(Below is a re-post of an article I wrote back in 2004.)
“You’ll never get me on that thing!” That was what I told my friend as we walked past Space Mountain during my first trip to Walt Disney World, back in January, 2001. True to my word, during each subsequent trip to “the World”, I would see the lines of people waiting to experience the thrill of riding a roller coaster in total darkness. I thought they were crazy, and I swore up, right, left and down that I would never join their ranks. I just envisioned myself hurtling along and losing my lunch on the first drop into the void below. Nope. No way. Not for me. Never.
Never say “never”. I no longer walk past Space Mountain when I go to Disney World now. I’m one of those crazy people who waits in line to experience the thrill of riding a roller coaster in total darkness. I’ve joined their ranks. Worse yet, I get to the park early so that I can ride it several times before the lines get too long. I have yet to lose my lunch in the process. I love Space Mountain!
How did that happen? It happened as a result of expanding my comfort zone to the point where the thought of riding Space Mountain was no longer as scary as it once was. It happened as a result of riding the Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney MGM!
Now, if I thought I was too chicken to ride Space Mountain, I knew there was no way anyone would ever get me on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Boy, was I wrong! Those Disney Cast Members are really good at tricking people into riding the scary ones! I had made the mistake of asking the young woman working at the ride’s entrance about the ride. She told me that it went from 0-60mph in less than three seconds. Okay, I thought, I’ve been in cars that go 60mph, so I can handle the speed. She then said that there were no steep drops. That was a good sign, because drops were one of the things I had feared. I then learned that it went through three loops. Uh-oh, I don’t do loops, and I don’t do upside-down. The last bit of info she gave me was that it was a smooth ride, and that it only lasts about a minute and a half. A minute and a half? I’m now thinking I can handle pretty much anything for a minute and a half. That’s how it happened. One minute, I was standing at the entrance to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and in less than five minutes, I was through the turnstile, on the line, and on my way to ride it.
What she didn’t tell me was that it was going to take me about ten minutes of waiting through the ride’s pre-show to build up to that minute and a half. Talk about internal dialogue!
“What am I doing here?”
“I’m on line for a roller coaster.”
“I don’t do roller coasters, especially not ones with loops in total darkness.”
“I need my head examined.”
“What if I barf?”
As luck would have it, I ended up standing on line next to another young woman who had never ridden the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, either. So, we both decided to sit next to each other for the ride. The worst part of it was sitting in the car waiting for it to go shooting onto the track at 60mph. Once it did, the rest was pretty cool! The background music was a combination of Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way” and “Sweet Emotion”, two of the handful of Aerosmith songs I actually knew. (I’ve since gone on to buy a few Aerosmith CDs as a result.) Between the music, the blacklit design of the ride, and the speed, it was a pretty incredible minute and a half! Writing this article makes me want to go and ride it again. I even liked the loops!
As incredible as the ride was, it in no way compared to the feeling I had after it was over. I could not believe that I, the same person who didn’t do loops, not only went on the ride and survived, but wanted to ride it again! That feeling was just too cool for words! It was incredibly exciting, energizing and empowering, and I wanted to feel more of it! So, armed with my new-found roller coaster courage, I decided to ride Space Mountain. I figured that, if I could ride upside-down and do loops at 60mph in darkness, I could handle Space Mountain. As it turned out, I was right. I ended up riding both roller coasters four more times during my trip!
I think the key to it all was the way I put the experience in perspective. Had I not framed the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in the context of “a minute and a half”, I don’t think I would have gotten on it. I would not have expanded my comfort zone to the point where, compared to the speed and loops of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Space Mountain now seemed tame. I would have missed out on two really incredible experiences, and the resulting empowerment. Try it the next time you’re facing the possibility of doing something you fear. Think about in terms of how much time out of your life actually doing it will take. You can be courageous and “tough it out” for that long. As a reward for trying, give yourself permission never to do it again, unless you want to. Chances are, you’ll want to. I started out trying it for “a minute and a half”. Now there’s no stopping this former roller coaster wimp!