Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Everybody's free (to wear sunscreen)

I don't know if you remember the Wear Sunscreen song from 1997, but it's the rambling and very apt advice of Baz Luhrmann. One of the lines goes like this: Do one thing every day that scares you.

Thomas and his wind-up shark

For some reason, that brief but powerful sentiment has stuck with me as something really good.

Push the boundries...just a little. That idea has led to my trying to speak a little of other's languages, even though I have no talent for it whatsoever. It's led to my having conversations with total strangers, running crazy distances, eating things that I have no idea what they are, or know, but try anyway, and hey, to trust Mike to know what he was doing when he brought our family out to the Middle East.

Sometimes the policy pays off, sometimes not so much, I look like a dork often enough, but almost always it results in learning something about life, or myself, that otherwise I would never have known.

Or blog fodder. That's always good.

The other day, at Atlantis Aquaventure, the Carpe Diem, Just Do It, What the Heck policy made me do something that addressed several fears all at once. Once again the spousal unit thought I was nuts. But, well, what the heck.

Bethy on waterslide

Atlantis, you may remember, is the luxury hotel out on the man-made exclusive island, Palm Jumeirah.

Bethy inside the Atlantis Avenue, on the way to Aquaventure

Aquaventure is the fabulous waterpark there. The kids get a real kick out of it, and, yes, so do we. It's gorgeous, the rides are great, something for everyone, the lifeguards are attentive, we have 2 for 1 coupons, and it's not at all hard to spend an entire day there. Somehow we manage to get sunburned every time, despite copious application and reapplication of sunscreen.

Last time we went I didn't really get much of a chance to try the big kid rides out. This time I decided, on the spur of the moment, that not only would I give those a go, that I would also try the great Granddaddy of them all:

The Leap of Faith.

Pretty much no one I know even wants to try this thing. You climb up flight after flight of stairs to get to this ride, going past all the other entrances to the other, less insane waterslides. At the top is a sign that says, among other statements:

NOT for those afraid of heights
NOT for those afraid of going fast
NOT for those afraid of enclosed spaces
Do NOT try to slow yourself down
The management is not responsible, etc..etc...

And here is what it looks like from the outside:

See that little hole at the top beneath the pyramid-shaped beak part? That's where you start. Then there's the 90 foot near-vertical drop...

Yes, you read that right. 90 feet. At the bottom of that is an underwater tube (can you see it? Just past the mist there in the rectangular part) that takes the bit of humanity plunging through a shark tank.

Yes, real sharks, but hey, there's the plexiglass that you're shooting through between you and them, and I don't think I'm afraid of sharks.

The rider shoots at rocket through that, beneath two bridges, and then, with any luck, gets dumped out into a pool, all of six stories below, at the end.

During the show The Amazing Race the contestants were challenged with this ride. One of them was so paralysed by fear that she simply couldn't do it, and her team had to forfeit. No one was going to give me a million dollars, even though I am not so good with heights.

For some reason I can't satisfactorily explain, I made myself climb those stairs. I waited in line, and by the time I got to the front of the line, my heart was pounding so hard I wondered if the people standing around me could hear it.

There would have been no shame in getting out of line...more than one person looked, paled, and left. Others tried to sit down at the entrance but then got back up and slowly, carefully backed away. Some folks went for it, no problem, though more often than not there was a lot of screaming. Listening to the screams fly away from us wasn't so great for the nerves either.
The attendant watched calmly throughout, allowing one person to try at a time.

After the person in front of me went, something apparently went wrong. The attendant stopped and went over to the scary opening, one leg on either side and hands on the metalwork. Looking down, he blew his whistle, waited, signalled something to someone below, shook his head, waited, and then blew his whistle again and stood aside, beckoning to me.

It was my turn.

Somebody stop me!

No one obliged. Darn them anyway.

I had counted how many seconds it took one of the sliders before me to reach the bottom. A count of eight. Anyone could stand a count of eight.

I sat down, crossed my legs in front of me, pushed off, quickly crossing my arms across my chest like a mummy as I laid down, breathed out, and too late to do anything about it, went.

The sensation of falling like that is nothing like anything I've ever experienced before. Or, frankly, ever want to again. You fall like a rock.

I had my eyes screwed tightly shut as I fell. One...two...three...four...five...six...maybe seven or eight...and then I was in the tube, my back burning from the friction despite the cool flowing water. Then the roaring water came up over me as the world continued to rush by, up my nose, completely filling my ears and blocking out sensations except for the unbelievable speed through the dark and flooding.

Damned scary.

Then plop, I was out and in a sedate pool. Big gulp of air when I came up. And you know what I did?

I laughed.

Any psychologist out there that want to take a shot at what that means?

I haven't a clue. But I did it. I survived, and I didn't scream all the way down like a silly girl.



Anonymous said...

Mumsey got vertigo just looking at the pictures. But then I get air sick at my desk playing with the Flight Simulator 2004. Way too suggestable.

Pat and Colleen said...

Oh my gosh!!! Way to go, Natalie! One more check on your list of spectacular, once in a lifetime experiences to remember!
WOW! I can't believe you actually did that. That is the scariest water slide I have ever seen!! -Way too intense for me! I don't think my heart could take the stress!

Ghost said...

The Amazing Race is the most popular reality show in Singapore. I watched it when the girl refused to jump into the ride. People here were saying the guy (his partner) should have just thrown her into the tube. If it's as scary as you said it is, maybe there's a good reason behind her refusal

*Paula* said...

Gulp. I like your thinking but I would need a major pep talk before I could be convinced to copy you!

Cathy O. said...

Wish I could have done it with you!

AKBrady said...


Nathalie said...

You're a CRAZY lady!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!
But, seriously I bow to your daredevil antics! You would NEVER see me on there, NEVER!!!!!

Amarant said...

the correct translation is "Leap of the brave" not "faith"

anyway I would need at least 15 mins of thinking before i go "ahhh screw it, let's go!"

Natalie said...

Ghost: I think it would have been dangerous for him to have thrown her. Pretty sure that at that angle and velocity to kick a leg out or something would end up in a break or dislocation at the very least. Not a pretty picture.

Amarant: thanks for the translation! I wonder if they mistranslated for maybe religious reasons, keeping the name in English the same as the one in the Bahamas, or if it was a simple mistake? Regardless, good to know, much appreciated.

Thanks to everyone who commented!