As soon as Leret, my 16-year-old son, and I pulled up in front of Zero Gravity and opened our car doors, we heard screaming. This was not your amused, ‘hey, I’m having fun’ type of screaming. This was the kind of screaming reserved for when you’re about to die, and there’s no other way to convey the terror you’re currently experiencing. This was your basic ‘please notify my next of kin’ type of screaming.Leret and I were at Zero Gravity to have some Spring Break ‘Fun.’ You might, personally, regard relaxing on your back patio with a glass of iced tea as fun. Leret laughs at you. His idea of fun is to see if he can find his dad’s pacemaker threshold. He came pretty close this time.Zero Gravity is, without question, the least aptly-named amusement park in our solar system. You’d think a park named Zero Gravity would allow you to go into a big chamber and float around in the air peacefully, maybe do a few flips, like the astronauts do on space flights. You’d think it would be a relaxing, contemplative place. Not so much.Zero Gravity has five ‘rides,’ each of which was evidently designed by the Russians during the Cold War to force captured American spies to spill their guts. I’m sure it worked admirably. I very nearly admitted being an American spy, myself, and nobody even asked.The rides are all just as poorly named as the park. The first one Leret and I tried was called Nothin’ but Net. I called it Death By Falling. They put you in a harness, and then you get on a platform with a bored attendant, and the platform is raised to 160 feet. The middle of the platform floor is missing, and the attendant hooks your harness to a cable and you have to hang over the Nothing, while he gets ready to drop you into a net near the ground.It was kind of windy, so I said,”What if the wind blows me away from the net?”The attendant didn’t even look at me. He said, “It won’t,” in the same tone of voice you use to answer your wife the bajillionth time she asks if you mind eating sandwiches for lunch. What I heard was, “It won’t matter to me if the wind blows you to Arlington.”But Leret had already done the drop, so I had to do it, too. The bored attendant got everything ready, and then, without saying, “Are you ready?” or counting, or anything, he just let me fall. And fall. And fall.Three seconds is a long, long, long time. It’s not long if you’re sitting on your couch, watching television, eating cheese dip. But it’s a long time if you’re falling, looking straight up, not knowing when, or what, you’ll hit. Luckily the net was there, so I didn’t die. Which meant I had to do the next ride, which was . . .The Texas Blastoff, although I called it Death By Being Shot Straight Up In The Air. They strapped Leret and me into a pair of racing seats mounted side by side in a cockpit thing, with a roll bar over us, and tied us in. They have to tie you in, just in case you saw someone else do the ride earlier, and you try to escape. They even tied our feet down.The cockpit was suspended by huge bungee cords between two tall towers, and once they had us strapped in, they hooked a cable to the bottom of the cockpit, and stretched the bungees real tight. We were told to hang onto some handles, and keep our heads back, if possible. Right.Just about the time I decided I needed to visit the head, one of the attendants said, “Oh, no!” and released the cable. It sounded like something had broken, so even though I knew the guy was messing with us, I wondered.Before we got on this thing, I had asked a couple getting off what it was like. The girl, who did not look happy, said, “It’s like totalling a car.”She was wrong. I’ve totalled several cars in my life, and this was far more violent. We went from 0 to 70 miles per hour in just over one second. And then the bungees, basically large rubber bands, jerked us back down just as fast. We spun and twisted and jounced around for a while, during which the attendants stood back in case we tossed our cookies at them.But we survived that, too, so then it was time for bungee jumping. This was not as high as the Death By Falling ride, but it was kind of harder, because we had to, consciously, choose to dive headfirst off a platform toward the ground, about 100 feet below. There was a balloon thing, but still.Then we rode the Skyscraper, otherwise known as Death By Being Spun Around On The End Of A 110 Foot Girder At 70 MPH. They did that forward and backward, just for good measure. Afterward the attendants help you retrieve any skin that blew off your face during the ride. It’s customary to tip them for this service.The last ride was a sort of huge swing, which would have been somewhat terrifying if we’d done it first. After the other rides, however, BASE jumping would have put us to sleep.I have to say, though, the young people running Zero Gravity were a lot of fun, and kept their ridicule of us to a minimum. Except for the bored guy on the Death By Falling thing, they were very upbeat, and tried not to act too surprised when we managed to survive all the rides.They even gave us each a coupon for ten dollars off our first ride, the next time we visit. I put mine in the same place I put my coupon for a free root canal by chainsaw. I’m about as likely to use one as the other . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who plans to remain in constant contact with earth for the foreseeable future. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or email@example.com