snap away to my hearts content while he smiles and makes happy noises and presses the buttons and turns the steering wheel correctly and has a whale of a time for about 45 seconds and what can reasonably be called the cost of a small property.
But this precious time is being spoiled for me by the pure evil of The Other Parents.
I can guarantee you that they have a plan. When I get to the shopping mall, they are nowhere to be seen. The aisles are empty of pushchairs, I can hear no whining or pleading in my earshot, and there is certainly no one waiting for or participating in a ride. But they are there. Skulking in the dark corners of the shopping centre, these parents wait until they hear the clink of the pound coins falling into the machine, and then jump out with their toddler, avoiding all eye contact, and placing their kids onto the adjacent seat.
NO. For those unfamiliar with the concept, normally the rides have about 3 seats, which all move together. By putting in my coins, I have paid for all three seats. They are mine. I own them for the next minute. If you want to use one… it is not only polite, but it is only legal to ask me first! And to pay me half of what I have put in for that matter. If I wanted to give your kids a free ride I would have offered. You might say why does it matter, I’m not using all three seats, but I think anyone with a toddler will attest to the fact that they may in fact want to change seats midway, possibly multiple times. All of which is besides the point, it’s the principle, you just haven’t paid for the ride!
Why do I feel so awkward telling them to cough up or get off? I know that it is unfair, and I know that they are trying it on by either avoiding eye contact or giving me those brazen smiles. I also know that if I just summoned up the courage to say “that will be £x please” they would probably all stump up the cash. But it’s just so embarrassing asking actual strangers for their money. And as it is normally quite a small amount, it makes me look like the tightest person ever!
This is becoming one of London’s most heinous parenting crimes. And yet it is an increasingly socially acceptable form of thievery. Well I’m not putting up with it any more. The next parent that carousel-jacks my son is getting asked straight out, to dig deep or move on.
If I can summon up the courage that is.