When I was 10, our Destination Imagination team kicked so much [CENSORED VULGARITY *GASP*] that we made the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee. The entire trip was a pretty amazing experience, but I think the day at Dollywood takes the cake as far as making it memorable.
So Dollywood is an amusement park, with funnel cakes and attractions and the little stands that you can win stuffed animals from and…roller coasters. At this particular point in my life, I had not ridden anything even remotely close to a roller coaster. As far as 10 year-old James was concerned, they were killer hellbeasts, and I could too clearly imagine my seatbelt failing and myself flying through the air, landing in a flattened heap on the ground, bones broken and pants soiled. However, this didn’t stop Nick. Nick was going to get me to ride on the Tennessee Tornado, whether I liked it or not. Now at the time, the Tennessee Tornado was Dollywood’s prime roller coaster. It featured a hair-raising drop straight into a cave thing, only to come out and do TWO full loops. Loops as in upside down. Being upside down. On a roller coaster. Understandably I was not so keen.
Somehow, and I still don’t know how exactly, I ended up sitting beside Nick, getting strappedinto the freaking Tennessee Tornado. Oh, the back of the train too, because “the back is the mostintense.” Thanks Nick. So we go off. Sweat is pouring off my face. However, I'm feeling moderately ok as we climb up the hill.
We go down the drop…
And I rise out of my seat….
And I don’t think I’ve ever, before or since, ever so totally and certainly felt like I was going to die. My heart started racing, I closed my eyes and held onto my restraint as hard as I could. It was awful. I was still reeling from it as we got off the ride.
Oh, is the story boring you? Well, that was pretty much the introduction…
Nick wants to go a second time. Feeling like one near-death experience was enough for the day, I refused. And refused. And refused.
And then there I was, sitting beside Nick. On the Tennessee Tornado. In the back. But this time, I knew what to expect. And I was WAY more nervous. I kept replaying the drop in my head, over and over again. I was starting to panic. I could feel my heart racing. This was not good. I wanted to get off. But my shoulder restraint was on. I was trapped. The train was moving.
So I tried to keep my cool. I took deep breaths, I closed my eyes. We started to approach the hill when…
The ride stops.
And we sit there. And sit there…
I’m still not sure how this happened, honestly, but with the ride stopping and the attendants coming up to us to tell us there’s just a small “issue” or something that needs to be taken care of,
See this peaceful, relaxing scene? Imagine the exact opposite.
Instantaneously, I transformed into a blubbering, screaming mess, begging for anyone to take my off that horrific death machine. I was pulling at my restraint, screaming at the ride attendants, generally doing my best to get the point across that I had completely lost my mind and I was going to do whatever it took to get off of the hellbeast. The people around me were desperately trying to get me to calm down, even though I really wasn’t aware of it. The funniest part of this whole thing though is that through at least 20 minutes of me being in full-scale freak out, the attendants never let me off the ride. They repeatedly told me throughout the ordeal that they couldn’t let me off. Secretly, I think they just enjoyed the sight of a 10 year-old who was absolutely convinced he was about to die. I still hate them to this day.
So the ride finally started again, we did the drop and the loops and my pants somehow stayed clean, and then it was over. I was still wiping tears from my face as we walked off. Needless to say, there were no more rides for me that day. I was ridiculed by Nick and the other members of the DI team for quite a while after that. Now though, I’ve made peace with the fact that I was a complete sissy. And that’s why I’m here today; to share my embarrassing past with the world. Peace out.