Monday, October 20, 2008

Teenagers, Rollercoasters, and Other Halloween Fears

Yesterday, my son and I went with some friends to Lagoon, our local amusement park. Each fall the park stays open on weekends for “Frightmares” – most of the rides are open, and they add a few haunted houses and change their musical shows to be sung by vampires or chainsaw-wielding loonies. It’s pretty fun, but yesterday was a beautiful, warm 70-degree day, and the entire state of Utah was there. The lines were so long we didn’t even bother trying to get into the haunted houses – it would have eaten up the few hours we had. So we stuck to the roller coasters and other rides, which suited us just fine.

Usually when we go to Lagoon, my son’s favorite treat is an Icee – one of those frozen slush drinks. We know they’re nut-free, so we don’t usually branch out of our comfort zone. Yesterday, however, the friend we were with wanted to get a snack, and my son decided he wanted something different.

“Please, Mom, can you ask about the pretzels?” he begged.

Grrr. I hate asking 16-year-old food service employees about food ingredients. The blank looks don’t do much for my confidence. And I especially hate trying to sort out the safety of food when there’s a long line forming behind me.

But because I dote on my son, I broke down. Surprisingly, the little kiosk that sold the pretzels didn’t have a line, so I had both 16-year-old employees to myself. “My son’s allergic to nuts,” I began. “Do you know if your pretzels have any nut contamination?”

Blank looks. “Uh…” one said. The future of America, I thought to myself, and shuddered.

I tried again. “Or maybe you have the packaging that the pretzels came in, and I could check the ingredients label?”

That lit a light-bulb. “Oh, maybe…” she said, and rummaged under the counter. She pulled out a giant flattened cardboard box and pushed it up to the small window so I could read it.

The only big-8 allergen it listed was wheat! My son did his little air-guitar victory dance right there in the middle of the sidewalk.

Both 16-year-old employees looked a little bewildered, but they were happy to sell me a pretzel.

So that was my success story for the week. I nudged myself out of my comfort zone and braved a couple of glassy-eyed teenagers, and my son not only lived to tell about it, but he got to add a new treat to his repertoire. And I got to be the hero.

All-in-all, it was a good day. Well, except for the part about sitting in the front row of the Wicked rollercoaster. I’m still trying to forget that.

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