Some folks get an unsurpassed thrill from falling from great heights. I’m not one of them. I am not a fear junkie and dislike all things that force my stomach into my nasal cavity.
This was an especially difficult fear to harbor in my younger days, when all of my daredevil friends thought making the amusement park and county fair circuits was the hallmark of a successful summer.
I vividly recall one particular summer when a group from my 4-H club went to the state fair. A few of us actually had “grand champions” to exhibit. The rest went for the unprecedented class of carnival the state fair warranted.
A friend asked me to go on a ride with her and a boy she had a massive crush on. Thanks to my addiction to being a people-pleaser, as well as the secret pride in being asked for the first time to be a wingman, I agreed — only to discover she was a sick person with a death wish.
The “ride,” and I use that word loosely, was named the “Mouse Trap.” Much like a roller coaster, designed by the minds of men partaking in some very bad drugs, the itty-bitty “car” I was strapped into traveled at ridiculously high speeds on narrow tracks that suddenly ran out of track and tipped the car nose-first completely vertical to travel straight down another set of narrow tracks to about 6 feet from the ground. The car then shot up to travel another set of narrow tracks, only this time horizontally until those tracks ended and we started the same heart-stopping rotation all over again. I spent the entire ride doing as I do now when under great stress — I covered my face with my hands and begged my maker to absolve me of my sins, all the while screaming my fool head off.
Once out of my car and feet firmly planted on the ground — which I think I actually kissed — I vowed then and there to never put myself in that situation again, especially not in the name of fun. By and large, I’ve managed to keep that promise although I’ve been forced on a merry-go-round several times throughout the child-rearing years.
My fear of falling hasn’t gotten better as I’ve gotten older. In fact, I think it’s actually gotten worse. When our oldest child, Angie, developed a love for skydiving several years ago, I took to my bed for the better part of a week.
Two weeks ago, my sister, who is well old enough to know better, told me she plans to zip-line while on vacation in Mexico this month. Closing my eyes and mentally conjuring up our mother, I did my best to talk some sense into her, even adding that “if God had intended for you to zip-line, you’d have been born in a harness.”
To my knowledge, she still plans to try it at least once, maybe more if she likes it and it doesn’t kill her the first time.
Thanks to arthritic knees, step ladders no longer tempt me more than a foot off the ground. If it sits or hangs taller than my arm and feather duster can reach, it has to be cleaned or dusted by the Big Guy — who was forced out of a helicopter in Vietnam, so he also isn’t real crazy about heights. If the Big Guy can’t clean it, it doesn’t get cleaned.
Once, my friend Susan was in Ottawa for the weekend and pointed out a delicate cobweb way up in a corner. I got up and went to look at it, admired the intricacy of the work and told her where the ladder and cleaning supplies were.
House rule No. 6: You point it out, you clean it.
Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org