I surveyed the queue of fractious children and tired adults with a mix of dread and foreboding, “Who would I be sat next to in the confined compartment?” Likely candidates included the small boy who had been screaming uncontrollably for the last half an hour or the young lady who hadn’t stopped eating and would surely be sick. “Why hadn’t I insisted that I stay behind?”
The five of us continued to shuffle round the extended queuing system. The nearby sign proudly announced that it was ‘Only a 15 minute wait-time from here’ and my legs instantly started to ache, my mouth went dry and I ran out of things to say. “You’re in my personal space”, claimed one of the children - clearly I wasn’t the only one to think this was inhumane.
When the turnstile opened others propelled me forward to take a seat. I sat back and tried to relax, but my breathing quickened, and then become shallow. My fingers dug holes in the base of the seat as I tried to both steady myself and fight against a desperate need to run away. “Deep breaths, you’ve done this before – even if it was a long time ago.” I sincerely hoped I wasn’t about to be an embarrassment.
I buckled in and wondered whether I should I have my arms over the restraint, ready to grab the rail or the seat in front, or tucked inside to create an immoveable wedge. The safety instructions went over my head as I struggled to put my rucksack somewhere safe - I shoved it behind my legs and immediately regretted the discomfort.
I quickly glanced around me - all the seats were taken. “Was it good to be that full? Would it make it too heavy?” I managed a weak smile at my sister as we lurched away and began to pick up speed.
Gravity forced me back in my seat and I felt completely trapped. Panic raced around inside my head as I pondered the unknowns of physics and engineering: how high, how fast, what was their safety record like? In the brief moment of stillness at the top I strained to move. A rush of air on my face and I heard the screams. I shut my eyes and prayed that I wasn’t thrown out.
“Aunt Sar, why did you have your eyes closed? You didn’t wave at me at all!” my niece exclaimed indignantly as she gently shook me. It took two kindly attendants to extricate me from the seat and it was several minutes before I could walk down the stairs.
At the exit we stopped to look at our photo and my niece continued, “You didn’t really like the rollercoaster, did you?”