David Robbins: Our trip to Disney showed the high life is not for me...
Published 20/08/2011 | 05:00
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin is, according to the Unofficial Guide to Disneyworld, a "minor attraction. . . a visually appealing children's ride" lasting one-and-a-half minutes.
"Can we go on it," pleaded my six-year-old daughter. "Please."
We sat into our carpet buggy and the ride began to move, nice and slowly. Other buggies rose and fell. I noticed a lever on the panel in front of us.
I pulled the lever up and we rose high above the 'city' of Agrabar. Quickly, I returned us to a safe cruising height of about 10 feet.
"Can I try?" asked my daughter.
"I want to go as high as them," she said, pointing to a buggy circling at maximum height. She reached for the lever.
"DON'T TOUCH THAT F**KING LEVER!"
The words came out with a force I didn't wholly intend. There followed one of those silences that seem to detonate like a bomb.
Just then, an animatronic camel spat water on us. "Okay, dad," said my daughter. "It'll be okay."
She was being kind, and that seemed to make things worse. Having an attack of vertigo on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride in Disneyworld is bad enough without being comforted by a minor.
I wasn't always nervous about heights. Only a few years ago, I stood on the edge of the observation platform of the Empire State building in New York shouting "Top of the world, Ma!".
Then I went on a walking weekend in Donegal. I was just edging around a narrow ledge on Muckish mountain when I felt the first wave of fear. Months later, I had to be helped down from the first level of the Eiffel Tower.
My wife puts it down to something called adrenal fatigue, and reckons I can cure it with vitamin supplements. I'm thinking more along the lines of a parachute.
I thought I'd been coping quite well on our father-and-daughter adventure in Florida. I'd been okay on the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride and The Cat in the Hat ride at Universal Studios.
I'd even survived the One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish ride. This was a warmer-upper for the Aladdin experience, with Dr Seuss-style fish buggies rising and falling as riders try to avoid being hit by the 'squirting posts'. I found that trying to stay dry took my mind off the drop of, oh, at least 15 feet.
Luckily, my daughter was too young to try any of the white-knuckle rides such as the Hulk Rollercoaster at Universal or Splash Mountain at Disneyworld.
As she helped me out of my Aladdin carpet buggy, she suggested a visit to The Haunted Mansion. Oh God. If there's one thing I hate more than heights, it's anything to do with the supernatural.
The queue for The Haunted Mansion winds through a mock graveyard, replete with spooky tombs and a phantom bookcase. Once inside, a disembodied voice that sounds like Orson Welles tells you there's no way out.
"Unless you want to try my way," says Orson. Then there's a mad cackle and the sound of breaking glass. There was a smattering of nervous laughter in the dark, panelled room and I gripped my daughter's hand tight.
I had a feeling I hadn't had since I used to watch old Bela Lugosi movies from behind the sofa as a boy.
The Haunted Mansion Ride has the advantage of taking place mostly at sea level. I kept my eyes closed for most of it, and had plenty of time to muse on the ridiculousness of being scared half to death in Disneyworld.
Our 'doom buggy' came to a halt and we were shown out by a wench dressed in Addams Family attire.
My daughter was wriggling with excitement. She still loves a scare, I thought. She hasn't crossed over the line between being thrilled and being terrified. Her adrenals must be tip-top.
There was time for one more ride. My daughter couldn't decide which one she wanted to revisit.
"Do an eeney-meeney," I said.
I saw her lips move and she made little pointing movements with a pudgy finger. I prayed she'd chose the innocuous Jungle Cruise, or even Peter Pan's Flight.
"Astro Orbiter," she said.