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EEEEK!!! (Are We Having Fun Yet?)

by Rose Madeline Mula

Since when did defying death become enjoyable?

The roller coasters of my childhood were more than terrifying enough for me. I ventured on one only once, when I was in my teens, because I was tired of the gang calling me chicken. Actually, I'm embarrassed to admit that though that ride traumatized me for life, it wasn't even a real roller coaster. It was a scaled-down child's version called The Wild Mouse. When the passengers disembarked, five-year-olds were begging "Again, Mommy, please!" as I staggered as far away from the beast as possible before losing my lunch.

When I see today's coasters, with their 90-degree vertical ascents and gravity-defying plunges, I don't know whether to be awestruck by the riders' courage or seek to have them committed to the nearest mental institution for their own protection. I mean, think of it — one loose screw in the safety bar across the seat, or a glitch in whatever mysterious force keeps the cars on the rail, and it's all over. This is fun?

It's the same with hot air balloonists. There they are, floating thousands of feet in the air in a flimsy wicker basket, next to a roaring flame that's licking yards of surrounding fabric — not to mention the explosive gas that feeds that flame. Yet they tell me it's beautiful. So peaceful. And at the end of the journey a soft landing in a green meadow awaits, followed by a celebratory champagne lunch. Maybe. Unless the air currents deposit them in the ocean ... a traffic-congested highway ... a cage full of lions at the local zoo ...?

Equally unappealing (at least to me) is the so-called thrill of parasailing. I've never tried it, of course. But once when I was on vacation I did see a crazy woman dangle from a parachute tethered to a speeding boat. Just watching was scary enough. One minute she was sailing blissfully through a brilliant blue sky, and the next (when the boat towing her took a sharp turn to avoid a jet skier), suddenly the parachute was whizzing dangerously close to shore, threatening to slam her into the penthouse suite of a luxury hotel at fifty miles an hour. No, thanks. I'll take the elevator. Of course, if you see in advance that you're getting too close to land, I suppose you could unhitch the chute and ditch into the water (provided you can swim). But wait. Is that a school of sharks down there?

And what's with idiots who jump out of airplanes? I won't even descend a short flight of stairs without clutching the railing. No way would I hurl myself from a plane willingly. They would have to hire Mr. Brawny to pry my hands loose from the door frame and fling me out. And I'm sure I'd die of fright before I'd be able to pull the rip cord of the parachute. Or, more likely, I'd pull it the moment my feet touched air, and the chute would get ensnared in the plane's wings. Either way, it wouldn't be pretty.

White water rafting is another sport I can live without (literally). I try to avoid even still water that's more than ankle deep. Do you think I'm going to climb into a little rubber boat and launch myself into a roiling, churning river punctuated by boulders and tree limbs? Are you kidding?

Then there's bungee jumping. I ask you, can you really be sane and dive off a bridge, cliff or tower trusting that a big rubber band is going to break your fall before you break your neck?

You have to be equally trusting to climb onto the back of a burro and allow it to carry you to the floor of the Grand Canyon, its hooves skirting the edges of precipices every inch of the way. It's perfectly safe, they tell us. These animals are amazingly sure-footed. But are they telling us everything? Has one ever twisted an ankle or been spooked by a swarm of bees? I don't even want to contemplate the consequences.

Others far braver than I don't worry about such risks. Even as I write this, I'm sure someone is climbing the sheer wall of Half Dome at Yosemite, surfing the mountainous waves off Kauai, schussing down the Matterhorn, hang gliding over the Rockies .... the insanity is everywhere.

And me? I'm about to take a Valium so I can get up enough nerve to nuke my dinner. Those microwaves terrify me.

Rose's book, The Stranger in My Mirror and Other Reflections is available by special order from most book stores, or on the web at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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