I remember the first time I ever got on a roller coaster. It had to have been the second time that I had ever visited Disneyland because I believe my younger sister and I barely made the height requirement for the Space Mountain ride. I was just a kid waiting in the long line of people winding its way inside this highly decorated and dark cave. Each step I took to get closer to the front of the line made my heart beat a little faster and my nerves rattle like the venomous snake’s tail out in the hot desert sun. I was scared out of my mind and by the time I my family and I stepped onto the carts I nearly had a full-blown panic attack and felt my body falling into what I thought was a conniption.
As we were being strapped into the roller coaster I made the sign of the cross and said about twelve Hail Marys. I had never been so religious in my life. I checked the lap bar securing my tiny body inside of the ride about fifty times before the ride took off in an instant. The train of people sped through the artificial night’s sky that was decorated with inaccurate depictions of our solar system as I screamed for dear life. I’m also fairly sure that at some point during the ride I stopped breathing because, when the ride did stop in the middle of its usual course and the lights came on, I drew in the deepest gasp for air my little lungs have ever managed to muster and I felt my heart start beating in my stomach.
We waited several minutes on the ride, with the lights on, stuck in the middle of the tracks with only the view of one of the ride’s workers picking up a bright red baseball cap below us. I was convinced, and to be honest even to this day, that someone had fallen out of the ride and died in the middle of my first roller coaster ride (even though that I later checked and this was not the case). When the ride did continue its treacherous path to the original starting point, the rides’ passengers all chanted that they wanted to ride it again. Needless to say we rode it again, this time with my eyes closed praying to God that I wouldn’t fall out of the ride and die at Disneyland while my sister was balling her eyes out in the seat in front of me.
The funny thing about all of this is that despite an incredibly terrible first time on a roller coaster, I was able to get on another roller coaster and enjoy voluntary whiplash without the fear of death lingering on my mind (the entire time). I still avoid certain rides at theme parks, but I have gotten on Space Mountain at Disneyland since then and had a great time.
I may still remember the image of the bright red cap innocently sitting at the base of Space Mountain, but I keep in mind that facing your fears and attempting to overcome obstacles makes for a better ending than just being afraid and never trying anything new or something over again. If you take anything from this story I would like you to remember to face your fears, and to not wear hats on a roller coaster. In the end it helps you to become a stronger person, and you also won’t scare young children into thinking someone died on a theme park ride.