Since their inception, roller coasters have been considered by many to be the mainstay of the modern amusement park. In terms of height, speed and sheer thrill-power, few rides (if any) can compare to the contemporary roller coaster. Indeed, if you have ridden one, you need not be convinced.
I was first introduced to the world of roller coasters when I was seven or eight years old. My dad, hoping I would share his love and admiration for the amusement ride, took me to Sandusky, Ohio, home of the Cedar Point amusement park. As the self proclaimed “roller coaster capital of the world,” Cedar Point boasts some of the tallest and fastest coasters on earth. Needless to say, I was thrilled beyond myself.
My first roller coaster ride was on Cedar Point's classic Blue Streak, which also happened to be my dad's first ride when he was a kid. Built in 1964, the nostalgic looking Blue Streak is a wooden coaster which stands a massive 78 feet, has a maximum speed of 40 mph, and sports a ride time of 1 min., 45 sec. It's obviously nothing to brag about, but I couldn't wait. I remember jumping into the car, fastening my seat belt and impatiently waiting to get to it. My life was about to change.
I can perfectly recall the trains “pulling out of the station.” There was a short stretch of track which we freely passed through until making a left turn at the base of the first hill, which we had to climb. I was ready, the trains had only been moving for 10 sec. and I already loved it. The climbing chains connected with the first train and slowly began pulling us up the massive 78 foot hill. But for some reason I wasn't nearly as excited as I had been. The chains were loud, much louder than I expected, and the incline we were ascending was much steeper than I thought. I remember looking down and noticing how high we were getting. Suddenly it dawned on me, we were going to the top, and then down the other side. To put it mildly—I lost it. I began screaming like a banshee, “stop!” “stop!” “dad I don't want to do this anymore!” “get me off this thing!” “HELP—SOMEONE—HELP!” There was nothing anyone could do, we were strapped in, we were going up, and we were going down. I continued my “freak out” session throughout the remainder of the climb. At the top of the hill there is a little “blue house” that the trains pass through before the descent. I vividly remember passing through that blue house with everything moving in slow motion. As we crested the hill—to my abject horror—the path down was revealed to me. Our car seemed to hang there forever as we began the free fall, and with everything moving in slow motion, I was given plenty of time to dwell on my young and untimely death. Filled with terror, I was about to get my first practical lesson in physics.
“OHHHH NOOOOOO!” could be heard as we gained speed in the decline, which was promptly followed up by a serenade of consistent prepubescent sheiks and screams which continued throughout the next approximate 1 min., 45 sec. I have no idea how many people behind me were hit squarely in the face by my tears, but I would guess quite a few.
To my shock, I remember getting off the Blue Streak thinking “that actually wasn't that bad,” and oddly enough, I continued riding roller coasters that day, with only a few more tearful breakdowns occurring. It seemed the more I rode them, the more I liked them, and the more comfortable I became. Today I'm one of those “nuts” who fancies the very front seat of a roller coaster as “the only way to ride.”
Many people have had similar first experiences with roller coasters. What is unique about the “roller coaster” experience is that it describes the path nearly all people take in overcoming their fears. As explained in Lesson VI: Fear and Action, action conquers fear. In other words, if we do the very thing we are afraid to do, eventually, our fear of doing it will disappear altogether. In my case of being afraid while riding a roller coaster, I was scared to death, but because I was literally “strapped in” I had no choice but to confront my fear, and though I may have screamed and cried at first, I found that my fear wasn't as bad as I thought. This is often the case. We may literally freak ourselves out over doing something, but through the process of doing it (acting despite our fear) we find that our fear mysteriously disperses. It may take more than one “ride” to dispel our fear, but so long as we persist in acting, despite our fear, it will eventually disappear.