A person who has an irrational fear of speed is said to be tachophobic. An acrophobic is a person who has an extreme or irrational fear of heights (let’s assume that the “especially when one is not particularly high up” is not part of its dictionary meaning). Then what do we call those who harbor a fear of both speed and heights; well I suppose it is one of those disorders which has yet to find its way into the ‘Phobia Dictionary’.
My parents understood that I was a victim of the speed-height phobia when I was five years old. We were at the local exhibition that boasted of a giant wheel as its major attraction. Going round and round with its blue baskets dancing about in the wind seemed like a bright circle of never ending magic and excitement – up until my parents decided to take me on a ride. My ear-piercing screams just seconds into the beginning of the much-anticipated ride was reason enough for the operator to stop and drop a hysteric family of three back on earth, ignoring the anxious-to-curious glances that he was subject to from customers who awaited their turn and those who nervously peered down from their dangling blue baskets.
Everybody has their firsts and he had his first reversing and pulling out a particularly upset and ‘screaming’ customer out of his wonder ride.
This weekend Sid had a playdate at ‘Little Explorers’. Little Princess was not very thrilled at the fact that her brother had chosen a few boys over her. Her sulks soon turned into a crying fit. I had a whole two hours to kill before Sid got back. A quick decision to abort my planned Mission Shopping and instead it would be ‘Magic Planet’( an indoor play area for toddlers and kids). The idea seemed to work as Little Princess was thoroughly enjoying sitting on cars that sang ‘London Bridge Is Falling Down’ while it bobbed around causing her to squeal in excitement. As we walked around looking for more games she pointed at ‘Crazy Caterpillar’. “NO,” I scream in near hysteria, a little too loudly, causing her to put her foot down and scream.
Crazy Caterpillar is a strange ride that involves fat caterpillars (with plastic seats) that move higher and higher with every round and does a strange bouncing up and down, a little too fast for a toddler (or me), I reckon.
“She is too small Ma’am to be going alone, you can join in and it’s free for the accompanying adult,” says the operator cheerfully.
So here I was huddled inside the belly of a fat plastic caterpillar with an enthusiastic toddler. The ride began and the first round was comfortable if you could discount my cramped legs and the fact that I felt I was practically spilling out of its belly (which is obviously not designed for mommies). Then the bobbing began and I nervously looked down at my spirited toddler. She was enjoying this crazy ride, squealing and waving. Why do I feel sick with my stomach attempting a dangerous lurch?
The last time I felt this was when my sister-in-law who prides at being an absolute ‘adrenaline junkie’ (and who is clueless of the existence of any type of phobia, never mind the fact that a close family member who is a victim of one) had talked me into joining her for a ‘not-so-exciting’ rollercoaster ride which she explained did nothing more than merely go up and down, a bit too slowly for her taste.
My brother had screamed his advice, “Just scream it out,” only to later realize that I had taken his advice a bit too seriously and my screams were enough to scare the daylights out of my sister-in-law (who had risked accompanying me) and all those who had the misfortune of taking that ride along with us on the supposedly ‘slow’ roller coaster that had raced high up and then twisted and turned down the labyrinth of tracks.
With an indoor Crazy Caterpillar meant for toddlers and kids I cannot take my brother’s advice as my screams would either get me into prison for raising an unnecessary alarm among happy toddlers, kids and parents who are out to enjoy themselves in the indoor play area of a mall or I might end up in the Guinness Book of World Record for the first woman to be screaming with an adrenaline rush while riding on the bobbing Crazy Caterpillar designed for toddlers.
Well, finally, after what felt was an eternity on the belly of the jouncing Crazy Caterpillar, we did after all safely land back on earth. I pretended to not hear my daughter scream “once more” as I quickly rushed out of Magic Planet with the magic words, “Ice Cream, let’s have Ice Cream.”
Later, as we walked past ‘Play Nation’ relishing ice creams, I saw the dreaded Crazy Caterpillar doing its jouncing thing and on one of the caterpillar’s belly sat a terrified mother spilling out of her plastic seat, beside her spirited toddler, attempting a weak smile as the father tried to take a picture of them. As much as I sympathize with that mother who had to endure a few more minutes of torture on that ‘absolutely free’ Crazy Caterpillar ride, it is a relief to know that I am not a lone victim of this speed-height phobia that is yet to find a name and place among the ‘rare and bizarre’ list of disorders affecting humankind.