For as long as I can remember I’ve been a complete and total coward. When I was little, everything terrified me. Bullies, dogs, monsters, slow moving cargo vans with tinted windows, tornadoes, Popsicle sticks covered with ants and of course let’s not forget the imminent arrival of “World War 3,” which we were told was going to be with the evil “Communists.” (I’m planning to write an entire post about just that subject. One of these days. If I get around to it. Which I probably won’t, by the way.)
Over time most of these fears were self identified as irrational and faded away. For instance, I really never got bullied, I was never abducted by a serial killer in a cargo van, (not that it doesn’t happen, but it never happened to me) ants are pretty much just ants, the alleged threat of “War with the Evil Communists” I eventually came to the conclusion was mostly just propaganda meant to keep all the little slaves afraid and working for Big Brother (again, more on that later,) and monsters are really just bizarre looking animals we haven’t discovered yet, and mostly live in the deepest parts of the ocean, which is somewhere I seriously doubt I will ever go.
There is one fear I have always had that still remains. I am intensely afraid of heights. More specifically I am afraid of falling from great heights. (Or even moderate heights.) This of course is not an irrational fear! Falling from a great height would hurt bad, probably even kill you. Not only that you would have a little time to ponder your imminent fate before you hit the ground, and there’s a good chance the last thing you would feel, besides unimaginable terror, is a split second of intense agonizing pain as your body exploded all over the ground.
This fear goes back deep into my childhood, and when my mom took me to the fair, I only rode the kiddie rides, and even some of those rides scared the shit out of me. For a long time I didn’t even like being on the second floor of a house! (That particular fear did subside somewhat by the time I got into kindergarten, and had gone away completely by the time I got to 2nd grade.)
Up through high school I had the opportunity to go to a place called Cedar Point a couple of times. Once with some kids I used to babysit for and their mom, and once again in high school band. (I played Trombone by the way.)
Cedar Point, for the uninformed, is THE greatest amusement park on earth.
I know you’re probably thinking, what about those Disney places or Universal Studios? Well. those are theme parks. Cedar Point is mostly just a place full of mind blowing, cutting edge rides. A peninsula jutting out onto Lake Erie that is filled with one crazy ride after another, admittedly interspersed with vendor stands featuring ridiculously over priced junk food and trinketry. But mostly it is just rides. (Also fuck Disney-world. It’s in Florida. And fuck Disneyland. It’s in California.)
Both of those early times I went to Cedar Point I spent most of my day hanging out in a place called Bernstain Bear Land, the Reptile Zoo (which they don’t even have anymore) the video game arcade, and basically anything else that would save me from the terrors of riding on any of those gigantic roller coasters that looked pretty much to me like instant death.
During the high school band trip I somehow managed to summon the courage to get on something called “The Canoe Ride” which did in fact feature a horrifying 50 foot drop down a water slide. I rode it over and over again all day, and felt like a real trooper about it. Meanwhile, many of my peers were riding The Magnum, a brand new ride which featured a 200 foot, pretty much 90 degree drop, and was, in fact, at the time, the tallest coaster in the world. (I was having NO part of that shit, let me tell you.)
The Canoe Ride vs. The Magnum. Nuff Said!
Fast forward some ten years. My best friend at that time, a girl named Linnea, asked me if I wanted to go to Cedar Point with her. Hmmmmm. I hadn’t been to Cedar Point since LONG before I was of drinking age, and now that I had lived long enough to achieve that privilege, I figured there was a pretty good chance, with enough liquid courage, I might actually be inclined to ride one of those daunting coasters that had so mocked me in my youth. Plus Linnea had assured me she had a certain ride threshold herself, and would only go on some of the more mild coasters, and absolutely nothing that went upside down. (The whole thing seemed pretty legit.)
Yet there was an uneasiness in the pit of my stomach that warm summer day as I drove us towards Sandusky Ohio. Sandusky’s only about a 2 hour drive from Jackson, Michigan where she and I both lived at the time. Or should have been. An unfortunate misdirect on the Ohio Turnpike added an extra couple hours to our journey, not to mention an extra bite out of my wallet, since the Ohio Turnpike is a road that is apparently considered so incredibly amazing they actually charge you to drive on it! By the mile! And we’d been on it so long we were almost in Pennsylvania before I realized we’d missed our exit long… long ago, and had to turn around and drive all the way back down that same damn turnpike for another hour to get to the so called Amusement park. (There was no amusement involved in that shameful drive.)
So eventually we arrive at Cedar Point. We walk through the front gate. My knees are trembling. What had I gotten myself into?
I’m staring up at all these monolithic rides which I had convinced myself, the whole drive out here, couldn’t have been as tall as I remembered, and indeed they weren’t. They were taller. They were much…much…taller. And I knew I wasn’t getting out of it this time. Somehow or another, I was going to have to get on one of these ridiculous looking roller coasters. I couldn’t possibly disappoint Linnea. I couldn’t possibly cop out now, and have to drive us all the way back to Jackson with my head hung in shame the whole way. This was gonna happen! There was nothing I could do about it. I felt like a convicted murderer on his way to the gas chamber.
What…the fuck… had I gotten myself into?
To be continued….