Disneyworld, Orlando. The franchise may be largely aimed at six year-old girls, but lurking behind every Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique there is something twisty and loud, perverting gravity in ways that should be illegal. Knowledge is power for the lily-livered, so please note the following survival tactics, devised by two thirty-something rollercoaster fanatics who just happen to be terrified of rollercoasters.
It’s no coincidence that MGM Studios’ white-knucklers both happen in the dark. Darkness exaggerates peril - it’s a primeval fear of the unknown. The solution? Preview online videos of these rides operating with the lights on: the reality of cheap plywood sets and exit signs is immensely reassuring. Alternatively, watch Point Of View footage with your face positioned very close to the screen - both cheaper and safer than flying to Orlando.
Summer and school holidays breed queues of odyssean proportion, providing plenty of time for indecision. Don’t give in to mid-queue paranoia: as you inch closer to the ride, all those little warnings and disclaimer signs can seem horribly portentous. I had to remind my partner, hugging himself outside Expedition Everest: at five foot ten you’re more than tall enough, your heart is fine, you’re not pregnant, and there’s nothing wrong with your neck.
Hard to believe the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - essentially a free-fall panic attack in the Overlook Hotel – was dreamed up by a Disney Imagineer. Did he who made Swiss Family Treehouse make thee? I even saw one young man of considerable machismo swerving from its doors in a daze shouting, ‘I’ll do spinning, but I won’t do drops!’ Remember that, faced with these kinds of torments, simply loitering can be fun. Indeed, the screaming from the Tower of Terror proved so enjoyable that, after forty minutes of procrastination, we felt no need to actually ride it. I call this the second-hand adrenaline experience, or ‘passive exhilaration,’ and recommend it for fellow nervous types.
We left in good spirits for the airport, unaware there was one last, unexpected ride still to come. Flying homewards, we encountered a storm over Virginia: the plane yoyo-ed violently, spilling red wine faster than I could direct it into my mouth. A group of children - still in rollercoaster mode - whooped with excitement, while I tried not to think of the thirty thousand feet between my flight socks and the ground. Hugging the seat in front, I incanted salvation from whichever God might accept late bookings.
Reader, we survived. Back in Heathrow, waiting for our luggage in the eerie calm of Arrivals, I reflected with a smile on all the rides we were shameless enough to board without the qualifier of a child. Splash Mountain, the Magic Carpets. Winnie, Dumbo and Buzz. Who needs G forces when you can…
And then it hit me. My smile faded. Surely not even the most English of tourists could be so ridiculous...
Was it really the queuing we’d enjoyed?