“It’s real smooth,” he explained. And so was he, my brother-in-law talking me into riding a roller coaster over Thanksgiving break. The Alpengeist. I watched as it looped and twisted through the night sky, dozens of feet dangling in midair while hands braced the harnesses that kept occupants inside the car at all times.
I knew no one else would ride with him so I agreed. I like roller coasters, the ones that aren’t scary, but I really feel like I’m getting too old for this stuff. I don’t think my heart can take it anymore. I knew the ride would be quick. I just tried not to think any more about it.
As our turn approached, I made two requests: no front row and I had to have an inside seat. The less I saw of the ground and the fact that I was nowhere near it, the better.
When we boarded, two gray-haired men took the seats next to us. They were father and son. The son kindly tucked in his dad, put his hood on him, and asked, “Dad, are you OK?”
My brother-in-law turned to me and said, “Do you scream?”
I said something like, “Uh, you better believe it.”
I locked my eyes on the row in front of me and as the coaster started downward, let out a scream that lasted half the length of the ride. More screaming followed. Panic set in. I couldn’t tell whether we were up, down, left, or right. Could this entire ride be upside down? What was this? When would it end?
When we finally stopped, my trembling fingers couldn’t undo the harness. I could barely stand on gelatinous legs. As we walked to our family, the man who had been sitting next to me turned to me and said he was 87 and he just thought he’d try it. What?
If I hadn’t had a mouth full of cotton, I would have asked him a hundred questions. He seemed OK. And except for my screaming, he probably had a great ride.
My kids, mother, and sister wanted the verdict. “Mommy, did you throw up? We heard you screaming. We can’t believe you rode that.” Very funny. This ride is touted as “one of the tallest, fastest, most insane coasters in the world.” I’m convinced.
I’m not adventurous or spontaneous. I’m a hardcore planner and I painstakingly think things through. I don’t care for adventure that takes my breath away, but every now and then I can be talked into something stupid. There have been times when, through sweaty palms, knocking knees, and not being able to catch a breath, my prayers have included more than a few curse words. But I feel like sometimes you get a free pass when panic sets in.
Deep down, I know it can be a good thing to make sure there’s still blood pumping through your veins, that it hasn’t seized up like water in molten chocolate. I need to know my heart can take a jolt, especially with teenagers coming my way in four years.
So maybe I shouldn’t write off adventure yet. Maybe there will still be hope for me at 87, and my kids will still be able to talk me into a little something stupid. What will I have to lose? Maybe nothing but a pair of false teeth.