The Stratos-FEAR

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A number of you left comments on my last post about your various phobias. Your comments were both funny and disturbing at the same time, like watching Jaoquin Phoenix on David Letterman. Just for kicks I posted a poll with my five favorite fears that were mentioned in the comments so that we can identify the person in the NMH community who has the privilege of being vexed with the coolest phobia. So please vote. Unless your greatest fear is completing internet polls, that is, in which case you should probably run away screaming.

Oh, and in case you are interested, the centipede is still at large in our house, laying in wait to pounce from the shadows and attack the Normal Mormon Wife when she puts her guard down. By “her guard” I mean the meat cleaver and nun chucks she has been wielding since the centipede disappeared. I would rate her nun chuck abilities somewhere between Napoleon Dynamite and Bruce Lee at this point. My wife’s got skills, but she is still living with some fear of that evil, lurking centipede.

To eliminate the NMW’s worry I have been half tempted to throw a gummy worm on the floor and pretend it is the murderous centipede. When the NMW enters the room where the gummy worm is laying I would yell, “Look! The centipede!” Then I would attack, smash, mangle, destroy and otherwise pummel the gummy worm/centipede before the NMW got a good glimpse and realized it was a fake. She could then put down the meat cleaver, hang up the nun chucks, and resume living her normal centipede-free life.

I’ve also heard that nothing on earth tastes better than a gummy worm smothered in spousal deception. Mmmmmmm…..deceit-a-licious.

Since my last post I have been reflecting on my insane fear of heights and laughing with the NMW about the one time I tried to man up and conquer my phobia. During the summer of 2002 the NMW and I moved to Las Vegas for my internship between my first and second years of my MBA studies. While we enjoyed our time in Vegas as much as a married Mormon couple with a small baby and no money possibly could, there was one attraction the NMW knew would be off limits:

The Stratosphere.

If you have never heard of the Stratosphere before, it looks like the Seattle Space Needle and is about four million feet high. As if that’s not terrifying enough for a heights wimp like me, it also has two death-defying amusement park rides on the roof. Putting scary rides on top of the Stratosphere is like putting deer antlers on a great white shark. Sure, the shark is even scarier and more dangerous with the antlers, but does he really need them?

Being the life-loving thrill seeker that she is, the NMW really wanted to conquer the Stratosphere before we left Las Vegas. But she also knew the odds of me going up there were as likely as her going on Fear Factor and eating a plate full of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.

Whudd’n’t gonna happen.

But then the Normal Mormon Wife’s birthday rolled around.

Despite my better judgment (read: bladder control) I surprised the NMW by going out on a limb – literally – and taking her to the top of the Stratosphere on her birthday. The NMW was grateful but also shocked that I would confront my fear of heights so head on. “Hey, babe,” I reassured her. “That’s what real manly-men do for the women they love.”

I then discretely slipped on a pair of Depends.

The first sign of trouble was when the Stratosphere employee informed us that it was $5 per person just to take the elevator ride to the top of the building. An unexpected $10 is a lot of money when you are living on student loans. So much for being able to take the NMW out to a nice place for her birthday dinner. You know, a nice place like Arby’s. Thanks a lot, Jerkosphere!

After begrudgingly forking over the $10 we got in and the elevator ascended toward space like Willy Wonka's glassy suicide elevator. Thankfully it stopped before launching us through the roof and into orbit. The doors slid open and as we stepped out of the elevator the NMW saw one of the most beautiful panoramas of her life. The night was dark. The moon was bright. Hundreds of miles of beautiful desert landscape was visible in all directions. The lights of Las Vegas flickered below us like the sparks from a discarded cigarette hitting the pavement. The Normal Mormon Wife loved what she saw.

I, on the other hand, could only see death.

In all honestly, I could not stop envisioning myself falling over the rail and hurtling to my untimely demise. My head started to spin. My knees shook uncontrollably. I nearly vomited.


That was enough for me. I grabbed the chain link fence behind me, which was as far as possible from the ledge, and held on for dear life. I could not physically make myself let go of that life saving fence. And then – and I’m not ashamed to admit this – I felt a few tears well up and spill down my cheek. It’s not like I was sobbing like David Hasselhoff on America Idol or anything, but tears were definitely shed. And to make matters worse, I couldn’t physically make my hands let go of the chain link to wipe the tears away. I felt so exposed that I thought Nelson Muntz was going to come around the corner and sucker punch me in the gut at any moment.

I was honestly paralyzed with fear. Nothing in my body was working. Except for the muscles that end in “—incter”, that is.

Several minutes and a few Depends later, I finally did come to realize that I would not die. I managed to pry my fingers from the fence and even went on the rides with the NMW. For me, conquering the Stratosphere was like eating a Zero candy bar – I did it once and I will never, ever, ever do it again.

But, hey. That’s what manly-men do for the women they love.

Especially manly-men who hide boxes of Depends in the closet.

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mandy_moo said...

oooh... just reading about being that high up makes my hands and feet all sweaty and clammy and my stomach drop to the floor.

1:16 PM
Karen said...

I've never been to the top of the Stratosphere, but I'm sure it wouldn't be much different from the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower.

But no one was ever stupid enough to put a roller coaster on the top of the Eiffel Tower.

