Thinking About Other Things Like the Scottish Ferris Wheel From Hell

We lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for three years as I was awarded three years of research funding by the University of Edinburgh.

La-dee-dah, I hear you.

For the record, Edinburgh is the most visually stunning city I’ve ever seen. When we first got off the double decker bus on South Bridge and looked around it was as if we had magically been transported back in time. It looked just how it looked hundreds of years ago.

It honestly took my breath away.

It also looked like it would be crazy haunted, especially since so many horrific and dark things happened throughout its history which you can hear all about if you take any of the five million ghost tours.

But we didn’t encounter anything creepy or unexplained while living there.

Except for the drunk lads in Grassmarket and breakfast blood sausage.

When we first moved to Edinburgh, we lived in a Gorgie flat that turned out to be “real” which was great because we had to send money internationally without being able to confirm whether or not the flat was real because it wasn’t as if we could do a walk-through viewing as this was 2007 and, while I’m sure virtual tours existed, we weren’t quite there yet.

At least, not in Gorgie.

In fact, once we moved in to the flat which was wonderfully real I remember we had to walk to an internet cafe to use the internet.

Ah, the past.

Haha and it was funny and perhaps only funny to me but the internet cafe was run by a nice person who looked just liked the actor who played Christopher in The Sopranos.

But he was Indian.

So we referred to him as “Indian Christafuh,” offending everyone.

In any case, we loved him but not enough to be on a first-name basis with him. That was probably his decision because we were annoying foreigners.

In our first year of living in Scotland we had no money at all. The Gorgie flat was furnished with outdoor patio furniture and we could barely afford food.

Our Thanksgiving turkey was composed of some kind of matter.

And, on Christmas, we even turned on the heat and bought cheap alcohol to celebrate not being dead yet.

Thus, for our first Christmas in Scotland which was also our first Christmas as a married couple as months before we got married and sold everything we owned to move to Scotland, we got drunk and, for dinner, ate all the cookies which our families had sent us for the holiday.

In our second year, we managed to move to a more centrally-located flat in a tenement which had a view of the Edinburgh Castle.

And it was also close to the best pub in Edinburgh.

We still couldn’t really afford food but now we were very close to a Farm Foods which had a lot of cheap canned and frozen food which kept us alive.

And, once, while living in our second Scottish flat, we were watching television (since flats came furnished and most came with a TV, the “deep state” drives around in vans and detects whether or not your flat has a TV or computer and then, if you do, they send you a bill which you have to pay which I didn’t want to pay because we had no money and I hadn’t owned or watched TV in years but you have to pay and then you get BBC and all the rest so it was kind of like paying for a utility and not how at all how it is in America) and came upon what we referred to as “Scottish Cops,” which was a reality TV show which followed police around as they arrested people or really just kind of primarily said “Mate? You can’t be doing that” most of the time and was far less violent than the American version of the same show.

Which makes sense.

So, in the episode we happened to see, the Scottish cops were arresting some European tourists who were urinating on our tenement’s entry. We recognized the graffiti on the door. And we got all excited and jumped up, yelling:

“They’re pissing on OUR front door! That’s our front door!”

In any case, we were really moving up in the world.

And we were now much closer to Princes Street Gardens where Edinburgh pulls off Christmas better than any other city I’ve ever seen.

It even brings in a gigantic Ferris wheel which captured my imagination as soon as I caught sight of it.

I love Ferris wheels… being high up in the night sky, surrounded by neon lights, moving at a relatively slow pace… they feel dream-like.

Therefore, on our second December in Edinburgh, I stumbled down the big castle hill to get a closer look at the great Ferris wheel which had been set up on the side of Princes Street below. It seemed rather fantastic that they had put up a carnival in the middle of the city to celebrate the winter holidays. Since I’ve always been a bit partial to sideshows, I was delighted.

Also, the castle loomed at a short distance, veiled by fog and darkness, so the fires and crowds and music and bartering of the outdoor market below made me feel as if we were living at an earlier time in history.

I later dragged my husband David along as I sought a closer review. As we approached, I saw there were mechanical rides, a German fair with food and random German things, a skating rink and a lady giving fortunes on the square (and, by this I mean, a mystic), but we decided to investigate what mulled wine was about first.

I was happy with this decision. I had only before heard of mulled wine and that was because it was a drink people drank in Christmas carol lyrics so to enjoy a hot mug of this on a temperate winter day in a German Christmas market in Scotland at the foot of a castle was the stuff impractical dreams were made of.

And that was what I was all about.

However, the main objective was still to get on the giant Ferris wheel.

I had never been on one during the day, but most days that December had been foggy, dark and, basically, a stage setting for fantasies, so it seemed satisfactory. David and I waited in a long line and found that we would have to share our car with a little boy and his father. I have difficulty ignoring people that I’m positioned to stare directly at, so I was made uncomfortable by our situation as the potential for small talk would likely grow exponentially in the small car.

Yet, I covered my dark feelings with a kind smile for the kid and our small car moved forward and up to allow the next group to load. A group of black-haired teenagers representing the strange and awkward clambered into the car behind us.

