The fascination with the overhead tram

The overhead tram at the state fair park is an amazing structure that provides fun for riders, a welcome way to travel from the south to the north and a fascinating point of interest for myself.

Each year, I’m situated in the same place for the duration of the fair.

And that place has a full view of the tram . . . with it comes hours of observations as hundreds upon hundreds of people stand in line, take the ride and interact with the workers who run it for 12 or more hours a day.

First off, the workers who run it are colorful folks. They are the same bunch, year after year, so I know what they like to eat . . . and what they like to listen to.

They seem to have a tendency for music unfortunately created by Dr. Hook . . . for which I don’t share their fondness.

They also like some Guns N’ Roses, which is fine . . . well, for the first few days.

They have their own stereo system and I can literally predict the playlist, song by song, by the end of the first weekend.

The other point of interest with their musical experience is that they all seem to be experts in the art of air guitar and air drums. Yes, this is not an art form for which all of us are geared toward. It is with great precision that they mimic every movement the original artists perfected on real instruments. And they seem to be looking for accolades as they lean back, legs on ledges with neck veins popping from their alleged musicality.

It’s quite something.

Meanwhile, the riders embark on the tram ride . . . two by two, just as if they were animals entering Noah’s Ark.

The workers put down their air guitars to help riders of all ages carefully sit on the seats, while they sing the words to their chosen musical numbers.

When the security bar comes down around them, they are off.

Each of the seats gradually escalates into the sky as they make their way to the other side of the park.

In watching them do so, over and over and over again, I can offer tips to all riders.

Pay attention, this is important.

If you ride the tram and you are wearing flip flops, you need to squeeze your big toe against the toe next to it the entire time and do not let your feet wildly flail about.

Because if you relax your toes and kick about, the result will always be the same . . . you will lose a shoe.

I’ve seen it hundreds of times as flip flops fall to the ground and people are left with bare feet when they get to the other side.

So unless you want to limp across the park on hot cement covered in God knows what, pay attention to your flip-flopped feet.

Or better yet, just leave the flip flops at home so no tram-related incidents can occur.

Another key thing to remember is that if a child says they have a stomach ache, while you are waiting in line, do not allow that child to get on the tram until the nausea has subsided. Upset juvenile stomachs are often a side effect of the state fair . . . an episode from my childhood has left me still unable to consume pineapple whip with corndogs to this day. Drink some Pepto, visit a restroom, chill out in the shade. Do whatever you have to do to make sure no child with a stomach situation gets on the ride . . . because the result, all too often, can become some bad luck involving upchuck.

The other big trick is to make sure you consume all your liquids before you get on the tram. Too often, people get on the tram with a 64-ounce soft drink and then make the mistake of relaxing. The result? A quick shower of sugar water to the ground, leaving you with no refreshments in the end. Fortunately, the area underneath the tram is blocked off from pedestrians, so no one is in danger of being soaked in Diet Pepsi, bodily fluids or a flip flop flood.

I have to give the Tram Gang a special shout-out for their patient endurance on Senior Citizen Day because the task of helping the older set is more tedious and time consuming.

Despite the heat or redundancy of their work, it has always been with a grand arm gesture that one welcomes riders to the chairs. Another checks each seat as it becomes empty, to ensure its safety and integrity. And yet another gingerly assists riders off and directs them to the exit gate.

I have to admit there is a fondness that has grown between me and the Tram Gang. They often wave to me, encouraging me to ride after they learned I am terrified of heights.

They are always customers during their breaks. Late at night, they often get free sandwiches from us as we close.

“Thank you, sandwich lady!” they exclaim in the dark. “Tomorrow you come ride!”

I never have, partially because of my phobia and mostly because I don’t have time.

Plus, I feel like I have already had the experience from watching so many others embark.

Year after year, they beg me to ride and each year I think I might give it a try.

The tram is a fascinating state fair service . . . but I just don’t think it is for me.

Besides losing my mind from being high in the air, I might also lose a flip flop or God knows what else.



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