Slices of Life: Wrong ride, right attitude

"You only get the chance to do this once. I’m going to make the most of it. Bring on the roller coasters!" writes Jill Pertler.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler
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“Life is a lousy spectator sport.”— John R. Powers

When it comes to thrill-seeking, I’ve always embraced being one of the wimpiest of the wimpy. Why ride a roller coaster when you can watch all the fun from the sidelines? Rhetorical question, to be sure.

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Let’s just say I’ve been at peace with being a sidelines gal.

My family is the opposite of wimpy when it comes to thrills. They think nothing of putting their life on the line if it means a riding roller coaster that defies gravity by rolling and turning and spilling its riders upside down — in the dark. My husband was the biggest thrill seeker of us all. When it came to life defying feats on rides named with words like “Wild Venom,” “Mission Death” and “Monster Intimidator,” he was like a kid in a candy store.

My kids all inherited his lack of judgment when tackling wild rides. In other words, they love them.


Because I love what my family loves, exciting amusement park excursions have always been one of our favorite family activities.

We had our latest adventure earlier this year when we visited not one, but four, theme parks — all part of the great Mickey empire. This was our first trip without my husband, and I went in with an open heart, open mind, a smile on my face and a tissue or two in my pocket.

The first day of the trip was uneventful, thrill-wise. The biggest baddest ride in the park was closed down for maintenance. I said a prayer of thanks and explored animal adventures with my grand babies.

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The second morning of our trip, I was feeling confident. I was ready to stand in long lines. I was ready to practice patience. I was ready for the heat— to a degree. I was ready for the rides — to a degree. I was ready to go fast, take a sharp turn or two and maybe even climb and descend a hill with a quick drop. Just not anything crazy like going upside down in the dark. That feat of valor could be saved for another day — like maybe tomorrow, or maybe the day after that.

When you enter a busy amusement park on a busy morning, it’s imperative to have a plan. In order to minimize wait time and maximize ride time you need to know exactly where you want to go and you have to be willing to run to get there.

On that morning of the second day, my boys had it all figured out and sprinted to a ride that featured Aerosmith and music and some sort of roller coaster. I thought I remembered riding said coaster in the past so I confidently joined them in line (huffing and puffing after our run).

The wait was 45 minutes. No biggie!! Minutes (hours, even) in park time waiting lines — or queues as they are known to us insiders — are not the same as time outside the park. Time outside the park — it is linear. Time inside the park? It doesn’t really exist, except for opening in the morning, closing at night and parade times throughout the day. Otherwise, time is a non-entity.

Back to our first ride of the second morning: we were 43 minutes into the queue when we heard a woman directly in front of us lamenting because she was afraid of spinning upside down.


Me (thinking I knew the ride): “This doesn’t go upside down!”

Two teen boys in front of us laughed and quickly replied, “Yes it does!”

I looked at my own boys, dumbfounded. They just smiled, almost daring me to back out at this point. I was 43 minutes invested for goodness sakes, and all in. I boarded that ride and didn’t look back (or forward, for that matter)

Yes, we did go upside down. More than once. More than twice. (Yikes!) Yes, I did close my eyes practically the whole time. But I did it! And, I survived.

My life has changed in the last year and a half, and that means I’ve changed as well. I used to be OK standing on the sidelines. I’ve since decided life might be better spent as a participant, rather than a spectator. You only get the chance to do this once. I’m going to make the most of it. Bring on the roller coasters!

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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