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Archive for October, 2010

Fear

As a 12 year-old who had never ventured onto something more exhilarating than bumper cars (I was even afraid of the Ferris wheel), you may ask how, back in 1977, I ever came to be on the Zipper ride that had set up in the mall parking lot in Fredericton. It’s a question I still ask myself, although I think my older bother’s influence had something to do with it. We lost everything we had won at the sleazy midway that day, as well as all the money in our pockets. I also lost all interest in ever again getting on any “two-axes of motion” rides.

Over the years and as my kids have grown, I’ve managed to make it onto Ferris wheels, the Tilt-A-Whirl, and even some motorized swan-boats. 🙂 As an engineer, I could analyze any ride and figure out how it would break and the consequences of the failure. Yup – I was a wimp when it came to rides. Funny thing is, I’ve downhill-skied some treacherous places and used to drive a dirt-bike like a maniac. So maybe the fear was more of the pot-smoking thugs that bolt the rides together with duct tape and bubblegum.

This summer while on vacation, we took the kids to Wonderland (Canada’s largest amusement park). As I analyzed rides the first day, I saw a couple of them that I could see myself riding, including a couple of roller coasters. The coasters were ones that went up and down but there was no spinning or crazy loops. Some were old wooden coasters that were limited in capability, one had these train-like cars suspended from above that felt quite safe. In all, I made it on to 4 roller coasters that day, each one more adventurous than the last!

We returned the next morning. My wife and son had plans to ride “Behemoth“, the highest roller coaster in the park at 230 ft. It reaches speeds up to 127 km/hr in 3.9 seconds, hurtling down a 75 degree cliff at the start. It pulls 4.5 Gs. My daughter and I were the only two sane ones not going on this ride. We did a couple of the other rides and another roller coaster that had heartline rolls (yeah..those are not for me). During this time my wife was taunting my daughter, ultimately making a bet with her that she would eat a Big Mac (wife being a holistic nutritionist, it’s like a vegan agreeing to eat a bacon explosion) if smart-like-dad-daughter would ride Behemoth with them. She wasn’t even trying to convince me, knowing that my logical mind would calculate the risk of dying and conclude that dying was not worth any bet she would make.

And then, out of nowhere, I just said to my daughter “I’ll go if you go”. What? Who said that? What was I thinking? This thing is freaking 230 ft tall. The seats look like those old plastic chairs from the high school cafeteria. And wait a minute – THERE ARE NO FREAKING SIDES ON THE CARS! Oh yeah, and no seat belts, shoulder harnesses – just this little post with a cushioned mushroom top to hold the wanna-be-astronauts in their seats!

The 30 minute wait to get on this thing was giving me too much time to think about it. I watched the people getting off – most seemed to be having fun, but a few didn’t look too happy. No…a better description was that they had seen the devil, and he wasn’t nice! That was going to be me. Why did I agree to this?

My final calculation was this: This thing runs all the time. It hasn’t had an accident yet (so…is it due for one?). What’s the chance that the cars fly off the rails while I am on it? What’s the real chance of me dying while riding this thing?

I concluded, like most things in life, the fear in my head was way worse than reality. I got on. The terror of the 230 ft climb was only numbed by the realization that the other side of the hill was going to be much worse. And then, we were flying – I mean… I don’t recall touching the seat for the rest of the ride.

But I had a blast! And I will go again.

Now where’s that next fear I need to tackle?

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