Thursday, 8 May 2014

My First Roller Coaster ride

We all have to start somewhere. I must admit, I started late. Very late. Actually, I visited theme parks since I was really young (I can't remember how young). I enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, the landscaping, everything. Everything except the big thrill rides. I don't know why, but just looking at them makes me really petrified. Perhaps it was the rumbling and the noise, even when I am on other rides, I will look at these thrill rides in fear...

This...cowardice...actually dealt a major blow to my self-esteem, none more so than during a class outing to a local theme park. This park no longer exists today, but back then I remembered there was a tall log flume, a few flat and kiddy rides. In hindsight, even the flat-rides seem quite kiddy. In spite of all the peer pressure, the only ride I psyched myself to get on is the Go-Kart. Honestly, I did not even dare to go fast, and I emerged last place in practically every run.

4 years will pass before I face this fear once again. In 2010, my home city opened the much anticipated Universal Studios Singapore theme park, and I was really keen to visit for the landscaping and the not-so-intense rides. However, it was only a year later when my Community Club organised an event that I really got the visit the park for myself.

No doubt I was excited. I was reading about it (and other Universal Studios Parks) since the outing was announced in December. Particularly, I spent a lot of time reviewing people's experiences first time riding roller coasters, and watching POVs till I no longer get disoriented. There was even some advice I found online that the first roller coaster for chickens is one that is launched (to reduce the anticipation of lift hill) and dark (so I will not be terrified of the drops). Nonetheless, I was really uncertain if I could do it. The online reviews did not help much, for the recounting of stomach in the throat and flying out of the seat was almost too extreme to comprehend.

22 February 2011 arrived almost before I knew it. The morning went by with a shuttle bus to the theme park and some community activities at the Waterworks Theater. However, even with a trip to Japan as the first prize, I could not focus on the lucky draw. There was only one thing bothering my mind - my first roller coaster could well be today. I am honestly not ready.

Once we were dismissed from the theater, my family proceeded straight out to our first ride - Revenge of the Mummy (Actually, I requested it because it was a launched and indoor coaster). I tried to calm myself that everything will be alright. We deposited our bags into the lockers and I stepped through the attraction entrance, hesitant in the mind but insistent in the body. The attendant assured me that it is not really scary, only to turn around to another group of tourists and say it was a HIGH SPEED roller coaster. What a LIAR!

The initial walk through the queue actually distracted me from the fear, as I was drawn to the detailed hieroglyphic  drawings and unique architecture. Then, the queue takes a right turn and plunged into a dark tunnel. I stood a the boundary of the light, unsure of whether to keep going. It was surely an ominous sign that the ride is indeed very scary. Worse still, the lights inside were flickering on and off, as if reminding me that something nasty was going to happen. The only thing that nudged me inwards was the surge of other riders coming in.

The queue got from bad to worse. My heart-beat accelerated to that of a Gatling gun. I could not even focus on the route ahead and nearly tripped over a step. There was no way for me to even pay attention to any theming around me. I just wanted this whole ordeal to end.

I really wanted some time to think again when I approached the queue's end, but there was almost no queue. Basically, the moment I walked before the loading platform, before I could even say no, the attendant ushered me onto one of the seats. At this point, an inner voice in my heart tells me to get out, yet I somehow I could not muster the strength to sound off. I reach my hand onto the lap-bar. It was shaking like in the middle of winter (the aircon was quite cold as far as I remembered), and I pulled it down slowly. Every click sounded to me like the gates of hell was closing in on me. I really wanted to just stand up and step out, but before I could do it, the attendance took over the lap-bar and forced it shut. That's it. there was no way out.

A launched coaster was supposed to be an ideal first coaster because of reduced anticipation, but the dark-ride portion seemed to go on forever and ever. Then, all I could remember was that the ride accelerated and turned sharply as a door was about to slam shut on top of us. Oh gosh, even though this looked really slow on youtube POVs, it already felt quite violent, and there is still a 72kph launch up ahead

After the backwards part, the ride stopped onto a turntable. The moment I dreaded has finally, or so quickly arrived. I did not sign up for this. I either wanted time to stop right then and there or to instantly teleport me to when the ride is over. I could hear people screaming "no" with a wavering, helpless voice. I tried to keep within myself, as the vehicle nudged forward slightly. I leaned my head back, gripped the lap bar like the jaws of a great shark and closed my eyes. This is not happening. This is not happening.


In an instant, the entire world becomes a blur. The forward push was not quite as forceful as I imagined, but an instant later I felt I was thrown out of my seat. After a couple of turns, the ride seems to drop at a beyond vertical angle. I cannot describe that feeling. It is just like what I imagined when a person attempts to commit suicide. I did not know how long that sensation actually lasted, but it was long enough to make me think I have turned all the way inverted via an outside loop. This ride is meant to have no inversions. What is going on? I only know that things are a lot worse than I expected, and the ride still shows no signs of ending.

The ride stopped halfway at another tomb. I eyes were still sealed shut till the vehicle went to a complete stop. The fire effect was spectacular, but it was no where warm enough to comfort my body. It was simply frozen in fear. I cannot even look up. All that I could see was another void up ahead, and all I knew was that the ride was far from over. I starred straight ahead, not knowing what to expect. For all I knew, the second part could be far worse. My eyes sealed shut as the vehicle nudged forward for a second time.

Thankfully, the second half was not as intense as the first. But when the ride came to a stop at the unload, platform, my whole body was just frozen. My muscles have all tensed up that they nearly gave way the moment I tried to stand up. I looked around, seeing the smiles of most of the other riders. I do not understand. Why is it that they enjoy this devil of a machine? Are they crazy? For me, reality took a while to sink in. I was just trying to combat disorientation and fear from my first real thrill ride. The magnitude of my accomplishment will not hit me until several days later.

When I exit the ride building, I only had 1 thing in mind: "I am not getting on Battlestar Galactica"