Incarceration: The Ride

This is the story of how I spent the night in Six Flags Jail.

What, you say?  You didn’t know there was a Six Flags Jail?  Well, there is.  And here is the story of how I landed there.

First, a little background.  My biggest fear as a child was throwing up.  I didn’t do it very often, so the longer I went without barfing, the more paranoid I got that I would.   I always felt as if it would happen at night, so my insomnia started at an early age.  There’s more to this story, but it is uninteresting (and a little gross), so I will leave it at that.  But it explains what happens next.

The first time I rode a roller coaster, I was in elementary school.  The ride was called The Little Dipper at a place called Kiddie Park in San Antonio.  I was terrified.  I was not afraid of speed or heights.  My fear was not that I would fall off or be thrown out… it was that I would throw up.  I should mention that I have never suffered from motion sickness. But someone had made the comment that when you ride a roller coaster, your “stomach flies up into your throat”.  That sounded yucky.  And when I experienced my first “tummy tickle” during the “drop”, that was enough for me to swear off all coasters for the rest of my life.

As I grew up, I enjoyed spending time with friends at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain and AstroWorld.  I never felt as if I were missing out on anything when it came to riding the roller coasters.  But as an adult, I felt I needed to conquer my fear.

Toward the end of my 37th summer, I made up my mind and took a day off work.  I called my husband (let’s call him “Troy”), and asked him to take me to Six Flags to ride the roller coasters.  He was surprised, but agreed.

We arrived early to avoid the lines.  I’m sure he thought I would back out.  We decided to start small.  A wooden roller coaster called Judge Roy Scream had been a Six Flags staple for over 20 years.  A traditional “out and back”, it was the smallest of the coasters in the park.  Troy explained that there are two different ways to experience riding a roller coaster.  One is in the front car, and the other is in the back.  He said it was pointless to ride in the middle.  I needed to make a decision.  I decided on the front car.

As it turns out, the line for the front car is always the longest.  So I had lots of time to chatter away nervously.  By the time we reached the front, it was well-known that this was my first ride.  The kid in charge made a very loud announcement about it, and what had become my fan club let out a cheer.  After double checking what seemed to be the world’s flimsiest restraint, we were off!

I remember feeling like I was going to black out as the car began “ching ching ching-ing” up that first hill. My heart had left the building and was beating a drum solo somewhere out in the parking lot.  We got to the top and I squeezed my eyes shut and held my breath.  As we crested, I forced my eyes open and a moment later, I was flying.  FLYING!  I let my breath out to scream… no, squeal in delight!  Then I began to giggle.  I was experiencing the most amazing feeling, and was overcome with emotion.  I was having the barf-free time of my life!  Before I knew it, we were pulling back into the station.  The “fans” were ecstatic that I had enjoyed it so much, and I begged to ride again.  But Troy insisted we head off in the direction of the next thrill… The Texas Giant.

The Texas Giant was a 12-year old wooden coaster with a 14-story drop.  The line for this first car was much longer than the previous one.  Plenty of time for me to get nervous all over again.  The front car came equipped with a set of longhorns.  I held on to the bar in front of me as we rounded the small curve and began our LONG ascent up the first hill.   Looney Tunes’ Wile E. Coyote clung to the beam at the top, looking terrified and hovering over a sign which read, “Wait – Let’s discuss this!”  I would have smiled, but my lips were stuck to my teeth since all of my saliva had decided to go on vacation.

I glanced away from Wile E., and before I could take in the view, I was flying once more!  I instinctively threw my arms into the air and began to giggle again.  I laughed my way through every curve and down every hill.  I marveled at how my butt left the seat when we flew over the tops of the hills.  As we pulled into the station I was begging to go again.  This one was even better than the last!  But no, Troy marched us ahead to the final coaster.  The Titan.

The Titan was Six Flags’ newest attraction.  A steel coaster, it had opened the year before and boasted a 255-foot drop.  It was built in a parking lot, so we had to travel the length of the park to get there.  It was hot.  I was dehydrated (mostly from fear, I’m sure), and I had to pee.  Since it was the most popular ride in the park, the line for the first car was incredibly long.  As we waited, I remember thinking that I had discovered a love of wooden roller coasters that day, and was certain that I would not enjoy this ugly teal and orange monster.  But I was determined to add this to my list of fears-conquered.

I sat down in the seat and looked around for something to hold.  There was nothing.  The car was shallow, so most of my body rose above the frame.  There was only a bar across my lap, but no restraints over my shoulder.  No bars that went over my head.  Nothing to hold me into the car.  I didn’t pay much attention in the beginning, because as we climbed the hill, I was literally lying on my back.  It was so comfortable, I felt as if I could doze off.  It wasn’t a short trip either.  At some point, I began to glance around at the amazing view.  We finally reached the top, and as we sat there for what felt like an eternity, I began to panic.  I started screaming that nothing was going to keep me in my seat.  I was going to fly out.  I vaguely remember Troy laughing before the ground rushed up to meet us.  This time, faster and smoother than the wooden coasters.   My arms flew up and I was in full-giggle mode again, despite the fact that my tongue had swollen to twice its size inside my cotton mouth.  This ride was able to do so much more!  Halfway through, we came to an abrupt halt.  I remember a woman behind us screaming.  As the car started moving, it began to curve back along the track at such an angle that we all felt as if we would fall out.  Only this time, I wasn’t afraid.  I was laughing.

I laughed my way back into the station as I had before.   But this time I didn’t beg to ride again.  The adrenaline had come and gone with such ferocity, that I was depleted.  My legs shook and my knees were week.   We made our way down the curvy sidewalk, and Troy asked if I wanted a keepsake picture.  I hadn’t even realized they took pictures during the ride.  (There was one, I suppose, at the Texas Giant that I never saw.)  I stood at the counter just long enough to laugh, feebly, at what was probably the worst picture of me in the history of ever.  We purchased it, of course, to commemorate the day.

