Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Great Enigma: Roller Coaster Rides

From our perch high atop the Ferris wheel, my sister and I had a panoramic view of Hershey Park. We surveyed our surroundings, and discovered that our thoughts were running along the same track. Neither of us could figure out why there were so many people lined up for the various roller coasters.

Think about it. You pay a fortune to buy your way into an amusement park, only to stand in line in the sweltering heat, amidst masses of strangers, all of whom are sweating as much as you are. When you reach the front of the line, you are allowed the privilege of sitting down in a little cart. It is then that you get strapped in by a mechanism that looks like it was modeled after something from a Spanish Inquisition torture chamber. Then the cart pulls away, and the best part is still ahead of you.

You look ahead at the enormous track, yet all you can see is the massive incline looming ahead. When you reach the top, you experience a brief moment of total terror as you look down and realize that there is simply no way the cart will remain on the track. But it does, and you do survive, if only by a stroke of complete luck.

Best of all, when you come off, you get to see a screen where they have your picture splashed across it, in huge, so the entire world can see you in your moment of terror.

We looked at each other, and we knew there was only one way to explore the intricacies of the human mind and spirit, and solve, once and for all, the enigma of the roller coaster. We'd have to ride one.

As the Ferris wheel began to spiral downward, we chose a nearby wooden coaster, and promised ourselves we wouldn't chicken out. We reached the bottom, and we knew we'd have to do it. We dumped our bags on my mother, who sat down to wait on a nearby bench. I felt a lump in my throat, and suddenly I knew what a convicted criminal feels like as they are waiting for their execution to be carried out.

My mother looked at us with knowing glances, having gone through similar motions with many of her other kids already. "You'll be ok." I looked at some little kids strolling past us and onto the line, and felt really embarrassed. "I'm not scared! I feel like Christopher Columbus setting out to discover America. Or maybe like Louis and Clarke as they embarked on their famous journey across the United States!" LMM looked at me and laughed, despite her nervousness. "No you don't. You're terrified!" I had to admit that she was right, and then I took leave of my mother. "Bye Ma. If I don't make it, I don't want anyone to inherit my iPod. I want to be buried with it."

We stationed ourselves online, and found it to be very short. With terror in her voice, my sister commented "There must be a reason most people are staying away." I tried, unsuccessfully to comfort her. "Don't worry. The fatality rates are very low on these things. Probably less then twenty percent." She's not very good at math, so it was kind of wasted on her.

Another cart pulled off, and we heard shrieks somewhere in the distance. In unison, we fooled each other. "That's coming from a DIFFERENT roller coaster, right?" We moved up in the line, and suddenly we had to pick which seat we wanted to wait for. Then the people ahead of us pulled away. Both me and my sister were shaking. "Why are we doing this SD? We must be crazy!" I wanted to answer, but I could barely choke out the instructions. "Just say some tehillim."

So as we pulled off, tehillim on our lips and arms gripped tightly onto the bar. Almost immediately, we were headed UP. The feeling of dread I was experiencing at that point is indescribable. "Would this be billed a suicide or an ordinary accident?" As I lurched back in my seat, I felt bad for the guy in the back. "He's going to get the brunt of the weight on him when this thing can't make it up." But we did make it up, though by then I wished we hadn't.

During the split second that we were atop the hill, before we were sent hurtling down, the thought that was running through my head was rather morbid. "Why did I just say tehillim? I should have said shema and viduy!" Miraculously, after that drop, as we headed up the next incline and around the sharp bend, I relaxed a little. I still sat in terror for the rest of the ride, but something changed. As we came lurching around the final stretch, and the words "Finish Line" came into view, I couldn't get over the little ripple of disappointment I felt.

We got off, shaking and dizzy, and headed past the photo booth. Our picture was easily spotted, as we were the ones who had the Malach Hamoves posing with us in our picture. Well, you couldn't actually see him in the picture, but from the looks on our faces it was obvious that we were staring him straight in the face.

Mom was waiting for us at the exit. She looked at her two pale, shaking daughters, and inquired as to how it went. I could barely talk then, but I managed to breath "awesome." My friend, also eager to hear how my first roller coaster ride had gone, sent me a text "How was?" I had trouble answering, but I managed a quick text. "Awesome. As soon as I stop shaking I'm gonna find another roller coaster to go on."

I thought to myself, "what was so good about it? Why did I like that so much?" and I couldn't figure it out. With the great enigma left unsolved, we headed back later in the day, determined to come to the bottom of it. Three more consecutive times on the same roller coaster, and we had the art of posing for the on-ride-camera down pat, yet we still couldn't figure out what was driving us to go.

On the way home, as the effects of the coaster started to wear off, I asked LMM, "what were we thinking? Why did we go on that roller coaster....four times?!" her answer was very enlightening, coming from a fifteen year old. "You did it to prepare yourself for dating." Ouch.


Anonymous said...

My own roller coaster story of the week: I realized that I am OLD.

