My husband and I took our two little princesses to Disney World just a few short weeks ago. We were also in the company of my sister-in-law, best friend and her husband. The group got along just fine through the occasional high stress times of melt-downs, humidity induced delusions and longer than average days. It’s difficult to imagine bad times in Disney when the area is surrounded by magic and the pinnacle of customer service.
We decided to close our park hopping adventures with a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I had been looking forward to and dreading this park all week. I tout myself as a tough girl, boss, shot callah and whatever other pride supporting names you can find (polite names, of course), but when it comes to heights, I check out. Making sure I keep everyone on their toes, I bend the rules a little when it comes to certain attractions.
Hollywood Studios is home to two GREAT thrill rides: Rockin’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I have, again to keep people sharp AND confused, been on both rides. And I have, ahem, enjoyed both…but not without a lot of sweating, heart palpitations, screaming and after-ride shakes. This time would be no different. I felt some mild pressure from the adult park goers in my group; the pressure won.
Not long after lunch (and maybe too soon for my digestive comfort) I gingerly navigated the double stroller through the thick air and waves of people on Sunset Boulevard. With each heavy step, I felt the airy energy shift to a sensation of tightness. I glanced up towards the skyline to find The Hollywood Tower Hotel looming over the treetops. I understand that this ride is just that, but the detail with which designers outfitted the experience is truly unbelievable. Almost instantly, I found myself in another dimension – The 30s. Cast characters dressed in maroon bell hop uniforms eerily welcomed me and my two escorts through the threshold of the entrance. The tall landscaping provided some much needed shade cooling my skin. I felt cold.
We quickly walked up the gradual incline until we got to the next checkpoint. I extended my right hand towards the next bell hop as he pulled the fast passes from my death grip. I could have turned back there, but I carried on. As we entered the hotel, I immediately became distracted by the decor – elaborate 30’s furniture mindfully placed about, covered in dust and cobwebs. The attention to the detail was so powerful that I felt as if the antiques were studying me. I was out of place.
Before I had a chance to turn around, a large group of us was herded into the library. The doors close, the lights dimmed and the lightning picked up. The room, pumped with energy and air conditioning, sent shivers down my spine causing my skin to react with a mean case of goose bumps. Yea, that’s it, the air conditioning. The crowd gets their orientation to the matter at hand and we’re again shuffled through another doorway to the basement of the building – or so we think it’s the basement. Another point passes. Ho hum. We approach another bell hop who is so anxious to load us into the elevator car. I inform her that we’re a party of three as she guides us to row #1 which only has three spots. I wiggle my way to the center spot and begin to shake. Virtually no time passes when the doors to the elevator car opens and we’re ordered inside.
I mentioned earlier that I had been on this ride before; I absolutely remember every moment of the ride, so I consider myself well enough educated to anticipate its every move. That, of course, doesn’t help curb my control issues. I can’t change the course of the ride and now, completely strapped in, there is no way out; there is only a way down. I grabbed a hold of the yellow tether on my lap belt praying that I wouldn’t pull it out of the buckle. I started to sweat as the doors closed and we began out ascent.
Prior to my arrival, I had read previously about the Tower of Terror being struck by lightning thus temporarily shutting down the ride with guests inside the elevator cars. This occurrence plays nicely with the backdrop story of an elevator car, with a family and bell hop inside, is struck by lightning on October 31, 1939 sending the occupants into the fifth dimension. Return to May 10, 2013, without a cloud in the sky, I’m petrified that we’ll be struck by lightning, stuck, dropped, all of the above or worse. There’s no way out now.
The attraction’s distractions temporarily occupy my mind, but the inevitable future rears its ugly head as the elevator cars open for a third time and we’re briefly confronted with the blinding light of day thirteen stories above Hollywood Studios. Without warning the car drops. I white knuckle the strap looking for relief to find myself being propelled in the air again towards another drop. I screamed at the top of my lungs – the kind of screaming that Drew Barrymore belts out between her red lips in the opening scene of, what else(?), Scream. At one point, my scream was muffled by pure fear. Rise, Drop…Rise, Drop…Rise, Drop…Rise, Drop…Rise, Drop…Rise, Drop… I thought each drop sequence would be the last. As they continued I feared that the system was stuck in some sort of loop. This repetition increased the fear factor causing me to scream louder. I almost surrendered to my fate when the car began to move back to its ending track. The doors opened, I popped my belt and wobbled off the ride. It took roughly twenty minutes for me to steady my gait and trembling hands, but it was worth it. I think.