When you take your child to ride a merry-go-round you generally assume merriment will ensue. Your kid will rise up and down upon that graceful synthetic pony while happy organ music plays in the background. Maybe you’ll get some popcorn, maybe snap some pictures, and you’ll all walk away feeling pretty fucking good. So, as we stood in line at The Carrousel we talked of all the fun that Sage would have. We scanned the horses and menagerie of other animals and picked the one she would ride. We hummed along with the music. We prepared our daughter for how she’d have to hold on tight and stay mounted till the song was over. Unfortunately, what we should have been doing was watching to make sure the carrousel operator was not a psychopathic baby hater.

No, sadly, that reality did not set in till my husband and daughter boarded the ride. They chose a dappled swine that was out of my view so I fixed my attention on two adorable sisters while I waited for the ride begin. The sisters were dressed in long flowing skirts and they were screeching with delight at the prospect of finding two horses side by side.  When they finally mounted their twin steeds they reached their arms across to join hands. It was so picturesque that I had to stop myself from getting out my camera. But just as the sisters were intertwining their fingers, this angry stomping woman beelined for the scene, “NO HOLDING HANDS!” She shouted. “You’re gonna fall and your head’s gonna be bleeding and I’m the one who’s gonna have to clean it up. Me! It will be ME! LET GO OR I KICK YOU OFF YOU HEAR!” The girls were stunned. They broke their hold and immediately gripped the ponies desperately searching for any bit of comfort. I tried to think of something to say to these befuddled siblings like, “Sometimes grownups get bitten by bats and they turn in to evil creatures who prey on small children but it’s OK . Soon she’ll go back to her lair and you’ll never see her again.” But as I was composing my speech I noticed the beast was pursuing a new victim.

She’d spotted a tiny little boy who had slid off his horse and was calling out for his mommy. This kid was apparently ripe for the picking. The lady looked elated as she walked his way. When she got to him she just crossed her arms and took a wide stance “ON OR OFF!” She shouted and then repeated “On or off! On or off! On or off!” until this kid was in tears. I could see his mother take notice of the scene and quickly tear through the crowd to rescue her son. “Finally!” the lady shouted at the mother, “Make your kid decide! What’s his problem?” she chided.

Following this scuffle Meanie McMeanerson headed for a boy who looked to be about ten. He was holding onto the pole with two firm hands and making jovial horse noises. He had clearly heard this woman shouting and was doing his best to be the model carousel rider. The lady was not buying it. “You’re going to be the kid who tries to climb the pole and who rides with only one hand.” She predicted aloud.  “DON”T YOU DARE! DON’T YOU DARE DO IT!” She warned.

All the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who had come to watch their little ones glide round and round in enjoyment began to look at one another like maybe we were going to have to do a citizens arrest on this crazy witch. And just as I was imagining how I’d be the one who would take her hands behind her back and say, ” You are under arrest for the being a terrible human,” the lady rounded the corner and though I could not see because the giant pole was blocking my view I could tell she was going for my husband and daughter. Suddenly I heard clamor and confusion and then before I could leap to the rescue with my posse of outraged parents and relatives the music started and the horses began going round. When my husband and daughter came into view I knew they’d been the subject of great wrath. Sage was white faced and my husband was shaking his head like, “Holy shit some lady just rammed a tire down my throat.” They did their best to enjoy the ride. Eventually my daughter even smiled. But after, when I asked her how she liked the ride all she could report was, “The lady say NO, NO, NO.”

When I asked my husband to elaborate he pretty much shared the same details. “Sage was scared so I got on the horse with her. I figured it would help. But then this terrible lady rounded the corner and shouted NO, NO, NO. She didn’t even tell us what we were doing wrong. She just screamed and screamed until I got off the horse.”

That night as I lay in bed I tried to think of some moral to this story; something I could tell my daughter to help explain the cruel behavior of this woman. I thought maybe I could say that sometimes grownups have really bad days and take it out on the wrong people or sometimes people yell when they are really sad and unfulfilled. But somehow these explanations suggested way more compassion than I was willing to offer this nasty child hater. Instead, I landed on the only possible moral that I could extract from such a silly and upsetting situation:  “Sometimes mean people who hate children take jobs operating carrousels. And that’s just…

really fucked up.”