Ever watch the Discovery Channel show, I Shouldn’t Be Alive? It’s a program that reenacts real-life survival situations of average people (unlike survivor specialists Survivorman and Man v Wild). It’s compelling TV and I for one give it the Steely Dad thumbs up.
The producers of that show should do an episode on my recent survival experience.
No, I wasn’t caught in an avalanche subsisting only on pee-laden snow and no, I wasn’t stranded on the African plains surviving on elephant dung while fending off attacks from lions with a spear fashioned from the elastic band of my underwear and a filed-down button. No, my friends, this experience was much more harrowing than the aforementioned scenarios.
My survival experience involved four days of long treks, screaming kids, rude people, crappy food and massive crowds at The Happiest Place on Earth, otherwise known as Disneyland.
If you’ve ever been to Disneyland then you know precisely the survivor skills required to get out alive (and without having to file bankruptcy upon your return to civilization). One must be able to tolerate the searing pain of having countless strollers, some of them double-wides, rolled over your minimally-protected feet. One must be able to stand for long periods of time with antsy kids in lines that seem miles long. One must be able to stomach super-fried edibles without getting a violent case of the squirts that rivals Giardia. To be sure, one must be able to take being knocked and pushed around by large swarms of humanity without going postal. In addition, and this is perhaps the most crucial Disneyland survival skill, one must be able to distract the kids long enough to avoid spending huge sums of cash in the kid-appealing souvenir shops one will encounter immediately exiting each and every ride and attraction. It is the most skilled survivor who can do this without triggering an all-out flailing episode.
In addition to these skills, my personal experience in Disneyland required a skill, nay, an adaptation that most Steely Dad readers will find they already possess. For me, a supremely brave man who has always stared death and danger directly in the eye, I have to enter into an ecstatic trance in order to get my butt on…roller coasters. Anyone who knows me knows this about me. Roller coasters are my kryptonite, my Achilles Heel, my sole lapse in an otherwise armor-like aura. My phobia of roller coasters is the culmination of two traumatic events in my life. The first I attribute to a prenatal trauma when “Mom the Daredevil” went on a ride during my fragile gestational period that resulted in my mom hurling chunks. This incident occurred during the 70s, before they had signs warning pregnant women that going on coasters was a stupid idea. In fact, my mom’s experience set a precedent requiring all amusement parks to post the pregnant woman warning signs. The other trauma happened when my parents took me to a local fair run by a family of gypsies. You know the type where the operator of the ride has a patch over one eye and lacks any evidence that his mouth once housed teeth. Well, the ride I was on broke down and it caused a minor panic in the parents and a major one in me.
I could go on describing the depth of my phobia but it would require time better spent on other endeavors, like wrapping up this blog post. The point is, I’m deathly afraid of roller coasters. However, my three-year-old son (as well as my one-year-old daughter, who went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) LOVES roller coasters. Ever since I took him on this wimpy ride at Legoland when he was two, he has been addicted to rides. Well, I must say that after four days at Disneyland not only was I able to control my fear of Disney’s relatively tame coasters I actually began to enjoy them. With Steely Son, we hit up Thunder Mountain (his personal favorite) about 20 times, Space Mountain four times and a few rides on the famous Matterhorn. So how’d I do it? How did I adopt this unique survival skill? Bottom line: I had to Dad up and be there for my boy. That’s what dads do.
Am I ready for the panic-inducing rides at places like Six Flags? Not a chance. What will I do when he’s ready for those rides? I’ll do what any other courageous dad would do: have his mommy take him.