Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Conquering the Mountain...

In the 1986 classic movie Stand by Me, there is a scene where one of the boys gets caught in a junk yard and narrowly escapes an attack by the feared junk yard dog. In the movie the junk yard owner calls out to the dog, Chopper sic'em, but the boy, his mind clouded by fear, hears the owner say Chopper sic balls. Sometimes we let our fears control our minds.
I was a ten year old boy when my fear controlled my mind. So much so that the events of that day remained with me for the next 25 or so years. I was at Disney World in Orlando Florida standing in line to ride the roller coaster, Space Mountain. It's a coaster that is inside a large building, and Disney does a wonderful job of creating a Space atmosphere on this ride. It's pitch black inside, you can not see the track in front of you, and you have no real idea where the curves and hills are coming from. And it has haunted me for nearly all my life.
As a young boy, standing there, I knew I would hate it. I was petrified. But I heard my dad say, Oh don't be a sissy. It won't be that bad. Now maybe my dad said something like it's ok if you don't want to ride it, it's no big deal. But just like the boy in the junk yard, my mind heard something completely different. So I had to ride it.

I screamed the entire time. I may have even cried. I held on for dear life. I just knew that with each turn and hill I was going to fall out of my car and plummet to my death. I could hear my father as the police investigated my lifeless body below the tracks. At least he didn't chicken out.

A few minutes later it was over, and I was spent. Yes I had made it. I didn't die, like I thought I would, but I also didn't feel better for riding it. I didn't feel like I accomplished anything, or that I was brave because I rode it. I hated it. It was five minutes of pure hell. A hell that stuck with me for a long time. I didn't ride roller coasters or much of anything else after that experience. I was truly traumatized.

Last Saturday, now a grown man, I stood in that same line, and relived those memories. Once again I had that nervous feeling inside my stomach. I was standing just a few feet away from the very thing that had started it all. And once again, I had to ride it.

It was still just as dark as I remembered and the hills and curves were still just as surprising as when I was ten. The bar that strapped me in felt more snug and I didn't bounce around on this night like I did those many years ago. I looked around more and noticed more of the Space atmosphere this time around as opposed to closing my eyes and putting my head down. I remembered my dad and the memories of that vacation from when I was young. Finally, it was over, much sooner than I remembered. And this time, I actually felt like I had accomplished something. And I didn't cry nearly as much.


  1. I had almost the exact same experience only I haven't yet been back. :)

  2. As a kid we went to the Southeastern Far at the old fairgrounds in Atlanta. The roller coaster was old and scary even in the 50’s and 60’s (the same coaster that was destroyed at the end of Smokey and the Bandit, Burt Reynolds – Jackie Gleason flick). Riding the thing was the usual scary fun ride. But there was a part of the ride that the clacking and roaring of the coaster went quiet. Yes! The damn thing actually went airborne for a second during the ride. After a few times, you get used to it and actually expect it. But the first time I rode it at age 10 or so, it scared me so bad that you couldn’t have drove a straight pin up my ass with a sledge hammer. But it didn’t traumatize me. It added to the excitement, but I did make sure I went to the bathroom before I rode it again.

  3. I hate that ride. And not just because I was totally motion sick the one and only time I ever rode it. But just because it's jerky, and dark and scary and... well, you know.

  4. I was 6 when we went and I never even made it to the line. My dad and sister went but I couldn't. I love roller coasters now but I still don't regret not going when I was 6. I probably would have felt the same way. I'm glad you were able to stand up to it again!