As a kid, there was nothing that I found more exhilarating than roller coasters. Especially the big, intimidating ones; the ones that I could hear faint screaming from even at a substantial distance. Unsurprisingly, my parents heartily protested every time we visited a theme park.Why not go on the smaller rides? Why not play some carnival games? Why not get some ice cream instead? But I wouldn’t hear any of it. So what if I had to spend countless hours in an endless line, accidentally pressing against sweaty, summer tourists? So what if all of it was for an evanescent three minutes? So what if the experience rattled up all of my insides until I felt like a sickened beanbag?
To me, roller coasters were worth every second of the immense discomfort they caused. The rush of air as I zoomed forward on the brightly colored tracks.The heaviness I would get in my stomach as we lurched up the side of an enormous hill. The giddy weightlessness as we suddenly dropped down from tremendous heights. My inability to even process what was happening because of the loud rattling of the ride, the disorienting blur of the scenery, and the unmistakable rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. I loved it all.
My only issue, of course, had been the minimum height requirement. Six Flags, the theme park that we visited the most often, mandated that all riders be at least 4’5”, which was absolutely terrible for me, the scrawny and overenthusiastic 7th grader that I was. I remember the immense terror I would experience every time I approached that patronizing height chart.
With my back flat against the scale, I strove to make myself just a couple of inches taller.
“Keep your heels flat on the floor,” the worker sharply told me.
Swallowing a little, I pushed away my mounting anxiety before following the infuriating individual’s instructions.
After several more agonizing seconds of judgement, he would look at me apologetically and say, “Sorry, kid. You’re just not tall enough.”
Determined that the man should not see the crushing blow my vertical inadequacy had dealt, I choked out a quick, “Thank you” before running away to my parents.
As soon as I saw them, I buried my face in my mothers’ shirt, sobbing messily. She patted my shoulder comfortingly.
“It’s okay. The next time we come, you’ll definitely be tall enough.”
“Y-You really think so?” I asked with my wide eyes upturned towards her.
“Well-provided that you eat enough tomatoes,” my father chimed in.
Tomatoes? I absolutely detested tomatoes by themselves. I also had the vague notion that this was just another ploy to get me to eat my vegetables/technical fruits. Nonetheless, I piteously sniffed before nodding my assent. If it meant that I could finally ride Superman Ride of Steel, I would force myself to eat a mountain of tomatoes. I had to ride that roller coaster, no matter what the cost.
Past Anusha would pleased to know that since then, I have grown, both physically and (hopefully) mentally. And with my current height, I now have the power to ride any roller coaster of my choosing! But every time I walk past that infernal height check, I feel that old anxiety creep on me. It’s as if a remnant of my younger self tugs at the back of my mind, asking, “Am I tall enough, yet?”