I went on my first amusement park ride at the age of eight years old, and while I have been on hundreds of others since that time, when people ask me what I remember most about my childhood I often refer to the incident that occurred when I was riding a children’s roller coaster shortly before my ninth birthday.
I went with my older brother and one of his friends to a theme park, and we saw this roller coaster that, in hindsight, was kind of puny. To us, however, it was the coolest thing ever and all of us ran over to buy a ticket.
I still get angry when I think about how my brother’s friend, who was much bigger than me, demanded to sit in the middle, while my brother and I sat on the outer edges of the cart. As soon as the ride started, I could feel myself being crushed under the weight of my brother’s friend, and it was not long before I was crying in pain and terror.
I had never expected to have this kind of an experience with an amusement park ride, and it is not something that I am proud of, but it is something that stands out vividly in my mind from my childhood. What bothered me the most was that my brother’s friend was laughing at me once I got off of the ride. He was 14 at the time.
When I got off of the ride I went off by myself for a while and stopped crying. I was very embarrassed, and the last thing I wanted to do was face more derision from my brother’s friend. I went back and found my brother and made it a point not to talk to his friend any more that day.
As I grew and became less afraid of the speed and seeming danger associated with roller coasters, I was able to go on more and get over that initial bad experience. I would still not say that it is my favorite amusement park ride, but I don’t despise it the way I once did.
A few years ago, my own son wanted to go on a roller coaster at a local amusement park. I made it a point to ride with him and assure him that, while it might be a little bit scary, everything would be all right and that we would get off of it safely in the end. I told him that if he could relax and enjoy himself, he might find that it was something he actually loved doing.
Sure enough, once we were finished, he wanted to go on it again. It did become his favorite amusement park ride, because his earliest experience with it was a positive one. That is something I wish that I wish I had.