Life Is Like A Roller Coaster. So Get On And Ride It.

Janet's World

August 30, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Every summer, we spend one long day at Hersheypark with friends. As the designated date approaches, I convince myself that this year will be different - yes, this will be the year I recapture the childhood thrill of roller coasters without the weird adult aftershock of nausea. After all, the whole queasiness thing came on suddenly - why shouldn't it disappear just as abruptly?

We get up early and arrive when the park opens, standing with the throngs of people filtering in through the entrance gate. There's a hopeful smell of sunblock in the air, and children are straining on their tiptoes against the candy-bar measuring sticks, praying they qualify for the big coasters with the padded head and neck restraints.

Once we're in, we scan the landscape for the rides with the shortest lines and pick one. Fortunately for me, the first one is a traditional roller coaster, with its long steep incline followed by a sharp drop and series of erratic twists and turns.

Afterward, I feel OK. Emboldened, I get in line with the group for another. I ask my friend if this one has any extended portions where the rider is upside down. She doesn't think so, and that's good enough for me.

We arrange ourselves in the chutes so we're all on the roller coaster at the same time. The attendant walks down the line and lowers the restraining bar on each car with a resounding click. I happen to think this is one of the most exciting parts of any ride. Almost everyone checks the bar, pulling up on it to be sure it's locked. And this gives me an idea.

If I were to design a roller coaster, I would first have all cars progress through several stations where new restraining devices would be employed. First, your feet would be fitted into little wells. Next, a head-support system would be engaged. Then, NASCAR-type seat belts would strap you in, and finally, the lap bar would come down. All the while, there would be this futuristic female voice emanating from a loudspeaker, listing rare medical conditions with no explanation so you don't know whether they are conditions that preclude the ride or side effects from it.

Surely you'd be in a very agitated state at this point. But just as your car would approach the edge of the first big drop, the lap bar would click open. Not that it was needed anyway with all the other restraints - but you'd have to admit, this would definitely add a surprise element of terror. I would call my ride "The Panic Attack."

Quickly, I'm jerked back into reality as the roller coaster lurches forward. I look ahead and see a series of huge orange loops in the distance and make a mental note not to go on that particular ride, whatever it is. As our car drops into the abyss, I can't help but notice that our ride's tracks are orange.

"OH NOOO!" I scream to my friend, though her face is just inches from mine. "YOU SAID THIS WASN'T A BAAAAAD ONE!"

"I LIEEED!" she yells back.

Minutes later, as I shakily disembark, I realize I've developed a little headache. But I'm like the errant lab rat that goes right through the shock wire to get the cheese, so I get in line for another ride. My friend sits this one out.

Needless to say, after my third roller coaster ride, I have to spend the rest of the day just trying to feel better. Now I'm a shade-seeker, sipping soda on a bench with the grandparents monitoring the strollers. I wave everyone on with a wan smile, saying lame things like "Go on ahead! Have fun!"

But this down spell is just temporary. Because life is, in fact, just like a roller coaster, and I know I'll be up for this adventure again next year.

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