Archive for March 10th, 2008

Darts and Balloons

The only game at carnivals and fairs I ever enjoyed playing was darts. I got dizzy on carousels, nauseated on ferris wheels and had a horrible experience in the Fun House that’s worthy of an entirely separate post on its own (in fact it’s probably novella worthy). But as a kid, when it comes to darts, there’s just something about aiming a sharp, pointy object and connecting it to a pastel-colored balloon – hearing the pop – and discovering what prize you’d just won.

I haven’t played darts at the fair since I was nine or 10. At that young age when the game goes wrong and bites your ass, you tend to steer clear of it. In my case, one errant dart throw caused the dart to bounce off the balloon and come back at me, striking me in the head – close to my right eye actually. The carnie thought it amusing. My dad, though, was pissed as hell. First because my head was suddenly bleeding profusely and he had to use his shirt to compress my temple. Secondly, because the carnie laughed first and showed concern second. I’m sure Dad demanded a refund and threatened a law suit – not that we’d get rich from suing the Mighty Thomas Show carnival (although, in hindsight someone was getting rich from operating the midway games that came through town each year for the county fair).

Safe darts have long since been invented. Plastic tips, bar room darts – that just don’t carry the same cachet and the more lethal steel tipped, feather-finned dart. The game, I hear, is huge in the U.K. and Ireland where being an expert dart thrower is akin to playing on a pro football soccer team (almost). But since that one bad experience throwing darts, I’ve never really picked up the game again. I’m a flincher. Risk averse when it comes to throwing sharp-pointed objects at rubber balloons – or the more forgiving cork dart board.

Such vivid experiences carry over to other regions of life.

The sting of verbal darts thrown between two people can be just as painful as a dart making contact with your scalp. And the hemorrhaging is just as real.


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