“Follow your heart.”
“Trust your gut.”
I completely believe in those cliches. Especially the second one, because while I think your “heart” can lead you to some sweet places, your gut instincts keep you safe. I like to think of it this way: When you feel your stomach drop and/or you have major stomach pains, you don’t want to do anything — except get rid of them. Time seems to stand still, and tunnel vision kicks in, making it impossible to focus on anything but the pains in your belly. So, you’re not likely to put yourself in bad situations when you have these pains. Does that make sense?
This story about the Texas mother who was thrown from the Six Flags roller coaster really bothered me and I’ll tell you why in a sec. But, the story goes that witnesses say the mom, Rosy Esparza, clicked her safety bar down once and then alerted a ride attendant that she didn’t feel safe and secure. The ride attendant was heard telling her, “As long as you heard it click, you’re OK”, but that everyone else on the ride around her made their safety bars click more than once.
The ride began, and Esparza was thrown from the coaster — the world’s steepest — at the first turn, to her death. While her children watched. We’ll never know if she was made to feel safe after the attendant’s halfhearted, apathetic assurance, or if she still had that unsafe, gut-instinctual feeling when the ride started.
The reason why this tragedy sticks with me is because last summer, while vacationing at the Jersey Shore, I nervously and excitedly got on one of their coasters where your feet hang and you go upside down a lot, The Great Nor’Easter. I clicked my safety harness down over my shoulders. It clicked twice. I pulled up on the harness and didn’t particularly like the amount of space between it and my body. Immediately, I was struck by a strong gut instinct-y feeling of, “I need another click”, but I couldn’t pull it to make it happen from the angle I was seated.
I turned to my then-boyfriend-now-fiance who was locked in the seat next to me, and told him as much. He told me to tell the attendant, but I felt embarrassed and didn’t want to be seen as a chicken. So, he motioned for the attendant — a young lad no more than 19 — to come over. He was checking everyone’s harness by pulling it up, but when he came over, I — for some reason apologetically — told him that I clicked it twice but didn’t feel 100% safe. Without saying anything, he pushed the harness down hard, and made it click one more time. It was now pretty much almost crushing my ribs, but I felt safer.
Now, I can’t help but think what if my fiance didn’t speak up because I wouldn’t — or if the attendant was like, “You’re fine” and didn’t lock me in further? Would I have had the guts to ask him to? And if he didn’t — would I have had the chutzpah to get off the ride? Probably not, and after this horrible Texas Giant story — that’s terrifying.
So, to me — the point is, the next time I have a gut instinct that leads me to not feeling safe, I will not rely on anyone else to say something, and if no one takes me seriously, I will DO SOMETHING, without second-guessing my instincts. Because, even if by some chance my instinct was wrong, at least I’m still breathing.