SNEAKER: GO ON AN UPSIDE-DOWN ROLLER COASTER
Submitted by Lisa G.
“The increasingly loud pounding of my heart is only drowned out by the approaching car that stops right in front of us as the gates open to allow us in. Here we go…”
SO HERE’S THE DEAL
There I was, standing with someone’s mom at the exit of the roller coaster, patiently waiting for my friends to finish their so-called “fun”. It was like this at every birthday party that took place at a theme park. I would be the life of the party at the game booths or the spinning or scrambling rides, but when it came to actual roller coasters, I was out. I had never actually been on one so it wasn’t like I had been traumatized. I just knew that I would be too scared and therefore did not want to even try. (A recurring theme in my life.)
This continued until my 15th birthday, when some friends and I went to Disneyland. They begged me the whole way there to just try a roller coaster with them. I wasn’t sure how one would “try” a roller coaster. If you didn’t like it, I didn’t think you could politely raise your hand and ask to be excused. So, once, again, I declined. But this time my friends did not back down. Right up until the line at the Matterhorn, they were trying to devise ways to convince me to join them. I stayed in line with them, my resolve beginning to fade, but still incredibly wary. By the time we got to the front of the line, I got my “sign” that it would all be okay. My lucky number was “8” and that’s the number of the car that pulled up. So, I took a deep breath, got in the car with my friends, and strapped in for dear life. The ride took off and I screamed my head off. I still have no explanation for this next part. I must have reverted back to my early childhood days in my state of fear because while we were whipping around the side of the snow-covered mountain, I began to shout at the top of my lungs, all the lyrics to “I’m a Little Teapot”. My friend in front of me tried to turn around to look at me like I had lost my mind but luckily she couldn’t move her head with the car’s momentum. When we reached the bottom of the track, I felt an adrenaline rush unlike anything I had previously felt. I glanced over at the strangers in line and, in my peppiest and most enthusiastic voice, assured them, “That was fun! That wasn’t scary! That was fun!” I spent the rest of the day leading my friends around the park to the other roller coasters.
You would think that this lesson would have taught me to take that leap of faith and try something new, especially when it comes to roller coasters. But no, I decided to spend the next 15 years thoroughly enjoying those same few Disneyland roller coasters, and stubbornly avoiding the scarier roller coasters at other parks, especially any that go upside down. That was WAY too far outside of my comfort zone to actually imagine doing. So here’s the deal: I will go on an upside-down roller coaster.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
Today’s the day. After 33 years of carefully avoiding all things scary, I have decided to go on an upside down roller coaster. I’m so nervous, I can barely breathe. I’m driving to Disneyland, (what should be “The Happiest Place on Earth” but at the moment is “The Most Terrifying Place on Earth”), where my brave brother has convinced me that the “California Screamin’” ride at California Adventure (Disneyland’s neighbor) is the perfect roller coaster on which to begin my life of death drops and upside-down spins. I trust him. After all, he’s family…he wouldn’t lie to me. Right?
I bombard my brother with questions about the ride. Information is power, right? The more I can find out about the ride, the less scary it will seem. But my brother isn’t playing. He wants me to trust him, take a deep breath and relax. Easier said than done. Especially when we approach the ride and I see the steep inclines and large loop for the first time. I’m not even on the ride yet and my stomach has already dropped to my feet. My brother sees my face and guides me forward, toward the line. The first thing I notice is the large “CAUTION” sign with a list of the type of people who should avoid this ride. I scan it, hoping maybe my name is on it somewhere. Sadly, it does not list “scaredy-cats” among those who should step out of line, so forward I march.
As we approach the front of the line, my brother and my friend are debating which section of the car is better. “The front is scarier”, my brother says, “you can see what you’re about to go down.” “But the back feels faster”, my friend counters, “and you can see the front section start to go ahead of you which is scary.” Neither of these sound like good options to me. But before I can join in on the debate, we are ushered into our stalls. I look down, quietly hoping that I’m in stall #8. No such luck. We are, however, in the middle stall, which, weighing what I just heard about the front and the back, seems to me like a good place to be. Relatively speaking, of course.
I look up at my brother and he now has a mischievous smile on his face. He is rubbing his hands together in excitement for my upcoming experience. This behavior makes me more nervous than ever. I want to say something but I am suddenly at a loss for words. My brain is being drowned out by my increasingly loud pounding heart. The pounding is only drowned out by the approaching car that stops right in front of us, as the gates open to allow us in. Here we go…
I sit down in the seat, tuck my purse in the Velcro pouch by our feet, and, as instructed, pull the handles down on the device that is supposed to stop me from plummeting to my death. I check that it’s tight several times, then glance over at my grinning brother, who is now looking less and less trustworthy. The car begins to slowly move forward on the tracks and then comes to a stop. My brother explains that the magnets are lining up. I barely hear him. The music in the background sounds like something out of a demented circus horror movie. Not the most comforting sound. As I’m trying to remember how to breathe and swallow, a voice comes over the speakers saying, “Screamers, get ready to launch in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” I’m bracing myself and, after a moment, I realize that we’re not moving. I look cautiously over at my brother who seems honestly confused, then go back to thinking happy thoughts (this is Disneyland, after all), and am slightly jumpy when the voice repeats its countdown. This time he meant it and after the “1!” we are off! This is a sensation unlike anything I have ever experienced. The ride goes from zero to excruciatingly fast in less than a second and my head is thrown back against the headrest. We are zooming forward and I am having second, third, and tenth thoughts. We begin to slow down as we creep up a tall and steep hill. I have never dealt well with anticipatory anxiety and this is the ultimate form of it. Unfortunately, the worst has yet to come as we get to the top and then everything changes. The incline is so steep that I am absolutely certain that I am going to fall straight down out of my seat and into the coaster. You know those dreams where you’re falling and you have to wake yourself up in order to avoid hitting the ground? That’s what this feels like. Except I can’t wake up. We get to the bottom of that hill and I do my best to glare at my brother before we begin to take off again.
The car zooms up, down, and sideways, all at horrible speeds. And then, we approach the loop. We’re zooming toward it and I hear my brother say, “This is it, Lisa, here we go!” And we’re going. Up, over, and down again. I close my eyes for a second toward the top. The sensation of being upside down is too strange for me. I do not like it at all. But there is no time to ponder that feeling as my teapot-worthy screams continue as we encounter more ups, downs and sideways twists. Finally, we slow down as the car begins to track back toward the station. I carefully detach my fingers from the brace and hold my hand up. It is shaking uncontrollably. I look straight into my brother’s twinkling eyes, and though I have a shocked smile on my face, I say with utmost conviction, “NEVER AGAIN”. Although I am definitely proud of myself for trying something new, something I stopped myself from trying for many years, I solemnly swear that I will never ride another roller coaster of that caliber. It was far too terrifying and nauseating to ever intentionally put myself back in that position. And now that I can say that from experience and not speculation, I’m happily sticking to my Disneyland coasters from now on.