The torture seemed to have lasted forever, giving me enough time to contemplate and wonder what wrong I had done to my fellowmen to deserve such a heinous fate.
By Simeon G. Silverio, Jr. Publisher and Editor San Diego Asian Journal San Diego, California October 10, 2008
We were not supposed to go with our daughters to Disneyland. Our eldest, Michelle, planned to celebrate her birthday by purchasing four tickets to the “happiest place on earth and bringing along her younger sister Ashley, her husband and her brother-in-law who was visiting at that time.
But at the last minute, the guys canceled due to a pressing commitment, hence, my wife and I got the invite.
The Filipinos have a phrase for it: “panakip butas (gap filler). While others may consider being a “second choice disrespectful, I welcomed it as an opportunity to bond with my children. Having been to the place several times before, Disneyland may no longer elicit for me the same allure, as it would cast on a younger person. But in addition to the joy of spending a day with my kids, the chance to exercise all day in the park and get a much-needed walk prompted me to avail of the opportunity.
At the outset, I sensed that something was amiss, seeing the foreboding dark clouds in the horizon. First, we missed our freeway exit and we ended up in a parking lot that, although still within the official park grounds, was much farther than desired. Second, we lost track of Michelle barely a few minutes after entering the park. It was only after our second daughter Ashley remembered that she planned to walk ahead to get reservations for the Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster ride that we hooked up with her again.
When my daughters were kids, our standard Disneyland rides were those suited for small children like the Tea Cups and Small World. I remember when we would ride the Tea Cups. I would pretend that I was so scared and dizzy that my three young girls would enjoy not only the thrill of the ride but also the cathartic experience of torturing their dad as they would turn the steering wheel and spin the cup as fast as they could. This time, however, I did not have to pretend to be dizzy and sick after they talked me into riding the Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster. In fact, I even have to pretend that I was not at all affected by the ride, lest they may think less of me as their “strong and invincible dad.
Slowly, however, I recovered from my dizzy spell until I was ready for another ride.
Whenever we took the Star Wars ride, I always would tell my kids: “I hope R2D2 (the robot who was supposed to pilot the ship) would not commit the same mistake of taking a wrong turn and hurling us once more in the vastness of the universe. Of course the ride was programmed to do so.
“There he goes again, making the same mistake, I would tell my kids as soon as the space ship was out of its launching pad.
“I tell you, this R2D2 guy never learns from his mistake. He would keep taking the wrong turn every time I ride his space ship, I would say as my companions smile turns into a grin.
Now in their twenties, my daughters no longer enjoy the kiddie rides they used to have fun with when they were children. With the limited time that we had and the long lines that sometimes take about forty minutes of waiting time, they had to be selective about which ride to take. Thus, Small World, that used to give them the “thrill of the lifetime, was off the list for the day. I could neither look forward to the Jungle Cruise boat ride that excited them, especially when a guide would shoot at a gorilla that would menace the boatful of safari participants. Forget about the Pirates of the Caribbean, as Johnny Depp seemed to have overplayed the role of Jack Sparrow in the top-grossing movie of the same title. Of course we went inside the Haunted House but instead of being “entertainingly scared, we were simply amused since weve been there several times before. Hence, we proceeded to tackle the Space Mountain roller coaster ride which my wife had the good sense to pass up. I dont know what was happening to me that day. It seemed that I suddenly felt invulnerable, convincing myself that I was young enough to tackle, if not enjoy, such a dizzying experience. And dizzying it turned out to be for me. With the furious up and down movement, sharp right and left turns in the dark that simulated the setting of outer space, the world seemed to be spinning around me after the ride. But somehow, I managed to survive the ordeal and pretend that the experience was a piece of cake, a cakewalk, so to speak.
It was already four oclock in the afternoon. When we entered the park that morning, we were told that it would close at five p.m. to give way to a private sixteenth birthday party of megastar, Miley Cyrus, the idol of millions of young fans of her show on the Disney Channel. To compensate for the shortened park hours, we were given free passes to the California Adventure, the new attraction outside of Disneyland.
One of its biggest attractions was the so-called “Soarin Over California, but its line and waiting time were long. To get the most of our visit, we registered for the fast pass lane, which would give us the chance to come back two hours later without the need to fall in line and wait. We then moved on and walked around to the other attractions. From afar, I could see a gigantic roller coaster ride called “California Screamin and wondered how its riders could hang on as it swirled around and traveled upside down in a gigantic loop.
Then came the irresistible challenge.
