I’ll be honest. As a kid I was a scaredy cat. When it came to fight or flight my instinct was 100% flight.
Growing up, my primary exposure to anything resembling a roller coaster was the state fair that came through town every October. And most of the rides there scared me. The swings were too high. The Enterprise went upside down. The Ferris Wheel was just not happening. The craziest thing I would ride was the Tilt-O-Whirl. This made my dad sad. He wanted a roller coaster buddy and I was not it. And my younger brother wasn’t much better, or tall enough.
When I was about 10 years old we had a chance to go to Disney World. My grandmother got discount park tickets through her government job and my mom’s boss had a house in Orlando he let us borrow. This was a once in a lifetime experience. One of those “By God, we’re here and we’re doing everything” kind of trips. And we did. Every Show. Every Parade. Every ride. Every country in Epcot. Everything.
Back then, there were only two parks; Magic Kingdom and Epcot. That meant there were only two roller coasters; Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain. We all rode Big Thunder Mountain and it was great. But Space Mountain was a different story. My grandparents said they were too old. My little brother wasn’t tall enough. My mom just said “No.” My dad really wanted to ride Space Mountain and he didn’t want to go alone. So he and my mom convinced me to give it a try.
I remember being nervous all the way through the cue line. My dad kept telling me how great it was going to be. (Afterward he would tell me how it was just like a coaster from his childhood that he loved.) We could hear the trains moving over the tracks and the other riders screaming in what could probably have been deemed delight. The closer we got to the loading point the more excited my dad got. And the more nervous I got.
Something we didn’t know before we got to the loading area (well, I didn’t know it at least) was that the car for Space Mountain was basically a bench seat. I wasn’t going to be sitting next to my dad where I could hold his arm and hide my face. No, I was on my own, with a lap belt and a couple of handles to grip. I’m pretty sure I started crying right there. But I was stuck. We had waited in line forever. Come hell or high water we were riding.
The next 90 seconds were pure torture. I was plunged into a world of complete darkness. Every turn felt like I was going to be flung out of the skinny little car into nothingness. Disembodied screams echoed around me. It was hell. By the time it was over I was on the verge of hysterics. My poor dad was so disappointed. He had hopes I was going to love it and he would have a new coaster buddy. Alas, that was not to be.
Now, as an adult, I love roller coasters. But I still can’t ride Space Mountain. I tried once. I still felt nervous through the line. I still got freaked out in the dark. I still felt like at any moment I was going to be catapulted out of that skinny little car. It was torture.
Years later my husband convinced me that our daughter was ready for Space Mountain. I try very hard not to pass my phobias on to my children. So I had never said anything to the girl about my fear of this particular coaster. Turns out her experience was just like mine. She was stuck in hell for 90 seconds. So now he has to wait until the boy is tall enough, and old enough, to see if he has a new buddy for this torture device.
Just in case you haven’t guessed, I really hate Space Mountain.