we have nothing to fear but scariness itself

I’m kindof a chicken, and I know it.

I don’t like snakes, or bears, or goingveryfast down mountains, or, you know, hills, or riding bikes in traffic, or heights.

Heights is definitely the worst, though. It’s always been around, since those days of very long walks to the end of the high dive board when I was a kid in the Red Cross swimming lessons. The beginning of every summer my friend Angie & I would have to dare each other into the first jump, and then over and over again until we beat back the terror to manageable degrees.

Then, we agreed, we didn’t need to go off it again until next summer. I mean, why should we? It’s not like we were scared or anything.

Well, it’s been a long time since I saw a high dive, but it didn’t seem to be a problem to me until very recently.

I went to Busch Gardens with my friend Dante a few weeks ago and found a startling dearth of acceptable rides. Scary, scary, speedy roller coasters? Nope. Almost upside-down Viking ship? I think not. Swings? Are you insane? Those things are death traps! What’s holding you aloft? A couple of thin lampchains? Why don’t you just tape yourself to an airplane wing if you like those odds? Personally, I like the twisty upside-down kind of roller coasters without any big scary hill, but BG is short on these types of rides. DarKastle was the closest substitute and that was fun and all for a ride with a very problematic narrative once you start thinking about it (seriously: those magic sleighs don’t make any sense), but it wasn’t really a ride so much as a show. Otherwise, I was pretty much limited to the kids rides, and apparently I’m too tall or something for those (thanks a lot, BG employees).

We were told, however, that Apollo’s Chariot was “not too bad”, so I agreed to try it out. Only one little hill! I could do it, right? I was in!  I even meant it!…until it became clear that we had to ride in the 2nd car from the front…and I freaked. Just out and out freaked. I couldn’t make my legs step into the car. “Not happening, ” I said, finally. Dante rolled his eyes. “Okay. Going without you.” He did, and when he returned (alive, without visible injuries) assured me, between some mild mockery, that it was not bad at all.

Feeling justifiably ashamed, I agree to go on his favorite ride next, Le Scoot log flume. Now, it’s true the log flume has a drop at the end. But you’re not even buckled in. People don’t fall out of the log flume. People take babies on the log flume. This, I could handle.

Until we got to the boarding dock, and it became clear I had to ride in the front.

“I can’t ride in the front,” I gasp, in horror.

“Well, I’m not riding in front,” Dante says. “The person in front gets splashed and I just dried off from the wildwater raft ride.”

“I can’t ride in the front!” I shout.

“It’s the log flume!” he shouts back. “Nothing can possibly happen to you!”

He’s now in the back seat of the log and it’s starting to move. The teenaged BG worker is struggling to hold it still for me to climb in. I’m hovering on the edge of the dock, practically dancing around in panic.

“You can ride back here with me!” That’s Dante’s last-ditch offer.

“I can’t.” I say, desperately. The teenager swivels around to stare at me incredulously.

“You’re not going at all?” he says.

“I can’t.” I say. I can’t do it. Dante waves at me cheerily as it bobs around the corner out of sight.

The teenager is still staring at me. Who’s afraid of the log flume, is his expression.

That’s right. This girl.

So this is how I know it’s gotten a little out of hand recently, this fear of heights.

In retrospect, I guess jumping off that crazy high dive every summer was a good exercise; somehow knowing at age 8 that I couldn’t let my fear control me. If I can’t do heights, I can’t ride ski lifts, can’t climb ladders, can’t ride helicopters, can’t hike mountains and volcanoes. Can’t travel to far-off places on airplanes. And that’s the scariest thing I can think of.

Who wants to go to King’s Dominion with me??

(P.S. We’re still not going on those damn swings.)

(P.P.S. Okay. To be completely honest, I’m not committing to anything beyond the log flume.)


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