As we walked to the car, I declared that The Titan was my favorite ride.  Troy commented that even though he enjoyed riding roller coasters, he had been scared to ride the Titan. When I asked why he rode it, he admitted that he got in line with me because he fully expected I would chicken out.

Apparently, the whole stress/adrenaline thing was enough to suppress my immune system, and I became very ill the next day.  I had wanted to go back and ride them all again, only this time with no fear.  It took me weeks to recover.

The season was almost over when I finally felt well enough to go back to the park.   We were able to spend more time riding other rides, including the Shockwave (a double-loop steel coaster), as well as riding the wooden coasters multiple times.  It was late in the day by the time we made our way to the Titan.  After standing in line for over an hour, it became dark and the lights come on.  Suddenly, the ugly ride looked like something out of a (parking lot) fairy tale!  I was more and more excited to ride it!  As we climbed the stairs to the platform, employees began shutting the lines down behind us.  The park was closing soon.  Once we reached the platform, we got into the line for the front car which was, as usual, much longer than the other lines.

As it got later, more and more people were ducking out of the “first car” line to jump into other lines in order to ride sooner.  Our line was down to four people (one other couple before us), but all of the other lines only had one couple each.  After they filled the ride and sent it on its way, Troy and I were the only ones left on the platform.  It was then that they informed us that the ride was now closed because there weren’t enough people to fill all the cars.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  I asked why they couldn’t just run the ride with us in front?  The two adolescents “in charge” offered up that it wasn’t safe (which I knew even then was a crock of shit).  I suggested that they let all the people who were currently riding go again, only with us this time.  They adopted an air of haughtiness and declined.  I may or may not have used some bad language when I asked them to call their boss and ask again on our behalf.  I couldn’t believe we had waited nearly two hours in line for a ride, only to be turned down at the end!  The girl picked up the phone and spoke into it.  I wasn’t entirely convinced someone was on the other end of the line.  Regardless, they confirmed the answer was still no.

I was upset to the point of tears, and began to step into the car in order to step across to the other side and exit the ride.  The boy yelled at us that we were not allowed to exit that way, and that we would have to turn around and leave the way we came.  I was flabbergasted!  (I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence)  I also may or may not have used more bad language.

Practically blinded by rage and tears, I left the platform and began to make my way down the stairs.  As we reached the first level, there was a large wooden barrel blocking our way.  The employees had put them in the middle of the stairs to prevent anyone else from getting in line as the park was closing.  There was no way around the barrel, so I shoved it to the side.

Still furious, I marched through the (now empty) park, toward the main entrance with an amused Troy in tow.  Out of nowhere, we felt hands come down on our shoulders.  We glanced behind us to see a park security guard, who gruffly stated, “You two need to come with me”,  and began to lead us behind a darkened carousel.

He opened a little door in a little wall and led us into a little room with a little light.  There was another man waiting inside.  He informed us that we were being detained, and that we needed to pay for the damage we had caused.

Uhm, what?  I was now angry AND confused.  He said that the little shits from the Titan had reported me for my language (what the fuck?), and that I had “launched a barrel from the top platform which had caused damage.”  At this point I began to laugh.  Maybe a little maniacally, but still… this was funny.  I’m 5’2″ on a good day.  I may have awesome legs, but I have the upper body strength of a toddler at naptime.   I let him know that all I did was shove that stupid barrel out of the way so that we could get down the stairs.

Side note:  Okay, I shoved it hard. And it may or may not have rolled down the stairs. It also may or may not have fallen off the landing. The truth was blurred by the recent encounter with teenage assholes.

But the fact remained that we were forced to walk out the way we came, which was BLOCKED for the love of mike!

He maintained that if we did not pay for the damage, he would be forced to call the police.  It was at this point that I lost it.  I began to cry in an unladylike, snot-ball way, that made it nearly impossible to understand any words as they tumbled out of my mouth.  I told him I needed him to call HIS boss, and that I needed to see exactly what the hell they were talking about when it came to damage, and then I demanded water.

He looked startled.  Then he produced a bottle of water and called his boss.

The assistant manager of Six Flags made an appearance within the next 20 minutes (I wish I could remember his actual title, but that’s who he was).  He seemed too tall for the doorway and the room.  I broke down and began to cry-tell him the whole story of being afraid to ride roller coasters for my whole life, and how I had conquered the fear, but had to go home because it was too much to take and then I got sick and now I am back to finally ride it like a BOSS and then those two dicks turned me away at the last minute and to add insult to injury they forced me to turn around and do the walk of shame back down the stairs which they had already blocked.  I mean COME ON!!!

By the time I finished, I realized he was crouched down on the floor in front of me.  He was handing me a paper towel to clean my face, and had picked up the phone to make a call.  As it turned out, when the barrel hit the ground, one of the metal hoops was bent out of shape (the irony).  He didn’t think it would need to be replaced.  He was certain it could be repaired.  He was also NOT going to make me pay for it.  AND…he apologized.  He then took out his business card and wrote his personal cell number on the back.  He told me that the next time I wanted to come to Six Flags to give him a call first. He would meet me at the front gate and take me straight back to the Titan and past the line and put me in the front car.

We were then free to go, but since the park had long since closed, he had the security guard walk us down a super-secret path and through a super-secret door that led to another super-secret path to the parking lot.

I figure at this point, if anyone ever takes hostages at Six Flags, like Ed Harris did on Alcatraz in the movie “The Rock”, I would be like the Sean Connery character.  They would seek me out to take them in the back way under cover of darkness… Because really, does anyone else know about Six Flags Jail?