“Lets take the roller coaster ride, Dad, my daughter Michelle nonchalantly suggested, although somehow, it sounded like a challenge to me. I readily agreed although I still could feel a tinge of dizzy spell from the previous ride in my head. Again, my wife wisely passed up and contented herself by waiting for us to be done while checking out the beautiful gardens and landscape in the park. The long line and wait took us about forty minutes, giving me plenty of time to think over my rash decision and back out. But my ego was swelling and my pride bursting, quitting was farthest from my mind. And then it happened. My head and body were once more subjected to the torture of the swirling, upside down and sharp turning motions as though I was being hurled into outer space like a misguided missile. The torture seemed to have lasted forever, giving me enough time to contemplate and wonder what wrong I had done to my fellowmen to deserve such a heinous fate. For the third time that day I could hardly walk when the ride was over. I felt like being in the center of a hurricane, with everything swirling around me. Somehow, I managed to flash a brave smile when my daughters asked how I was doing.
“I am fine, I answered although I now wonder how I managed to do so. After walking a few meters, I could no longer hold up the false pretense. I asked to be seated on a bench to recover from the ordeal. Instead of the mocking response that I expected for trying to get into a situation that I could not handle, my family expressed genuine concern.
“Are you alright, Dad? Michelle asked me.
“You are sweating, my wife noticed as she wiped the perspiration over my forehead.
I could not respond, as I leaned back on the backrest of the bench, closed my eyes and tried to catch my breath. Later, I remembered my experience as a young boy when my mother brought me to Jale Beach, one of the few amusement places available to Metro Manilans during the 1950s. The others were the Balara Park, the La Mesa Dam and Luneta, now called “Rizal Park. I also felt dizzy then, after riding a merry go round in the parks playground. My mother had me take an ice drop, but I do not remember anymore if it made me feel better. Anyway, I trusted the judgment of my beloved mom and asked my daughter to buy me an ice cream bar. When taking the ice cream bar made me feel worse, I suddenly remembered that the ice drop had the same negative effect on me when I took it while I was feeling dizzy as a young boy some fifty-three years ago.
I finally had to succumb to ultimate humiliation and defeat. I had to tell my daughters and wife to take me to the nearest First Aid Station. The nurse was barely done taking my blood pressure when I had to beg off and run towards the toilet where I threw up everything I ate that day. After I was done and the medical examination continued, the nurse asked me what happened. I told her about the roller coaster ride.
Her beautiful face flashed a smile and said: “So your daughters talked you into it!
I sheepishly nodded.
When it seemed that all I needed was to rest, my family left me to take the Soarin Over California ride. I must have slept for hours and when I woke up, they were back. My wife told me to change the shirt I was wearing, which became wet with perspiration, with a new one she bought.
I was feeling better by then and the pretty nurse released me from her loving care, albeit much to my dismay.
With renewed strength, I bravely faced the outside world, ready to tackle again the challenges it would hurl at me. I felt the cold wind brushing my face as I gamely walked on. When my daughter Ashley, told me how good was the Soarin Over California ride that they just took, I told her that it would be the second time I would miss taking it since I missed it when I first visited California Adventure a year ago due to lack of time.
Not wanting me to miss the opportunity, my two girls urged me to take it now since it was fun and “not as dizzying as the roller coaster ride.
“But there is a long line, I said.
No problem. Michelle went straight to the rides attendant and explained the situation to her. Could she let her dad “cut the line and be placed in front so that he would not have to wait for his turn? she asked her. The attendant took pity on me and let me in.
The ride was indeed a unique experience. We were supposed to be suspended in the air, riding a hang glider, with our legs dangling, as we soared pass the various California scenic attractions: Napa Valley, Big Sur, the Anza Borrego Desert, Yosemite, the fields of Fresno, California, a huge aircraft carrier docked in San Diego and finally Disneyland. Although it was fun, it again triggered my dizzy spell and my legs were wobbly again when I got off the ride. I did not tell my family how I was feeling lest they worry. Instead, I asked for something to eat and we chose to dine in a restaurant serving New Orleans, Louisiana cuisine in Downtown Disney.
Wrong choice again. The spicy, gumbo soup that I ate made me feel sicker and I thought I would throw up once more. Luckily, I managed to make it to our car despite the long walk and I sat on the passenger side of the front seat. Again, it was a wrong decision. As the car cruised along the freeway, I could see the reflections of the road and the Bott’s dots going under our vehicle, as though I was hang gliding again in that dizzying “Soarin Over California” ride in California Adventure. I closed my eyes to avoid looking at the road that was making me feel dizzy during that two-hour ride home. It was clear to me that it would be my last adventure in a park called California Adventure and Disneyland, “the happiest place on earth! Unless of course my daughters would talk me into riding the Tea Cups, Small World and the other challenging kiddie rides. – AJ