The Thrill Gene

I have never liked roller coasters. I puke on the teacups ride. I don’t like to dive, and I brake hard on steep hills on my bicycle.

I have figured out that I don’t have the thrill gene.

Of my three children, one of them has it. She likes to scuba dive and ride horses, and travel alone to Middle Eastern countries. Some would say it’s the dumb gene, but she is anything but that.

Oh, wait, another child has done zip lining, so maybe two of them have it.

They didn’t get it from me. I’ve always been the one to hang back when drunken friends are wrestling in the deep end of the pool in the dark, or when high school friends go down the spillway at midnight in the woods.

“Everyone is doing it, Susie!” my friends used to say.

“Everyone but me!” I’d answer back.

My teen years were uncomfortable because of this. I was already 45 in my brain while everyone else was still 17.

And that’s okay.

Some of those people are no more. The guy who drove 100 mph in his souped-up sports car, the car that I climbed into one evening with two friends and couldn’t wait to get out of. He died in a car crash as a young man.

The kid who drowned in the undertow of the spillway a few weeks after I’d been there with my friends. The other kid that drowned in the gravel pits north of Des Moines.

And those tram cars that go up the side of mountains? No thank you. Not a fan.

Ski chair lifts are bad enough, but at least you get to ski down the mountain.

I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday. Almost everyone said, “No way.”

But somebody is going on that walk with the see-though floors (look at all those ant people). They have the thrill gene and derive pleasure from walking near the edge of the cliff.

Speaking of cliffs, the first time I rode down highway 1 to Big Sur, it was a foggy summer day. I was fine in the passenger seat because I couldn’t see what was along the edge of the road. It was fogged in, and I was clueless.

The second time I rode south on highway 1 it was a crystal clear day. I was on the cliff side, peering down 300 feet to the ocean below. Very unsettling.  Coming back, as a passenger  on the inside lane, I was fine. The view to my right was scrub brush, not air.

Every year a couple of people drive their cars off the cliffs of Big Sur and plunge to their deaths. This spring a little dog survived with just a broken leg, but not his owner.

I have walked trails in mountain lion country at dusk (don’t recommend it) and have slept in the Rocky Mountains sans tent in bear country (again, do not suggest).  I have walked under waterfalls and been advised to stay away from the edge so I don’t slip to my death. I’ve flown in a tiny airplane with a rubber band engine in turbulence over the Orinoco River (Amazon tributary).

Not fun.

Not fun.

Not fun.

Not fun.

I only did those things because I was young, and I was in a situation where the people I was with were doing it, and I felt peer pressure.

I am glad those days are over. I would venture to say most old people don’t have the thrill gene.

That is how we got to be old people.




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