Consuming Experience
An Alternate World

     Going out to Coney Island on the weekend was like traveling to a different world. Even though Coney was not a great distance from New York, the accepted moral codes, behavior, and values of the visitors underwent a striking change upon arrival at the pier. Notions of public conduct and social order were quite different at the beach. Unlike in the City where crowds moved along on the jammed sidewalks without eye contact or conversation, the casual atmosphere of Coney threw people together and facilitated interaction. It was acceptable behavior to strike up conversations with strangers, or even to begin dancing in the street. Young working-class girls would head to Coney on Sunday armed with only a nickel for the train fare, confident that they would find young men who would pick them up as paying dates for the day’s festivities. Even if one was not lucky enough to find a generous dandy, anyone who could collect train fare out to Coney could spend a day mixing with humanity in a more festive and carefree environment than the city.
     The sense of escapism that Coney provided allowed more than just a break from the drudgery of weekday city life. By heading to Coney, one could also shed to some extent one’s class or even race. Coney was a great mixing bowl of humanity, and everyone was joined together in a common quest for sun, relaxation, and cool seawater. Blacks and whites, upper classes and working classes crowded on the beaches together and all ate Coney’s favorite democratic treat, the Nathan’s hotdog. Not only was everyone thrown together because of the beach destination; Coney Island rides and directed pathways sent strangers tumbling into each other’s arms. Dizzying rides like the Human Whirlpool spun everyone around on huge revolving discs, resulting inevitably in piles of giggling bodies. Slower rides that acted as "Tunnels of Love" had only cozy space for two in each seat as they meandered through slow, dark scenery. These different social codes meant more freedom and more impulsive fun than would have been deemed inappropriate back at home. But at Coney, this behavior was encouraged and conscientiously facilitated

 

 

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