Monday, October 17, 2011

A Fair Day

For some reason, I seem to be exhausted by the end of the school week. It’s not like I am over-extending myself. In fact, there are several things that I want and need to do that just haven’t gotten done because I run out of steam by the time I have accomplished all the things that have to be done.
Despite being tired and wishing for a day that didn’t start before 10 am, we decided to go to the Texas State Fair on Saturday. I think I wanted a funnel cake more than I wanted a morning to sleep late! Aside from the funnel cakes, the fair is the epitome of something I loathe - big crowds. I don’t like controlled crowds of well-behaved people; and, I really don’t like huge crowds of rowdy people hyped up on sugar and alcohol. I also don’t like crowds where the number of strollers equals the number of mobile people and those strollers are being pushed by mobile people under three feet tall. In my opinion, the State Fair has great potential for providing a miserable experience. But, it never has.
We rode the DART train, Dallas’ fledgling mass transit system, to the fair. Many other people chose this option as well. It is much cheaper than parking and much less stressful than driving. We got on the train at one of the earliest stops on this particular route and, to my surprise, it was already standing room only. We stood for a few stops. As the train slowed at the next station, we could see that a large crowd was about to board. It was clear that my personal space was about to be no more. At this point we were about half way to the fair; the trip would be another 20-25 minutes. We were standing by a seated family that consisted of grandparents, two of their children and spouses, and four grandchildren. As we scrunched to make room for the onslaught of new riders, the grandmother tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to an empty seat. Her family had doubled up the children so that three of them were sharing a seat intended for two and the fourth was on dad’s lap. This was a welcome but certainly unnecessary gesture on this family’s part. I will gladly admit that we were ever so grateful to arrive at the fair grounds with our legs and feet not already tired from having stood for forty-five minutes.
As the massive crowd disembarked from the train, everyone took their turn. There was no pushing or shoving. This controlled atmosphere continued all the way into the fairgrounds despite the slowdown as we all went through the narrow gates and past the metal detectors.
Next it was on to purchase a ticket. The fair employees did their best to direct people to the shortest lines, keeping everyone’s frustration levels at a minimum. During our brief time in the line, people were sharing extra discount coupons and even a few tickets with others . It was a bright spot for me to see a mass of strangers from all walks of life doing what they could to help others to save a few dollars and enjoy a good day at the fair.
We stood in a few more lines throughout the day in order to get drinks and the coveted funnel cake. Everyone was polite. People were quick to ask if you were in line before they took their place or to point to the fact that there were multiple lines being served. I observed as a patron shared food coupons with someone who had stood in line and was two tickets short for what they wanted. As the day went on, my faith in humanity was refreshed.
And, I was not hit by a single stroller powered by someone who could not see over the handles - or, for that matter, any other strollers.
Our fair day was a fun day. It was a good day.
Spending a day at the Texas State Fair is not an inexpensive outing. Admission tickets are reasonable, but bottles of soda that are 79 cents at a gas station are nearly four dollars at the fair. Funnel cakes are close to $5.00 (but worth every penny!). The rides average around $5.00. It doesn’t take long for these things to add up to a pretty pricy day, especially for a family.
I wonder if people were so pleasant and in such good moods because this year going to the fair was a big treat for themselves and their family. Did a day at the fair represent several weeks or months of saving? Is this a family’s vacation for the year? Are people so worried and stressed about the economic conditions that they vowed to leave that all behind for a day and enjoy themselves whatever the cost.
I don’t really know why all of the fair-goers were on their best behavior last Saturday. I do know, however, that I am grateful that they were. It made for quite an enjoyable day.

In a later post I will share how our memories of the fair will live on. That’s what souvenirs are for, Right?