Tag Archives: Fear

I’m a Turtle on a Roller Coaster

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.


Taking Fear to New Heights

I’m Batman

And lo, at about 11 o’clock at night, a cry was heard throughout the house.

My youngest son, downstairs, shrieking for my wife.

Meg was in a dead sleep when Dan’s blood-curdling screams echoed through the house.

A fire? A burglar? An injury?

Worse: A bat had somehow gotten into the house.

Dan was watching TV when he heard an odd noise that sounded like the heat coming on. But it was a rapid-fire clicking noise, like the baseboard heat was working overtime.

He put the light on and then he saw it:

Swooping and clicking, the bat made its presence known. And then so did Dan.


I got the call around 11:20 p.m. on my way back from work.

It left me very upset. Here I was, at least another hour away from home, unable to do anything to help as the “man” of the household.

Plus, to be honest, I’m afraid of bats and I did not want to admit that over the phone, fearing it would only make a bad situation worse.

I’ve had experiences with mice in the house. A bit unnerving, but not that big a deal.

And one time, living in New York, my late fiancée and I had a squirrel infiltrate our house. This led to a lifelong antipathy toward squirrels that fueled many practical jokes.


We even had a bear stalk our driveway a few years ago.

Bear sighting 003

Bear sighting 004

But a bat? In the damn house? No, this was new.

Before I got home, Meg had called public safety and not one, but TWO, officers arrived.

And don’t you know that when they got there, there was no sign of the bat, which I had named “Buddy”?

For five full days, there was no sign of Buddy. We figured he had flown the coop, so to speak. (For the record, we are still not entirely sure how he got in.)

We thought we were in the clear, until…

Well, I’ll let Meg’s email take it from here:

Dan spotted a spider, which he was figuring out how to do away with when he looked toward the exercise bicycle and there, hanging on the pleated curtain, was Buddy.

He called me — not the bloodcurdling shriek of a few days ago — but enough to let me know that our friend had returned. I said, “What should we do?”

“Call public safety,” he said.

I did and then crept downstairs, towel in hand.

We waited maybe five minutes for public safety — it was the same guy who had been here before.

But this guy didn’t have the tennis racket. So all three of us waited for the other guy who did.

While we were waiting, I saw movement.

ICK. And then it spread its wings.

DAMN. It was a bigger than I thought. Wing span of maybe 10 inches, tip to tip.

And, of course, it launched. Dan screamed and we both bee-lined for the front door, leaving public safety man to do his thing.

A few moments later, he came out with the very same towel I had brought downstairs, and let the bat go, and the bat, of course, headed straight for us. We moved, pronto, out of its way.

Public safety guy just laughed.

So, Buddy is gone.

Or is he? Dan said that he thought the bat he had seen was much smaller….

So maybe this was Buddy’s mama, and we’re still hosting little Bud.

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