My musings on life

Hollywood Studios

Wordless Wednesday – 5/23/12

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Dissecting the Fear and How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ride

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – FDR

“Do you fear… death? Do you fear that dark abyss? All your deeds laid bare, all your sins punished?” – Davy Jones in POTC: DMC

“What are you afraid of, a fate worse than death?” – Professor Plum “No, just death, isn’t that enough?” – Mrs. Peacock in Clue

So, in case you haven’t guessed it from the title of this post or from the above quotes, this time around we (and by we I mean me, feeling rather royal this evening I suppose) will be focusing on fear. More specifically, I am going to try to analyze fear of rides at Walt Disney World. Let’s start off by saying I really don’t consider myself a chicken in everyday life. If you are to challenge me with a dare, nine times out of ten I am an idiot and will do it for nothing more than bragging rights. Recently I was challenged to eat a scorpion at La Cava del Tequila in Epcot for a shot and the bottle as a souvenir. Again, I’m an idiot, but I did it. Have you?

picture by Kristen Helmstetter

picture by Kristen Helmstetter

picture by Kristen Helmstetter

picture by Kristen Helmstetter

picture by Kristen Helmstetter

This is not an isolated incident of idiocy on my part. I’ve danced on pool tables, laid down in the middle of the road (across lanes, not between them), eaten a variety of things that should never be consumed by humans, gone zip lining, ropes courses across gorges, jumped in the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic in April, gone bodysurfing in hurricanes, etc. You get the idea. I do a lot of stupid stuff that normal, “sane” people wouldn’t. Why is it that I have this crazy hang up about riding certain rides at my favorite place on the planet?

Now I know I’m not the only one who hasn’t done every single ride at WDW. I’ve made excuses: I don’t like getting wet (Kali River Rapids), I don’t want to get sick from the spinning (Primeval Whirl), or I’m claustrophobic (Mission Space and Sum of All Thrills). These are the four attractions across the four parks that I have not yet done. Why not? Until recently, the list was longer.

It wasn’t until I was 26 that I first rode Space Mountain. Truth be told it took me an hour after I worked my way through the queue early one morning before I actually got on the ride. The CMs were so kind. I just stood off to the side of the loading area and they said just let us know when you are ready. I was paralyzed with fear. What could possibly go wrong that would cause me to stand there like a petrified child for an hour before getting on a ride that a five year old can do without thinking twice?

Last year during the infernal D23 scavenger hunt (flashbacks: count the fifth letter of the 23rd word in the sixth paragraph, Osh Popham!, Max Bialystock, order the years of inventions – ack!), I rode Dinosaur for the first time. It was very much one of those spur of the moment decisions. We needed answers for our team and I figured two sets of eyes would be better than one. I think part of what made it easier to get on the ride was the fact it was pretty much a walk on and I was distracted by the task at hand. I was on a mission damn it and I wasn’t going to let my fear of a stupid ride get in my way of potentially winning a cruise (no, I wasn’t really that delusional, but figured it was as good a motivator for trying a new ride as any).

There was also a morning I decided to check in to a certain hotel, the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Friends have been trying to get me to do this forever and a day. I hate elevators, I hate negative Gs, I hate heights and Tower of Terror has them all. So why on Earth would I possibly subject myself to this kind of torture? I think as the list gets shorter it becomes a little easier to force these rides on myself for the sole purpose of completion’s sake. When I attempt to tackle a new ride, I typically will go by myself based on my history of possible borderline panic attacks. I’d rather spare myself the public humiliation in front of my friends and experience this with complete strangers I will never see again. This one was no different. Despite the fact that I knew Shalon was in the park and had been begging me to ride with her for months on end, I snuck on the ride and didn’t tell her. She wasn’t happy that I had done it without her, but now she at least reserves some hope that I will one day take that fateful elevator trip with her by my side. I really enjoyed the incredible theming of the attraction. As far as the ride itself, I am totally fine with it up until the point where it yanks you down faster than the speed of gravity. It didn’t make me feel sick to my stomach, but I made the mistake of not tightening the seatbelt enough the second time I rode and thought I was going to die. Ask Dan Braunstein, I had a death grip on that ride. Lesson learned.

This now brings us to last week and the Yeti. I have now experienced the joy? that is the Disco Yeti. So I did a few new things last week. One was the four parks in one day challenge which I tackled with Doug. It was really nice having company for this undertaking and made it much more enjoyable than if I had been on my own, which was my original plan. The impetus for the four parks was really an excuse for me to force myself to ride Expedition Everest for the first time. The ride itself didn’t hold any appeal for me since I knew it did something I really wasn’t fond of in going backwards (for a whole ten seconds!!!). When Doug learned I had never ridden it before he attempted to bribe me with drinks at Epcot afterwards (spoiler alert, it worked). This was great motivation on a sunny 80 degree day where Epcot was going to be our last park of the day. Doug was very patient and understanding as I told him that there was a very good chance that I would chicken out as we got to the ride. You see what happens is I get very anxious to the point of almost having a panic attack and feeling like I’m going to throw up. I know this isn’t normal, but it is how it works with me. So anyways, he was very kind, again thank you Doug for being great. The other thing is this was not long after we had eaten and I usually attempt to do new rides first thing in the morning before I’ve eaten, when there is a short line so I won’t chicken out, and when I’m alone. This was huge to be overcoming all of these mental and physical stumbling blocks.

