Periscope Depth

can you take me higher

Sylvia, her friends and I went to Six Flags: New England this past Saturday.

Our first stop was the “Superman: Ride of Steel” coaster*. A Six Flags staffer stood near the entry gate, holding a metal yardstick with a bar across the top indicating the minimum height. As I approached, she stopped me and produced a much taller stick. The wooden bar across the top came right to my forehead. “Sorry,” she said. “You’re too tall.” Confused, I wandered outside just as the rain began to fall in earnest. I took a ride on Catwoman’s Whip – a much smaller metal coaster with no height maximum – and dropped a dollar at the mini-arcade next to Superman. Three middle school students spent about twenty dollars trying to claw an iPod nano out of a prize machine.

They put those height maximums on there for a reason. I just made it under the bar for Mind Eraser, a looping inverted coaster that’s been at Six Flags for years. When we boarded, I pulled the padded harness down over my head until it was snug. Then the attendant came by and drove it into my crotch as hard as he could. “Sorry,” he said. I shifted in my seat and allowed the harness to clamp me in one notch tighter: about as comfortable as a solid steel full nelson. Thus ensnared, I took off.

Don’t get the impression that Six Flags was all disappointments and crotch shots. The rain scared off a lot of the crowds: by five o’clock, the park was near a quarter its capacity. We got to ride the Batman coaster three times: once in the morning, then twice back to back that afternoon. The terror in a roller coaster comes from not knowing what it’s going to do to you. Riding the same ride three times chips away at that terror, leaving you with the thrill of the hundred-foot drop and the zero-g roll. Like most rides, it’s better with your eyes open.

* Which was re-branded the “Bizarro” coaster last season.