Tower of Terror…Redux
One day, in Florida, the kids took me to ride the Tower of Terror. Chera was 16 and Zach was 11. I was fine to just stroll around MGM grounds there in Orlando, eat popcorn and have the kids pose with characters like Spider Man and the Power Rangers. I even thought about doing something…wild, like buying a hot dog, or a funnel cake, or a bag of sugar deep-fried and molded onto a stick. But the kids shamed me into climbing on board a ride called The Tower of Terror and taking a quick jaunt with death.
The car was big and boxy and held six other people besides us. We began our ride on the ground floor of what appeared to be a six-story building. Nothing scary here—unless you happen to have a fear of elevator rides. At the top the door opened and our cart jostled into what looked like a long hotel hallway. The lighting was poor but I could see the guest room doors with numbers on them. And—how cute—there was scary music playing and people were screaming in the distance and from behind the closed doors. I’d seen haunted houses like this many times over the years. So I was watching for, and expecting, doors to pop open with wizened old men waving their arms about, screaming, waggling an ax or—if this was a really top-notch haunted house—a chain saw, revved up and that oily, gassy smell becoming the new odor of fear. After our car rolled out of the elevator, I was expecting a short tour. Maybe even just a blast of air in the face. I’d have settled for that. But at that very moment, when I was expecting a cheap fright, the bottom fell out. And just like that we were falling, falling, falling!
I hate the sensation of falling. Absolutely hate it. So we were falling and everything went black. A solitary light flashed. We stopped falling, and I could sense that something different was happening: We were going up. Then, the moment my organs settled in their visceral fluids, we began to fall again. Up and down, up and down. My insides were confused. Finally the car stopped and we rolled out into daylight. Back in the darkness other people were still screaming. Outside, people were laughing. I laughed too and told the kids how cool that was. They thought so and wobbled along beside me to the exit. Before we reached the gate, there was booth where you could see a picture of yourself riding the Tower of Terror. The kids bellied up to the counter and scanned the photos on the electronic monitors. Zach spotted it first. He seemed excited, but then his face went slack. He frowned. He turned to me and said, “Dad? Were you scared?”
When I saw the picture I knew why he thought so. Chera and Zach had their hands raised high, their heads tilted back, eyes wide open and mouths open in a full laugh/scream. Me? I was curled up in the corner of the car, eyes squinted shut, teeth clenched, squeezing the safety bar. I could have been praying. I couldn’t remember that posture. But, then again, it had been dark and I had believed I was okay to express myself freely—without condemnation.
“Whoa, Dad,” was all Chera could say.
We walked out into the crowded park but I felt very much alone. I couldn’t live like this. “Come on, kids,” I said, making a u-turn and heading back to the Tower of Terror. “We’re going to do this again.”
We latched back onto the long line and eventually climbed back into our cart and back up the tower we went. We exited into the same spooky hallway. Only this time I was ready for it. When the bottom fell out, I threw my arms up over my head. I screamed and laughed. And since I wasn’t sure when the camera would flash, I did that the whole time—more than anyone else in our car. My throat was sore, my heart was racing, my bladder was threatening. Everyone must have believed I was having one fun time.
When the car finally came to a stop, I led the way to the picture booth and found our shot right away. “Look at that, kids! Look at your dad!”
“All right! Way to go, Dad!”
We walked out into the park and I was so satisfied with myself that I bought ice cream for the three of us. The cold was good for my throat.