If life were a theme park, high school would be full of ups, downs, stomach-turning twists and even a scary clown or two. But your kids will survive it. And, with any luck, so will you.


By Peter Carter

I WAS ON A BUS full of automotive journalists, touring some manufacturing facilities in Japan. We were travelling through farm country, ascending a gentle incline, when we passed a small store marked by a sign that made us
all take a second look.

“Did you see that?” one of the American reporters yelled from the back of the bus. “It sounds like a theme park!” The store’s name? “LIQUORLAND.”

It really does evoke, say, Wonderland or Disneyland.

Then it started. “Welcome to Liquorland,” came backseat guy again. “All the excitement of alcohol nightmares and more!”

Somebody else: “Maybe one of the rides could be called The Vomit Comet!”

Me: “How about The Black Whirlies? Where you lay down on the bed and try to stop the room from spinning.”

Somebody who must remain nameless: “And who wouldn’t want to play, ‘Name that person in bed beside you?’”

It went on. Probably for too long. It all happened about five years ago. But Liquorland has resurfaced. As recently
as last Tuesday, my good friend and fellow dad, Nigel Simms, were discussing the fact that every year around Labour Day—no matter how old we get—we dread going back to school.

Even us guys in our 50s have that dream where we show up for school having completely forgotten a test that was scheduled. Or worse, stand up to answer a question and realize we forgot to put our pants on. (Er…maybe that last one’s just me. Anyway, I digress.) Nigel and I agree. High school is to blame. The three or four years you spend in high-school hell can traumatize you for life.

So we decided to build “HIGHSCHOOLLAND.” A visit to HIGHSCHOOLLAND will prepare your teens for the next few years; years that, when they’re older, they’ll look back upon with scorn, disgust and nightmares and, we hope, some fondness.

Our theme park would reassure them that even though they’re facing four years of tempestuous emotions; horrifying relationship traumas and self-image-killing one-day stands, high school is, in fact, survivable.

In HIGHSCHOOLLAND, I think we’d definitely clone LIQUORLAND attractions. But there’d be more:

• Axe Museum: Get your olfactory senses bombarded by Axe cologne and other potions teenage boys have used through the years in the hope of morphing into chick magnets. One of the displays would, of course, be from Hai Karate—the after-shave cologne that came with (and you can look this up) instructions for fighting off the girls.

• Hilarious House of Gender-Bending Mirrors: Just in case your innate sense of inferiority isn’t complex enough, why not stir in some self-image-destroying mirrors that let you doubt yourself even more?

• Mission Impossible Olympics: Here, visitors choose from a selection of sports; say, the 100-metre dash; basketball free throws; or maybe the devil’s-own gymnastic contraption: the pommel horse. Entrants square off against employees of HIGHSCHOOLLAND and get beaten 100 per cent of the time. The best part? Each time the house pro lets the chump think he has a chance at winning. But he never does.

• Arson Around Town: Every night at dusk, in the centre of the park, there’ll be fireworks. At HIGHSCHOOLLAND though, night after night, year after year, the only firework to be set off will be the one favoured by generations, dating back to, I believe, Piltdown Man. For good reason it’s the hands-down most revered pyrotechnic on the globe. Of course I’m talking about The Burning Schoolhouse. (That one is my wife Helena’s idea.)

HIGHSCHOOLLAND. Coming up with scary rides is easy. The thing is, and it’s good to remind yourself of this, when your teenagers arrive home in horrible moods, raging at themselves and others, especially you, EVERYBODY hates
high school. If your teenager comes home from secondary school smiling every day, alert the authorities. Like all gut-churning thrill rides, high school eventually winds down. One day soon it’ll be a goofy memory. Your job is to be waiting there for them, with a huge hug and a strawberry slushie. That’s the ticket.

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