They were now behind us because they had cut right to the front of line BUT NOT IN FRONT OF US previously and no one did anything about it. In fact, no one had even noticed.

I looked over at the boy I married. We had become so old. We stood in line. We waited our turn. And now we had to share our car.

Being good seemed to be some kind of sacrifice. I had never been a fan of hedonism and standing in line and sharing and all of it simply seemed like a solid way to not be a super dick.

Saying that, we still somehow couldn’t do it right and I often had to bite my tongue while attempting to be good. For example, while patiently and quietly waiting in line for the Ferris wheel, we had managed to get yelled at because we weren’t moving fast enough or in the right direction, and later because we weren’t paying the right person.

For the love of cats, if someone is handing you the money you asked for, don’t give them a hard time. That’s written down as a rule somewhere in the book that keeps fragile human relations from dismantling completely.

In any case, we managed to get on the ride without further abuse and were all snuggled in our car with the kid and his dad, and also with the freaks who had taken the smarter route and who were now seated directly behind us, and the machine started to move. 

And then we became aware that we had stepped onto the

Ferris Wheel From Hell.

It started out well with the normal creaks and moans that cold, rusty metal makes. But then the creaks slowly became louder and louder, and we could not help but think that we were going to die. I don’t think I had ever been scared on a Ferris wheel. It’s a fucking Ferris wheel.

But there it was. 

Then the goth kids behind us started to scream. I don’t mean yell, shout, laugh or anything moderate, I mean high-pitched screeches. The kind that someone would have to practice in order to get right for a bad horror movie.

They all just started screaming.

Around this point, we had the deafening creaks and moans of the metal, the piercing screams of five teenagers and then the icy wind picked up. I had never so badly wanted a Ferris wheel to go faster so it would be done in my entire life.

We slowly made our way up and then stopped at the very top. And, when I say “stopped,” I only mean the motion. The screams and mechanical moans continued on. If I had ever wondered what hanging by a thread truly felt like – and I had – I now knew. I thought we were going to plummet to the ground any minute.

It would be noiseless. It would crush the people in the line below. Then, if we rolled to the right, we would spill down into the gardens and kill all the people waiting in line for the rides down there. If we rolled to the left, we would hit buses and they would probably hit back. 

In any case, we would be dead. And other people would be dead.

And the kids behind us would shut up.

My thoughts were interrupted by the little boy seated across from us. His big child eyes were opened wide and he emphatically exclaimed,

I’m totally almost dead!”

That was probably the best thing I had ever heard in my entire life and I immediately changed my opinion of him. I then smiled at him with sincerity. Yes. We were all totally almost dead.

And then I took a picture of him and his dad, at their request. We were going to die with nice people at least.

But the ride was not over – we had not even completed one big circle. At this point, I think that everyone had been loaded and so we then started to move faster. We were descending and picking up speed and moved through the loading zone, where insanely loud Christmas music blasted at top volume out of the large speakers:


The music was deafening and made me feel dizzy, but only for a second or two, for we were really moving now.

We started to go back up and the screams kicked in and the creaking kicked in and this is about when I thought we had entered some distant circle of hell. The space reserved for people who had only committed small evil acts. Childhood bullies who had reformed but who were never truly sorry. Masturbators with exceptionally disturbing fantasies. People who… cut in line… this is what they could expect from hell after they died.

Around and around we went, our hands tightly gripped the metal safety bar in front of us tightly. The screams, the moans, the deafening jolly music, the howling wind and us, forever entwined.

But, in spite of how it had seemed, the terrifying ride did eventually end.

And we were the first to be let off. I assume that’s because they weren’t quite sure who had been screaming, so they were just going to let our entire section out first.

We said our goodbyes to the man and his kid. He had thought we were Scandinavian. That was funny. How nice to not look American if only to avoid credit/blame for something saddled with an immense amount of emotion.

Throughout our time in Scotland, a large majority of people had blamed us for George Bush, Jr. as if we had personally escorted him into office. We’d go home and sit on our indoor patio furniture in our Gorgie flat and ponder this. Similarly, when Obama was later elected, we received a flurry of congratulation texts at three in the morning because we had also personally made it possible for him to occupy the Oval Office.

It didn’t matter who we had voted for; we were American and we were specifically responsible.

We probably were.

After we survived the Ferris wheel, we went home to try to perfect the production of mulled wine. The key was alcohol. Pour alcohol into alcohol. And heat it. Brilliant. Being from Wisconsin, this was a revelation.

And now, although I have developed a small phobia of Ferris wheels, I felt like I could take on an outer circle of hell, if it came to it.

Or, at minimum, experience an enjoyable brush of nostalgia before being completely and eternally engulfed by flame.

3 thoughts on “Thinking About Other Things Like the Scottish Ferris Wheel From Hell

  1. Yes! This is exactly how I felt on my first and only ride on a Ferris Wheel! I was seated between my Dad and my uncle and still did not feel safe! I hated every minute of it and could not enjoy looking over our neighborhood, lit up at night. I think that is when I realized that I do not have an adventurous spirit or even like an adrenaline rush!!
    But Scotland does sound like an interesting adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

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