CRIS COHEN is a staff humor columnist for Renaissance
Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and
four online humor magazines.
No Need For Speed
All right, I admit it. I'm kind of a coward, specifically when it comes to amusement park rides. Those thing just scare the tar out of me. Even just looking up at some of them as a car load of people gets whipped through I often feel a weakening in my legs and need to sit down, breathe into a paper bag, swallow large doses of medication, whatever. The problem is that people don't really look at this phobia of mine and say, "Well, just do whatever you're comfortable with." No, instead it becomes the big challenge of a lifetime. Who can talk the Cowardly Lion onto some ride called The Flaming Corkscrew from Hell.
And I have to admit: that's one of things that initially stops me in my tracks - the names of the rides. They're never called rides things like The Tunnel of Fun and Tension-Relieving Experiences. No, instead it always has to sound like some horror film from the seventies, something like The Horribly Botched Endocrinology Exam. I know this is a big turn-on to a lot of people. I realize that some people see a ride called The Decapitated Tourists and just run for the entrance, but that's not me.
However, a lot of people won't let it go. They make it their mission in life to get me on that ride. Never mind feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless. No, they want to make their life's work seeing me vomit while breaking the sound barrier. It's like when people find out I've never been drunk. Suddenly they can't wait to get me a beer. Heck, some people even offer to rob a liquor store.
The problem with both cases is that these people - many of them my friends - think that I'm not serious when I tell them I'm not interested. They think it's a cry for help. Whenever someone finds out I've never been fully inebriated, he inevitably says something like "Well, we're going to change that tonight!" And then four hours later he's passed out on the floor while I polish off my second cola.
And I don't have anything against drinking or amusement park rides. For all I care you can drink while going on a ride. In fact if you can mix together one of those complicated drinks that involves seventeen ingredients and a small umbrella, all while going backwards through a double corkscrew, I would be really impressed. I don't try to talk people out of these activities. If anything, by just offering to drive, I'm giving them the green light to abuse themselves to the point where physical therapists might need to be called in to teach them basic motor skills when it's all over. I just want to be allowed to do whatever I want to do.
I have no problem waiting while my friends go on a ride. I've met more people at the exits of rides at Disneyland than their own security force. And that's fine with me. I don't want my fear to stop anyone from having a good time. But people just won't let it drop. Back in college, my roommate's girlfriend was absolutely certain that she was going to get me on an amusement park ride. Of course, she also spent several months trying to change my religious beliefs. So apparently this was her hobby. You know, where most people take up something like Lacrosse, she tried to break someone's will.
Of course, now the movement has a new ally, my wife. Michele is in the process of establishing what can best be described as an amusement park ride twelve step program. She, thankfully, doesn't want to throw me on something called The Screaming Tower of Death. Instead she just wants to get me to the point where I'll go on one of those virtual rides, the kind where you sit in a car that only tilts a little, but thanks to the effects and the images on the screen in front of you, you end up vomiting anyway. And she's right. I should be able to handle that. After all, theoretically all you have to do is close your eyes and the terror will go away. But I still freeze up before I get to the line. I see that sign warning that this ride is not for pregnant women and somehow think they're talking to me.
But Michele isn't trying to strong arm me. It's not a conquest for her. She just doesn't want to keep leaving her husband sitting on a bench somewhere. And I can understand that. So one of these days I'll probably make it onto one of those virtual rides. Just don't ask me to mix a drink on it.
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