At Dorney Park I really wanted to go on the Talon last year, but I ran out of time. This year, I was determined to go.

My kids, even my less brave ones, assured me that it was not a scary one. Not many years ago I went on the Vapor Trail at Sesame Place (which we call the GroverCoaster), and it was a baby coaster. So I thought the Talon would be easy.

It was not fun. I am OLD. Once was enough. I can remember when I would jump on line as soon as a ride was over.

The water rides were fun, though.

Freeda said...

I'd like to meet you and your sister- you sound like you make quite a pair- that was some response she gave you... I think that we do these things so we could tell others (sometimes ourselves) that we did it. Like, imagine if you weren't allowed to tell anyone you went on it, it would take away half the fun, cuz we want to be able to say, I went on THAT.
At the same time, it is imp to remember that not everyone's scared of such things... for me it's downright fun!

Monkey's Uncle said...

the reason why the wooden roller coaster line was empty is because they HURT. the new steel roller coasters are much smoother.
whenever i ride the wooden ones, i end up black and blue.

Mikeinmidwood said...

There is nothing like riding the Nitro in six flags 6 times in a row (we didnt wait on line 6 times, just once), it was that good.

halfshared said...

LOL. UKITCUSMIRL. Now figure that out :-D.

itsagift said...

There is a certain thrill in doing something sooo scary and then surviving it! That's what makes it so much fun!!
I'm not the one who rides roller coasters, I'm usually too afraid to put my life on the line like that (LOL) but there's one roller coaster that I'd go on again and again - the Great Bear! It's just soo much fun, upside down and it has a few loops too (aaahhh!) but the ride is sooo fast that by the time you realize what happened, the ride is over!! There's a certain thrill and that's why I think people love roller coasters soo much - because it's so scary!!
Freeda, I don't agree with you, unless someone really falls for the peer pressure side of it...I wouldn't do something that scary just to tell people that I did it!

halfshared said...

Oh, I forgot to tell, I love roller coasters. Does that make me an enigma? I have been named one before and I always wondered why. I think I finally got my answer. Thank you! :-)

Staying Afloat said...

I agree with tesyaa. I LOVE coasters. Except for the new ones that start like they shoot you out of a gun- if they tell you to take your cell phones out of your pockets, I'm not going.

And the extra spinning is starting to make me nauseous,l which is depressing because I love the rush. Monkey's Uncle, I think the fun of a wooden coaster is the feeling that it's about to fall apart while you're on it.

And I would love to ride Kingda Ka, which wasn't around the last time I was at Six Flags with out kids, and which my son described as "motors for a few seconds, followed by an equal time of screams". Problem? I'm married and practical. The line is 2 hours long PLUS you lose some of the thrill when you're worried about losing your sheitel, tichel or hat.

Freeda said...

I rethought my comment this evening when I was holding the havdalah candle. Although I could have let the melted wax drip onto the foil beneath my hand, I tiled the candle at an angle to cause it to drip on me- despite the small tinge of pain when the hot wax touched my skin. Why did I want that? I think it may be somewhat similar to our desire to scare ourselves on rollercoasters...still not sure why we do it though...

Mushkie said...

Go adrenalin rushes...I was walking to babysitting today and I walked in the middle of the road (side street) just because I could. Coasters are the same idea.

%Shocked% said...

Well written.. Too well written in fact. That was so descriptive I now have this crazy urge to ride a roller coaster or two.. I can almost feel the wind whipping my hair into a frenzy, the tears streaming down my eyes, the screams emanating from my lips...

Inspired said...

Your sis is witty!

Next time try Six Flags, they have some great roller coasters there...

Something Different said...

Tesyaa- I don't see why you are chalking this up to old age. Can't it just be cuz of sanity?

Freeda- thats really funny that you say it, cuz my family happens to be quite entertaining, but my sister is definitely not high atop the list. It's mostly me, my father and one brother doing the entertaining. She can say an occasional witty remark though, so long as she doesn't try too hard.

MU- My father claims wooden roller coasters are like being in a car crash...I didn't find that tho, so I dunno.

MIM- DOes it go upside down?

HS- I did, didn't I? And no, you aren't enigmatic at

IAG- MP claims that the bear is the world's smoothest roller coaster...but I don't DO upside down. Oh, and I suppose your right. It's kinda like haunted houses, huh?

SA- I doubt any ride is worth a two hour(!) line!

Freeda- Me either. :-/

Mushkie- Adrenaline? Could be...

Shocked- Perhaps I should get a commission from the parks from this post...

Inspired- Not very... ;-) And I despise six flags.

Mikeinmidwood said...

The Nitro doesnt have any upside down parts, just many huge drops and parts where you are sideways.

harry-er than them all said...


i happen to only go on wooden coasters. they arent as intense as steel ones and i happen to enjoy the rattling.

there are no wooden coasters that go upside down (that i know of) it has to do with the design of the wheels on the track...