I thought of this, originally posted May 17, 2017, after seeing Michael Portillo visit Montmorency Falls in Quebec, including a zipline across the falls, which is still a bridge too far for me.
When I tell people I don’t believe in “bucket lists” because I don’t want to die, they laugh at me.
Of course, it’s going to happen someday, but I’m terribly afraid of it … not just the “dying” part, but the “being dead” part. I’m inclined to believe in the afterlife, but what if this is it?
Beyond that, I’m afraid of losing my wife, who it’s hard for me to imagine having ever lived without, and I’d really rather not try it.
I’m afraid of losing my job … looking stupid in public … not crazy about snakes … pretty standard-issue stuff.
After a bad experience with a family member’s large dog when I was a small child — she was being playful, not malicious, and didn’t actually hurt me, but she got her paws in my face and it scared me — I haven’t liked having dogs in my face. Fortunately, I’m big enough now that I can shoo the dog away if that happens.
For a long time, I said I was afraid of needles, but now I know it’s less fear and more hate. I’m astounded that I spent 24 hours in a hospital recently with IVs in my arms and didn’t lose my mind.
But there’s one fear that most people would probably find silly, that it has taken me well into adulthood to shake.
* * * * *
The first time it happened was when I was at Disney World with my family as a child. We were trying to go from one part of the park to another, and the best way to do it was by riding a gondola — sitting in a basket, hanging from wires.
I did not want to do this … really, really did not. The adults telling me that the wires were steel cords did nothing to ease my mind. I was convinced that the wire was going to break, and every time we went over one of the poles that held the whole enterprise up, I was convinced that we were going to slip off the track and plummet to our deaths.
* * * * *
Adulthood didn’t help. Fast-forward at least 20 years, and my wife and I went to Lake Placid. I wanted to go to the top of the ski jump, but didn’t really ponder how we were going to get to the top of the mountain where the ski jump was … until I saw the ski lift.
I’ve never skied, so I had never ridden a ski lift. You can imagine how going up a mountain in a chair suspended by wires felt. The wind was blowing, and I was wearing a baseball cap, and all the way up, I kept saying to myself, “Let the hat go if the wind blows it off.”
We made it, though, and sitting at the top of a 90-meter ski jump, the entire valley to crash into if somehow I slipped … never bothered me for an instant.
It was getting there that wasn’t much fun.
Things started to get better several years ago. My wife and I went to Quebec City, and decided that we wanted to see Montmorency Falls before we left.
And yes, I knew how we were going to get there.
However, and I know this will seem crazy, I was less scared this time because the gondolas were on two wires, not one. Unless the second wire could hold us up in the event of the first one failing, we’d still have a horrible, tragic fall, but something about it made me feel better.
When my wife and I decided to go to London a few years ago, she said she wanted to ride the London Eye.
Given that it looked vaguely like a Ferris wheel, which I’ve steadfastly avoided for pretty much the same reasons as gondolas, I was not especially enthusiastic about this suggestion.
But my wife had an ace up her sleeve … a video she found on YouTube showing that the Eye was well-built, and completely safe. (Note from 2020: The video below isn’t the original one Suzi showed me, but it’s close enough.)
So I went. I loved it.
And if there’s any doubt it’s well-made, it can withstand the shift in weight that occurs at the top of the ride, when everyone moves to the same part of the capsule to get the money shot … Big Ben and Parliament.
My only regret was that we went during the day because the night trips were all sold out. So when we went back, it was my idea to go again, this time at night.
It was awesome, and not the least bit scary.