The Ride of a Lifetime

When the harness of life seems to be coming undone, always listen to the wisest person you know—your mom.

Magdalena Laughrey, Staff Writer

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For thirty seconds of my life, I thought I was going to die. And in the same thirty seconds, I wholeheartedly regretted riding something that, even at first glance, looked like it had probably never passed a safety inspection. I also realized at that moment that those stories about people who somehow develop superhuman strength in extremely tense situations were, in fact, very true. This same thirty seconds made me realize that I hate carnivals.

I had already won six goldfish at one of those games that seem to eat up all the money your parents give you to go to the fair, so, naturally, I was in a good mood. Usually, I avoid any kind of ride that flips you upside down and holds you there for what feels like an eternity, but my friend’s endless pleading made me think she really wanted to ride the roller coaster from my nightmares. Against my better judgment that was clouded by my swirling endorphins from my acquisition of six swimming, gold prizes, I gave in to the nagging. The glowing marquee of lights displaying the aptly named coaster, “The Swinger”, blinded me in the dim light of the summer sunset, and fear began to settle in my body in the form of fluttering butterflies in my stomach. The glow of my friend’s smile shone brighter though, and I knew that making her happy would drown out the dread. As we boarded the ride, I told myself the worst that could happen was that the world might spin around me for a while after it’s over. But I was going to prove myself wrong in less than three minutes.

Click. The seatbelt-like latch holding the overhead harness in place seemed secure, and when the worker came by to check them, he said we were good to go with a reassuring thumbs up. And with a press of a large green button, we were in motion. I held onto the bars near my chest until my knuckles turned white, filled my lungs the cotton candy-scented air, shut my eyes, and braced myself. As the ride spun us completely upside down, I could feel my butterfly-filled stomach flip and turn.

Click. I peeked open an eye. The seatbelt was dangling a few inches in front of me. It felt like years that I stared at the eerie sight of a malfunctioning harness that was supposed to ensure my safety while I was sitting completely inverted and utterly helpless.

“My harness came undone!” I yelled over to my friend through the happy shouts of other carnival-goers and blaring music. She began to panic. However, I didn’t panic. My mom always tells me that the worst thing to do in a situation where you feel totally helpless is to freak out, and at that moment, I could hear her telling me to calm down and take a deep breath.

My words, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine!” seemed to not make it to my friend’s ears since her only response was more screaming and panicking. I felt the momentum of the giant swinging pendulum of fear pulling the harness away from my body, and I closed my eyes even tighter as I began to fall forward. Suddenly, my arms pushed down onto the harness with strength comparable only to the Hulk, to the point where red abrasions appeared on my shoulders and chest. I held it there, pushing and pushing to ensure that I would not completely fall out of the ride because, in all honesty, the aftermath would have been just as embarrassing as it would have been painful. For the second when the ride was not upside down, I attempted to latch the harness again, but my efforts were in vain. So, for the remainder of the ride, I literally held onto the handlebars for dear life. I delivered silent prayers for the ride to end faster, but as it always happens in the worst of situations, it felt like I had aged ten years before the ride began to slow down.

“The Swinger” finally leveled out, the adrenaline coursing through my veins slowed halted, my watery eyes opened, and my shaking feet touched the ground. I stood up from the coaster and walked off from my first near-death experience relatively unscathed, which feels odd to say aloud. With an intense aching in my arms and dizziness wrapping my brain and blurring my vision, I grabbed my fish and did the only rational thing I could think of at the time: indulge in a grease-soaked funnel cake and laugh with my friend about the scariest two minutes of our lives.

If I learned anything from that fateful summer night two years ago, it’s not that you shouldn’t face your fears or that you shouldn’t give in to your friends; it’s that even if she’s not with you, always trust your mom. She is always right, and one day, she just might save your life.