Growing up, I was always afraid to try new things. I was always afraid of not liking something or someone and that it might hurt me in some way. What scared me the most were roller coasters. Even though my family assured me they were safe, I never got behind the idea of going fast in a small cart on a track with nothing but a safety bar to hold you in place.
Over the course of my childhood, I gradually became more accepting of roller coasters. By the time I was ten, I had ridden all the big ones at Disney World. Many aren’t considered scary, but riding them was a big win for me. Working my way through those rides felt like I was a football player in the NFL going through the playoffs. With each win, I became overwhelmed with the joy of moving up to the next round that would be more challenging than the last.
But, there was one ride that always sent a shiver down my spine: the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. This was like the Super Bowl.. To put it simply, the cart you are in is launched. Not simply rolled up a lift where you would eventually go down a drop, but LAUNCHED. As in, you go from zero to sixty miles per hour within three seconds. I mean, come on, you are basically an astronaut in a rocket.
After my dad spent three days trying to convince me to ride it, I managed to work up the courage to go through it. I entered the building that was modeled to appear like a record company’s studio. As my family and I walked through the line, my nerves started to calm down, as if someone had just given me a sedative. We eventually ended up in a recording booth where Aerosmith was working on their album. This is the part where the riders get invited to the Aerosmith concert and, since they’re all running late, need to take a fast car to get there in time.
Entering the loading area, I realized that the relaxation I was feeling was really the calm before the storm. The first thing I saw as I entered was the “limo” being launched into a pitch dark tunnel, and I heard the screams fade into the dark as if they’ve evaporated from existence. Soon, the butterflies began to flap their wings hard in my stomach, I felt like I was going to puke, and my legs began to shake like those dancing skeletons you see around Halloween. As we got closer, I began to shake harder and the pain in my stomach grew to a point where it felt like I was passing a kidney stone. When we got up to the usher, he looked at me, smiled, and said, “Alright folks, walk this way.” (It’s not Disney unless they throw a pun in there somewhere, right?)
I sat in the car and we rolled to the entrance of the dark tunnel. Out of the speakers next to my head, Steven Tyler was shouting a countdown in my ear. I began to squeeze the handles on my safety bar harder as he got closer to one. There was a pause. I thought the ride had broken down and began to release my grip when he yelled, “Go!” I was pushed back into my seat and I saw nothing but darkness and the flash of the on ride photo camera. With Aerosmith blasting in my ear, I saw glow in the dark road signs, palm trees, and the Hollywood sign rush past me like blurs, almost impossible to make out because we were going so fast. Suddenly, I felt my body get flipped upside down. With the blood going to my brain, I thought, “No one told me we go upside down!”. Suddenly, my butt fell back into the seat. Before I knew it, the ride was over. It didn’t last more than a minute and a half.
What I took away from it was that being scared actually makes it more fun. The build up to the actual event helps bring in a sense of danger. The adrenaline rush you feel just makes it more tense. When it starts, you’re paralyzed with fear and start to have second thoughts. But, once it’s over you feel incredible, like you’ve just conquered a huge monster. With the relief and excitement going to your head, the only thought you have is “Let’s go again.”