What would summer be without a visit to an amusement park and a trip on a roller coaster or similar thrill ride?
I’ll tell you what it would be: a helluva lot better.
Miss out on the vertigo-inducing stomach-churning “fun” of feeling weightless on the Toss-a-Hurl or the Vertical Death Drop From Hell?
Yeah, no thanks.
My idea of fun has nothing to do with being strapped to a seat and flung sideways and upside down as if I were doing aerial acrobatics with the Blue Angels.
Gravity and I have a very special relationship: I don’t test it and in return, it keeps my feet on the ground.
I am petrified of heights and get wobbly in the knees just looking at photos from atop skyscrapers or the towers of bridges.
Ferris wheels and gondola rides, for instance, terrify me because they are up so high and they move so slowly, which just prolongs the agony.
Now, lest you think I am a killjoy, let me say that I have in fact tried a number of thrill rides, always against my better judgment.
I am not talking about the most extreme rides like the Skyrush at Hersheypark (five Gs at the base of the first drop alone), Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., (a 418-foot drop) or Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion in Virginia (90 mph with hairpin turns).
My adventures would be seen almost tame by comparison.
In most cases, I have been silly enough to look at the rides from the ground and think “Oh, how bad could that be?”
Such was the case when my wife and I took the boys to Disney World. We were in what would be considered the tamer kiddie-ride section.
One of the rides was a roller coaster called the Barnstormer featuring the character Goofy. The “Thrill Level” on the ride’s description says “Small drops.”
I cast a wary eye as I watched the cars hug the curved tracks and listened to the metallic clanking as they zipped past.
But from where I stood, the tracks looked pretty low and Meg convinced me it would be harmless fun.
Here’s the thing I should have recalled from my high school physics class – an object going that fast must have picked up momentum from some place.
And that some place, it turns out, was from atop of a very high peak.
As Meg tells it, as the roller coaster began its steep climb, I became like a turtle withdrawing into its shell.
I hunched my shoulders and bowed my head as if it were retracting into my neck.
And then I did what any rational adult in these circumstances would do: I closed my eyes. And swore. Very loudly.
The precipitous plunge was punctuated by my wailing and extending the vowel sound in a word that sounds duck.
That was the final time I was on a roller coaster. This turtle is not coming out of its shell again.