Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Roller Coasters – Part II: Top Gun

I don’t actually like roller coasters…metaphorical or real. So I haven’t ridden many of them. Two in 62 years, I think. Maybe three since I probably should count Space Mountain at Disneyland but I didn’t really realize it was a roller coaster until it was too late, so it wasn’t actually voluntary.

But my last ride was with my son, Brian, when he was 11 or 12. He and I and Karen had gone to Carowinds just South of Charlotte, North Carolina. I just looked this up on the Internet and the roller coaster is called Afterburn but I’m pretty sure it was called Top Gun when we rode it.

Karen and I had taken him to the park with the understanding that we were not going on any really dangerous looking thrill rides. But, since he learned to talk, Brian has been an expert at nagging, whining, arguing, debating, and being a general nuisance until he finally gets his way about everything.

So, still trying to figure out how I was going to get out of it, I soon found myself in a long line of people inching their way upward toward a place where heavy clanking noises interspersed with screaming people became louder with each step. We finally reached a platform onto which I stepped with a feeling I can only compare to the moment, a few years ago, when I entered the pre-op room to prepare for having my prostate removed.

Brian, on the other hand, was so excited that he insisted that instead getting in the fast-moving line for general seating, we join the special line for an additional thirty minute wait so we would be seated at the very front of the roller coaster.

Having abandoned all hope of rescue, my goals had become very basic: 1. Don’t embarrass myself in front of my son by screaming like a girl. 2. Don’t lose bladder control. 3. Don’t lose my shoes.

The goal about shoes was based on the fact that Top Gun (or Afterburn) is a roller coaster where, instead of being buckled into a confined seat, you are strapped onto a steel contraption that hangs down under the roller coaster. Signs warn passengers that they may lose shoes that are not fastened securely.

Top Gun was originally designed, I believe, by Don Cheney to be used by special forces for interrogating terrorists. I know that by the time I was tied in, I would have told the truth about anything to anyone. Except, of course, when Brian asked me if I was scared, I immediately lied and said, “No. Are you?”

Brian said, “No.” But in his case, he was telling the truth.

Dangling like a rag doll, clanking up toward the stratosphere, I had plenty of time to think about things like not screaming and was my last will and testament up to date. Near the apex, Brian commented happily, “What a great view! You should open your eyes, Dad.”

Being at the front of the ride and hanging underneath it, there was no visual evidence that I was secured to anything…just floating in air…forever…and the bottom dropped out and I was hurtling toward the ground.

But what pushed me over the edge was that I had been mentally preparing myself, knowing that the first big drop would shoot upward again long before we’d have any chance of actually hitting the ground. But now looking straight down, I saw that the masters of torture had designed this thing so it actually went straight down into a tunnel. A tiny hole in the uprushing Earth.

I learned at that moment what my last words will be if I’m about to die a terrifying death. No, I did not scream like a girl. I muttered the words, “Ohhh boy,” and was swallowed by the ground.

When the ride was over, and we had rejoined Karen, I was rather pleased with my composure. No screaming, no moaning, no swear words. But I couldn’t figure why Brian was laughing at me. “What?” I asked.

“Did you hear yourself?” he asked.

“Yeah. I said, ‘Oh boy,’ right? What’s the big deal?”

“But you shouted it out a million times!” he laughed, shouting out, “Ohhh boy ohhh boy ohhh boy ohhh boy ohhh boy…” Then he added, “Can we do it again?”


He doesn’t always get his way. And while I don’t know what the future has in store, I do know that there are no more roller coasters in it.

Tomorrow is Hometown Photo Shootout -- alternate means of transportation. I have no roller coaster pictures.


  1. oh, i've done the roller coaster thing and guess i can be glad i didn't have to stagger off with wet stains on my slacks. it was fun -- in, but i think i'll get my thrills in a different way from now on. Fun post -- which ever of you guys wrote it!

  2. Ahhhh...roller coasters are not for me either. It's been decades since I rode one, it will not happen again in this lifetime! When I was 12, I was on a double ferris wheel with 2 of my sisters at the county fair. Ther ferris wheel broke and left us spinning on the top for about 45 minutes...yep, 1 sister was puking over the side. Since then, if my feet can't touch the ground, I'm not on it!
    Make it a good Thursday!

  3. Hahahahahaha .....the roller coaster you went on is now picture on my mind. I went on one ...Luna Park, Sydney in about hhmmmmm 1973 maybe ...NEVER AGAIN .....I would have died given the choice that it would make the fear go away.

    I've put my photos up ...

  4. Yelling 'Oh boy" is not always bad. It depends what you're doing ;)

  5. I'm a rollercoaster kind of gal.......LOVE them!! The faster and crazier the better. Big surprise right??
    Well, at least you didn't shout out some chick's name and stayed safe with "Oh boy"!!!! Sometimes being really generic can save you ya know?
    Tell Bagman I sand "Rollercoaster of Love" for him while I was reading this post........

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  6. My life is a roller coaster. I just hold on for dear life and pray alot.

  7. I loved roller coasters (past tense). Last rode one in Florida when we went to DisneyWorld and Universal Studios. Loved the roller coaster simulation thing where my youngest and I designed the most wild ride possible and then got in the simulator to experience what we'd designed. Then started noticing lightning in the sky (and nobody else did). They warn you about possible back injuries -- what they failed to mention is that the jarring can detach the gel behind your retina. The gel completely detached. The opthalmologist followed me for a year to make sure the retina wasn't detaching too. We older guys just can't handle getting jerked around!

  8. I still love the death defying roller coaster ride. The higher the better. I yell, "Faster, faster, faster! Whoo hoo! And then, Oh, my God, I'm going to die." Then my soul will take flight at warp speed, and I will find myself on the Enterprise, charming Dr. Spock.

  9. I scream when on a merry go round. a few years back my grand children wanted to ride this boat looking thing that swings like a pendulum - we end up way in the back which seemed okay until the damn (scuse my language) thing took off - when at its high point at the back means you are looking straight down and hanging from you seat belts, and at low means you are looking straight into the sky.... when we landed everyone from one end to the other were laughing - some young man said - that was so much fun we could hear you screaming all the way up and back from our end of the.... ship (?). I would do it again though without hesitation...I love to have an excuses for a good scream.

  10. You are my new hero! I gave up fast rides decades ago, and wouldn't go on one now for anything. Bladder control? What's bladder control?


  11. Oh BOY - I was laughing so hard, my husband actually came upstairs to see what was so funny.

    I love roller coasters, but if you don't like them, then they definitely are torture machines.

  12. I have had exactly the same feelings as you describe here, but wouldn't be able to express them so well! Wonderful and amusing!! :-)

  13. I was once on a roller=coaster ride with a bunch of kids, only one of which was mine - aged 8 - All the other parentals claimed buggy-minding duties with younger kids, that kind of thing...

    I entered into the spirit of competition, offering a prixe to whoever screamed the loudest on the ride - I think I won!

  14. Prixe - that's like some French/English hybrid - Prize!