I love roller coasters. Let me rephrase that…I love roller coasters except for the initial climb up the first big hill. Heights and I have never gotten along terribly well which I suppose might make it odd that I love roller coasters so much. Nevertheless, several years ago Gigi and I spent a few days in Tampa and with Tampa being home to Busch Gardens, we decided it would be fun to spend the day there.
Among many great rides and roller coasters there, they have a coaster called Montu. It is one of the tallest, longest inverted coasters in the world and we couldn’t wait to ride it. You can see in the picture above that it seats four passengers in each row. Your feet dangle in mid-air and your arms and upper body are largely immobilized due to the “thing” that comes down over your head and torso to keep you from flying off into the giraffe habitat or something. I always say these types of coasters, when I am strapped in, make me feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex because the only part of my arms that can actually move are my wrists, thus giving me the feeling that I have really short arms, much like a T-Rex did. This will come into play in a moment.
We stood in line and when it came our turn to board, we found ourselves riding with two young men who appeared to be in their early to mid-twenties. The two of them boarded first, followed by Gigi, and then me. Remember that Gigi is seated between me and one of the young men. This will also figure into the story in a moment.
The ride starts and we make our way up the dreaded first hill. As we near the top, my acrophobia begins to give way to excitement. We finally top it and begin our descent into incredible thrills as we make our way through seven “insane inversions” as they are referred to on the Busch Gardens website. On just about any coaster there will be much screaming and gnashing of teeth. This ride certainly fit the bill. Gigi and I were yelling with excitement as were the two young men we were sharing this ride with.
That’s when I heard it. The sound. A sound which still haunts me to this day. Somewhere around insane inversion number three the guy sitting next to Gigi, in the middle of a scream of pure, unadulterated joy, made a sound that can’t be written with mere letters on a keyboard. The best way I can describe it is that it is akin to the noise you’d make if you ran through a cloud of gnats and sucked about 10 of them down your throat. A sort of half-choking, half-trying to expel something from your esophagus sound. It’s unmistakable and one of the last places from which you want to hear that sound emanate is the guy sitting next to your wife on the Montu. Trust me on this one.
Before you get ahead of me, it wasn’t the dreaded sound of regurgitation, thankfully. However, for someone like me, it might as well have been. Gigi would say after the ride was over that she saw it as it virtually weightlessly floated in front of her face toward me. I would not be so lucky. The “it” being referred to here was, for lack of a better term, a hunk of saliva. A gravity defying, slow moving projectile made of, well, spit. This projectile which harmlessly floated across Gigi would find a temporary home just below my left eye.
If you’ve ever been spit upon, either accidentally or on purpose, even if it’s only a tiny drop during an innocent conversation, you know that the brain immediately signals the hand to remove the offending foreign DNA sample as quickly as possible. My brain sent this signal out posthaste and my hand sprang into action. It was at that point that I realized that my tiny, little T-Rex arms could not reach my face. In fact, no combination of neck-stretching, hand/wrist distorting movements could remove this vileness from my cheek. I can only tell you that the the first two or three insane inversions on the Montu were exciting. The rest of them turned out to be quite disgusting as best I remember.
I spent the better part of three minutes, which is 7 hours in spit years, on a roller coaster with a stranger’s expectoration hitching a ride on my face. In my world, sinks rank only slightly higher than toilets in the hierarchy of the various fixtures found in public restrooms. I can’t even begin to imagine what takes place in and around a sink in the average public restroom. But as I disembarked from Montu and practically sprinted for the nearest bathroom, that sink was an oasis of anti-bacterial soap and hot water as I buried my face in it.
If I’ve been on a coaster of that sort since that fateful day, I don’t remember it. I’ve heard that sometimes our mind blocks out particularly difficult or distressing things that may have occurred in our past. Maybe that explains my uncertainty. I can tell you this much, though: If I ever do have occasion to ride such a coaster again, it will not be without a hazmat suit. What listing would those be under on Ebay?