I’m trying to teach my students the whole show-don’t-tell thing so I wrote this little story…can YOU tell how I was feeling? (I know it’s vanilla, but remember, my audience was 9-year-olds.)
“Let’s go on that one,” said my friend Geoff, pointing at a metal tower that stretched about a hundred twenty feet in the air. We had decided to spend our last day of freedom before the school year started at Carowinds, wringing every ounce of fun out of our summer vacation. The sign in front of us said ‘Drop Zone’, which pretty much summed up the ride. Surrounding the giant pole were sixteen outward-facing seats. The passengers were pulled slowly up to the top of the ride and then released to fall sixty miles per hour toward Earth before the airbrakes screamed on. Geoff and I had had a discussion in the car on the way to the amusement park about rides. “I don’t understand people who don’t like roller coasters,” I had said. “They’re so much fun.” Now as we stood in front of this towering colossus, I was having second thoughts.
For all the previous rides, I had shifted from foot to foot, sat on the handrail, and urged the line on quietly, “Come on. Come on.” I couldn’t wait to get to the front. Now I found myself dragging my feet, whispering, “Slow down.” In no time at all, we were at the gate. It swung open, and Geoff and I stepped through. I let my eyes wander up the shaft and almost fell over backwards. Could I tell Geoff I didn’t want to go? Could I lie and say I wasn’t feeling well? Come to think of it, I wasn’t feeling well.
My brain didn’t work fast enough, and I found myself sliding back into the hard seat. The u-shaped brace lowered itself toward my belly button. I grabbed onto it and felt it click into place. There was no turning back. The operator’s voice droned a welcome and some safety instructions, but all I could hear was a rushing roar like a space shuttle engine. The seats raised about two feet and stopped. My legs dangled like a kindergartener’s in a big chair. I pushed myself back into the seat and grasped tightly to the safety bar. No, no, no. This was a bad idea. I turned my head to the side. Geoff was staring straight ahead and smiling.
The seats began to rise steadily. First, I saw the tops of people’s heads, then the roofs of the ride pavillions, next the tops of trees, and finally the skyline of Charlotte in the distance. I could see for miles. I had a vision of my safety bar popping up. Don’t think about that, Amy. I squeezed my eyes shut. That made things worse because all the swooning in my head shot to my stomach. My eyes slammed back open.
And then it happened. The brakes were released. Geoff laughed loudly. My arms and legs stiffened, but my hair shot skyward as we hurtled toward the ground. Tears blew upward to my hairline, and a silent scream erupted from my throat. Make it stop. Eons passed.
The brakes finally screeched on. We coasted the last 15 feet and stopped with a jerk. The shoulder braces popped up, and I tumbled forward out of the seat. My arms and legs had no bones; I wobbled toward the exit. Geoff was smiling and exclaiming that he wanted to go again. “No way,” I said. Never again would I question people who didn’t like roller coasters. Now I knew how they felt.