2:02 PM

I lived in Las Vegas for years, and when they built the Stratosphere, I wondered aloud, "Hasn't anyone else in this city heard of Sierra Nevada Wind?" It's some serious stuff! And it's worse up high. You are truly a studly guy, and a great husband to conquer such a thing for your wife. Kudos.

Can you imagine a snake or a giant centipede blowing in the Sierra Nevada winds? While disgusting, it would be great! I bet it would get shredded like a cheap flag.

3:22 PM
Brian said...

Dude, I lost it with your David Hasselhoff comment. Hilarious.

4:34 PM
KB said...

My husband and I had the SAME experience...$5 bucks per person? We had our 2 boys with us, so I stayed with the 5 year old and he took the 12 year old up...$20 bucks to go up high? I don't think so.

9:14 PM
Cheryn said...

You seriously crack me up! Thanks for another laugh. My biggest fear is sharks (but only in rivers and lakes--I'm fine in the ocean if there are white sandy beaches). My other fear is JUNK DRAWERS! I get the chills just thinking about it.

10:00 PM

I commented about my fear of monster's in the sea and your next post has a picture of a monster from the sea. I literaly had to put my hand on the screen to read the rest of the post.
Are you trying to get me to confront my fear as you did?

7:28 AM
Jen said...

When the Stratosphere was being built they screwed up and one of the three legs didn't meet up with the others. It was patched up and deemed safe, but I still can't drive by it without remembering how it looked with one crooked leg.

8:02 AM
Nelson said...

I'm glad I'm the only one in the office right now because I was laughing out loud, that was hilarious. I'm glad you conquered your fear at least once. Now you know you can do anything.

9:05 AM

Sheryl with an S - Sorry for freaking you out by showing the shark with the antlers. (BTW - out of all of my Photoshopped photos, the shark with antlers is by far my all-time favorite.)

Since I have you all paranoid now, I thought I should extend an olive branch by pointing out that shark attacks are down due to the recession. Does that help?

9:58 AM

Are all of the tall buildings in the US conspiring against me? I just read today about a glass walk-out ledge that is being added to the Sears tower. On the 103rd floor! As the article points out, there is only an inch and a half of glass between the person and the pavement.

I am never, ever, ever shopping at Sears again!

10:29 AM
Homer and Queen said...

I live in Vegas and I would NEVER ride on the Strato or drive over the Hoover Dam bridge when it is done!

10:30 AM
M-O-R-G-A-N-'S said...

NMH- your comments about the glass-walk-out-ledge and the rides/stratosphere sent funny feelings in my feet. I am deathly scared of heights. Funny enough, airplanes don't bother as bad, I think it's because I sit in the isle and sleep the whole way. My kids pull the shades down and we are happy campers.

I think your gummy worm idea is both hilarious and fantastic.

2:22 PM
Tiffany said...

First of all, I feel honored that my fear made one of the top 5 weird ones...even though its losing the poll horribly. Secondly, funny post. :)

5:36 PM
carrie said...

Lived many years in Vegas, never been on the Stratosphere. Sure, I've attempted, but each time it was closed for one reason or another...too much wind...possible rain...maintenance. Secretly, I'm grateful, 'cause I don't think I'd really be able to go through with it if I was ever able to get to the top of the building in the first place. Although, it works out nice for me to say I've attempted and it has always been SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT I've never experienced the ride.

7:05 PM
shelley said...

now i've just gotta know...

are you going to sit through sunday school so you can write a post about it and help calm poor mebel's (is that her name?) fear?

if so, i need advanced notice.

j/k - not my fear. yet, anyway!

and yes, i too have flown all the way to paris and did NOT go to any level on the eiffel tower. because i was terrified. and knew i would puke and cry. the arc de triumphe was high enough for me.

9:30 PM
Graham Chops said...

Vegas! Home sweet home! I did the Stratosphere when I was 14 and yeah, I swear that thing moves ten feet in any given direction--sometimes in multiple directions. Stupak actually wanted to make that thing taller; I'm glad they stopped him. Didn't talk any dang sense into him, but they stopped him.

8:15 AM
Pappy Yokum said...

I wanted so bad to go to the top of the Stratosphere and ride the coaster but the $5 just to get on the elevator was too much. If I can get into an amusement park and ride all day on various coasters for about the same amount - just seems ridiculous.. anyway, great post and I hope you get the centipede soon.

11:15 AM
Chad said...

On my mission in Toronto Canada, they have a stratosphere of sorts, its a tower, similar to the space needle, but higher. They boast of its being the tallest free standing structure in the world, at least in 1995 it was. I am not scared of heights by any means, but the tower has a glass floor. I could not bring my 140 pound frame to stand on that glass for nothing. Even though many others were. I felt that I would provide the remaining weight needed to bust through that floor and send all of us falling to our death. I am with you on the stratosphere too. No way would I do that roller coaster ride that peers over the edge either.

10:05 PM

I can't handle being on tall, swaying things either. I was chuckling at your description of you having the death grip on the chain link. I would have, too.
I haven't read your blog before, but I think I'll start. Very funny stuff.

1:44 PM
john said...

There are four rides at the top now. One of the newer ones are swings that partially hang over the ledge so at various times during the ride, you are dangling 1,000 feet above the ground. Occasionally we get a news report that the ride stalls, leaving people stranded in their seats until they can get it working again. I see the anxiety on your face now as you think on this scenario.

9:32 PM