Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tower a Terror

“You wanna go on something really fast and really scary?” I asked my 5-year-old son during a recent trip to Disney’s California Adventure Park. He seemed to think that every ride we rode at the park was too slow and too boring. So I wanted to excite him.

“Yeah,” my boy said with enough enthusiasm to make a cooped-up Jack Russell Terrier look like an energy-deficient loaf. “I wanna go on something really, really fast, and really, really scary.” And then my son did what he does when he gets excited. He jumped up and down.

“Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” is an elevator ride that takes riders to the top of what looks like the Hollywood Tower, and then drops them straight down to the bottom. It was pure terror. And we were in line to ride it.

My wife asked if it’d be too scary for our child. I said it couldn’t be worse than “Splash Mountain” or “Big Thunder,” scary rides my son had already survived and loved. I gave my wife a smile of confidence.

And then I looked to see if there were other 5-year-olds in line for the ride, you know, because I didn’t want to be the only bad parent with a young one. The youngest kid in line was maybe 24 years old.

As we neared the attraction, we could hear riders screaming things like, “We’re gonna die!” and we saw riders exiting the building with wet pants. My wife asked if this was a water ride. I told her it wasn’t.

I excused myself from line to use the restroom. I actually sought out a park employee and asked if it was safe to bring a 5-year-old on the “Tower of Terror.” She said that bringing a 5-year-old on the ride was a horrible idea, and very dangerous.

Just before I regained consciousness so I could run back to my family in line and save my son’s life, the employee laughed and said she was just kidding and that my 5-year-old would be fine.

I didn’t think this woman was funny. And just before I would get on the ride, I questioned whether she was even an employee of the park at all. But at that moment, what she said was enough for me to jump back in line with my wife and kid.
“This ride is going to be great,” I said with renewed enthusiasm.

“Is this ride gonna be really, really fast?” my son asked me, eagerly anticipating the terror.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s going to be more fun than ‘Splash Mountain’ and ‘Big Thunder’ put together.” And I meant it.
My son did what he always does when he’s excited. He jumped up and down.

Finally, the line of people we were waiting behind led us into the building, and into what looked like the depths of Hell, actually the elevator maintenance shaft. You could hear the roar of the elevator ride as it raced up to the top of the tower with its riders, then come plummeting down, the screams of the people even worse than the roar of the elevator car.

This was a terrible idea. My son was going to die. I had to take him out of the line. And that’s when we were shoved onto the ride and buckled in.

Right away, the elevator blasted off to the sky, putting my stomach on top of my toes. My son’s smile disappeared instantly. He wouldn’t survive, and I think he knew it, too.

Then the elevator car came crashing down, and I wondered if the Earth’s ground had disappeared since we kept falling and falling. My son went mute. I wondered if he was gone.

When we got off the ride, I checked all my son’s vitals. Surprisingly, he was alive. I asked if he was OK. He jumped up and down. Because that’s what he does when he’s excited.

It seems he truly had fun.

So I asked the boy, “You wanna go on something even faster and even scarier?”

-August 2008

Family News in Brief -- July '08

As my son’s first day of kindergarten nears, nobody can clearly say who will win dibs on that first goodbye kiss. My wife’s campaign to the kiss is going strong with support from as far as her uncle in South Carolina. My support doesn’t leave the state, but it might be enough to garner that first smooch on Wed., Aug. 13. “I just want to kiss Mommy and Daddy,” said my son in a statement earlier this week. Conservatives feel that my wife’s lips are what my son really needs first for that all-important goodbye because, as the mother, sources said, she gave birth to the child. Liberals, on the other hand, said that it’s time for a change, and that in this democratic nation either parent should have a chance at the first kiss.

My 5-year-old son checked himself into his room earlier this week for candy abuse. He admitted to sneaking candy from the candy jar on four accounts within the course of a day. “My son is surprisingly honest with his parents,” my wife said yesterday. “And he knows when he’s being too silly because of too much sugar. I think he just wants to cut down on the sugar intake, and we’re here to support him.” After an hour and a half in his room alone, the boy came out clean and with a new outlook on life.

In a chase that lasted three hours and spanned the distance of 10 football fields but within the confines of a Stevenson Ranch single-family dwelling, my father-in-law finally captured my 5-year-old son in the outskirts of the living room, and then he tickled the boy into an uproarious laughter. “I just didn’t want to be tickled,” my son said after the fact. “So I ran.” According to Grandpa, grandparents are supposed to tickle their grandchildren, and they’ll hunt those little ones down at any cost to produce that all-important involuntary laughter and wriggling. My son’s belly still hurts from laughing as hard as he did.

Despite efforts to keep the neighbor’s cats off the lawn, at least one feline left a mark that has killed the grass. “I remember a time when my lawn was perfectly green all around,” I said in a statement right now. “And now there’s a big ugly yellow spot right in the middle.” The said neighbor denies charges against him for aiding and abetting the criminal cat, claiming that his precious pets are all indoor animals. Various sources, however, said they saw the neighbor’s black cat cross their path on the sidewalk earlier this month. The damages to my lawn were $13.39 for Scotts Lawn Pro Step 4 lawn fertilizer from the Do-It Center.

-July 2008