For a long time in my youth I was afraid of roller coasters. Something about being flipped, twisted and spun around while having none of that in your control seemed kind of crazy to me. Being a prisoner to gravity kind of left the the concept of plummeting at uncontrolled speed in, what is essentially, a harness of death – last time I checked there is no ejection button unless your restraint comes undone while in the middle of a flip – as something I could easily pass on.
Generally I would make my parents pay the ridiculous prices to go to amusements parks and promise that I would have a good time only to stand around all day and ask, constantly, when we would eat again.
When I was around the age of 12 I was a pretty heavy-set pre-teen. While I was active and participated in sports, the ratio of food consumption to activity was heavily favored on the food side. Mostly because when you lay down in bed for hours at a time with a 14 ounce container of Haagen Daz ice cream generally you’re going to turn into a fat blob.
It was around this time that my parents probably decided I should start becoming interested in girls and that the showers I took 3 days a week should probably be upped a little bit.
To be fair I don’t think I was a smelly kid so it was easy for me to get away with lying to my parents about my cleanliness. I knew it was time for me to shower when I would smell my armpits and the smell reminded me of Ketchup. Which in turn reminded me of french fries and now you see the vicious cycle I was caught up in.
Around this age my family took a trip to Disney World in Florida. Little did I know it was my last hurrah in terms of binge eating and drinking sodas that were the size of above ground swimming pools. The good thing is there would be no discernible difference between my eating habits at the time and if I knew it was my “last meal” so to speak.
When we got home from Disney my parents talked to me about being on Weight Watchers and I agreed. This wasn’t a one sided argument and in the past I discussed losing weight with my parents because I would get made fun of at school for my weight and color of my hair. Most people think that is a sad thing and they are right.
I got on Weight Watchers and lost a good amount of…weight. Because I was younger and active the pounds came right off and my parents promised me that I could have Surge with dinner. Surge, if you don’t remember, was a soda based drink that had so much sugar in it I think it had two purposes:
1. An easier, more ingestible, form of sugar for horses
2. A way to legally get away with murdering a diabetic
Basically Surge helped me lose weight despite the damaging effects it had on my reproductive system. The brand ran advertising campaigns on the radio that said drinking too much could lower your sperm count, luckily I had a lot of time before I had to worry about that.
Being overweight was not the reason I was terrified of roller coasters though – that was just a fun, lengthy aside.
When I was around the age of 5 my family went to the Long Island treasure – that is now a Pep Boys – Nunley’s. If you’re not from Nassau County on Long Island it’s a pretty good chance you have no idea what Nunley’s is. Nunley’s was a small, family owned amusement center that resided in Babylon, NY and was right on Sunrise Highway. I have fond memories of Nunley’s – mostly of their food – but also because they had these gigantic rides that frightened me immensely. To get the perspective of these rides, go to any block party and those are the kinds of rides they were. I was 5 though, so you can understand my fear of them.
So we were at Nunley’s and it was desolate there and the sky way somewhat ominous but for some reason they stayed open – probably has something to due with it being a Pep Boys now. I bravely decided that I wanted to take a ride on the small roller coaster in the back left corner of the property Nunley’s sat on. My parents paid for a token and showed it to the hungover from a heroin binge nephew of the owners and I got on the ride. I knew I was in trouble when I realized I couldn’t just get up and leave the ride whenever I wanted.
The ride starts going and it is flying, had to be going 13 to 15 miles per hour depending on the pitch of the drop, and I was terrified. So terrified that I started crying and yelling while being flung around and experiencing whiplash for the first time. However to a small amusement park ride operator who is bored out of his mind he thought I was having FUN. So a ride that should take, probably, 30-seconds lasted a mind numbing 3-minutes or 6 TIMES THE LENGTH IT SHOULD HAVE!
I got off crying and hugged my parents tight and swore off roller coasters forever. My telling of this story became legendary as the ending featured me using my hands to showcase how my heart was beating and saying the words, “my heart was going IN and OUT, IN and OUT, IN and OUT.” It is still, to this day, a crowd pleaser.
One day I ended up at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey and was forced to face my biggest fear. My friends uncle was very persuasive in calling me a pussy and punching me in the arm until I agreed to go on “The Great American Scream Machine.” I started to shiver while waiting on line and when we finally entered the cart and were locked in I freaked out. We launched out of the station and made our way up on the lift. I remember seeing stairs and the thought of walking down them and avoiding this entire ordeal seemed like the perfect escape. I was stuck though, I couldn’t get out – in hindsight that’s a really good thing because that mere fact is why I’m alive today – so I went through with the ride. As we reached the precipice and made our way over it a rush of adrenaline kicked in and I found out that day that facing your fears and beating them is something you remember forever.
Next stop: Spiders.