Put machines through their paces at the...

YOU THINK THEY

June 19, 1992

YOU THINK THEY put machines through their paces at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County? Then you've never seen the trials kids inflict on the indoor carousel at the McDonald's on Emmorton Road in nearby Abingdon.

The carousel is part of a small indoor playground, not uncommon at McDonald's restaurants. There are little figures for children to ride: a smiley hamburger-headed thing and a few other fast food gargoyles. But kids being kids, most aren't content to merely ride the ride.

They wrap their legs around the supports and hang upside down off the revolving ride like daredevil Cossack riders in the Moscow Circus.

They swarm the ride with three times as many kids as the equipment's capacity, clinging for their young lives, perhaps the way some of their grandparents tried to stuff themselves into phone booths as teen-agers in the '50s.

Some of the little heathens even anchor their bodies to the ground and get red in the face as they struggle to hold back the spinning machine. The mid-shaft groans, but almost never breaks.

An assistant manager says the apparatus has broken only once in two years, and yet its engineers could never have begun to fathom the tests children invent.

And to think that some parents' groups, including the Baltimore City Council of PTAs, have complained with a straight face that a new toy called the Incredible Crash Dummies plants destructive thoughts in children's minds.

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