So back to the ride. We went in the fastpass queue and were to the point of getting on the ride within five minutes. Once I am on a ride, I’m usually perfectly fine. It is just the complete anxiety and fear of the unknown before I get on the attraction. I’ve even gone so far as to go online and watch the ride video on youtube to count how long it goes backwards (10 whole seconds!!!), checked the length of the ride in time, and done all sorts of other silly things to try to assuage my fears. I know they are irrational, but they are there. We headed up the lift hill and the train stopped at the very top and started to go backwards for like an inch. This scared the living daylights out of me, which immediately prompted me to threaten Doug with the intentionally ironic “if I die on this ride I am going to kill you!” After sitting there for what seemed like five minutes, which was probably more like 30 seconds in actuality, we continued on our journey through the forbidden mountain. I dare say I enjoyed it aside from that stop, up until we started the whole backwards shenanigans. The best way I can think to describe it is that it makes me feel like I’m being tossed around in a washing machine. Unexpectedly, it didn’t make me feel nauseous, but more discombobulated and disoriented than anything else. I think part of this is because you go backwards, up and down and sideways and frontways and slantways, but I digress. So in addition to the unusual stop at the top of the lift hill, we had another one right where the Disco Yeti lives. Inside the mountain, no strobe lights. Couldn’t even see the Yeti since it was dark. I asked Doug if that was the way the ride was supposed to be and he said no. He said I really ought to ride again to be able to experience it the way it was meant to be. And so I did. The second time was much better. No hanging me at the top of the crazy mountain with nothing other than a tiny staircase on the one side. I got to see the Yeti in Disco mode and was much less apprehensive since I knew exactly what I was getting in to. As promised, I was rewarded with libations. I also confessed to Doug that I now felt it would be okay to purchase the fleece Expedition Everest jacket I’ve been eyeing for years but didn’t want to purchase without having experiencing the ride. No flagrant false advertising here.

Now here we are, at the beginning of February, and I find myself with a very short list of four attractions I have yet to conquer. Two are at DAK and two at Epcot. Kali I simply haven’t done because I don’t like spending the day in wet clothes. This is going to be one of those things that just needs to happen when it is hot and at the end of the day before I go to a nearby resort where I’m staying. Primeval Whirl will be something I will do at the very beginning of the day before I eat so I don’t lose my breakfast, lunch or dinner. A spinning coaster just sounds like a recipe for a recreation of the lovely scene in the Exorcist to me, but we shall see. I think next to cross off the list will probably be the Sum of All Thrills since I’ve done something similar, from what I’ve been told, in the Cyber Space Mountain attraction at Disney Quest. I enjoy roller coasters, so that shouldn’t be too bad. I’m just a little apprehensive of the tight quarters, which brings me to the last one on the list: Mission Space. I’ve heard of so many people feeling ill after coming off this attraction. I am claustrophobic and don’t like feeling sick, but what’s the worst that could happen? Okay, don’t answer that.

I think what I need to do is just have a pep talk with myself. I have now ridden Space Mountain dozens of times. I’m still not a fan, especially since it has broken a pair of my beloved Ray Bans and has stolen my car keys (okay, I will take some responsibility since I did put my sunglasses in my shorts pocket and my keys were loose in my jacket pocket, but still!). I ride it with more regularity now. I don’t enjoy the ride itself, but I’m trying to go with the philosophy of embracing the journey with friends. I’m even really looking forward to riding with Tom in a few weeks. I’ve now done Tower of Terror twice, Everest twice and Dinosaur once. I don’t think there are any attractions that I won’t ever ride again (except maybe Stitch just cause it is … well, not the greatest, to put it mildly, oh, and Sounds Dangerous, and, okay, I’ll stop). I’d actually like to try Everest and Tower at night as I imagine they are different ride experiences, similar to how Big Thunder has a totally different (and in my opinion better) feel after dark.

Part of the inspiration for doing this, aside from the bragging rights of having done every current attraction at WDW, was friends telling me I could handle any of the rides I haven’t done after I rode more intense rides at Busch Gardens a few weeks ago. Maybe I just need people to lie to me to get me on rides and then I can kick their asses later if it is awful. So far I haven’t really come off of anything feeling sick other than Star Tours, which sucks since I love it. I know all of these hang ups are able to be overcome with the very simple application of mind over matter. I have faith that I will not die, or get sick, or have a panic attack, or whatever other irrational fears I have. So what if I do get sick? Will it be the first time throwing up in my life? Hell no. Will it be the last? I doubt it. Have I ever gotten sick from a ride? Nope. So why do I think I’m going to? I don’t anymore. I am going to continue to strive to just go with the flow and take things as they come. Does this mean I’m going to do every ride every time? No. However, it does mean that I am going to attempt to love the experience and the time with my friends and stop worrying. What does worrying get you? Nothing worth a damn.

Do you have any rides you have yet to experience due to fear? Which ones? Have you overcome your fears to conquer these rides? How? Please feel free to share.

(edited at 7:05am 2/5/12 with additions thanks to probing questions by Kelly – thanks for the feedback!)