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Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself (or how I rode the haunted mansion ride)

It was Shavuot last week, which meant we made like good Jews and went to the beach for a few days.  It was partially a planned trip and partially an impromptu invitation offered and accepted and suddenly, we found ourselves going over the Bay Bridge and meeting our friends for burritos and Twilight movies (our husbands’ complain, but my friend and I think they secretly love Edward and Jacob).  We read books on the beach and went to the boardwalk carnival space and ate Nicola’s pizza and generally decompressed and recharged.

The twins found an incredible amount of dead crabs and crab parts and they created Buckets o’ Dead Crab and surrounded our beach blanket with their finds.  I have to admit that I was incredibly proud of the way they plucked up every mangled piece of claw with their bare hands, muscle and mucousy membranes hanging out of the jagged edges, and deposited their finds in their beach buckets.  Even back when I was their age, I didn’t want to touch dead crabs.  I didn’t want to touch caterpillars or spiders or tadpoles or any other thing kids usually find interesting.  I was a pretty timid child and now, I’m a fairly timid adult.

One of the things that has both always interested me and always freaked me out was the haunted mansion ride at Funland.  It’s obviously a low-budget operation, but I hate having things jump out at me or being in the dark.  Or even have the chance of things jumping out at me or being in the dark even if nothing jumps out at me and it’s fairly light.  Did I mention that I’m a timid adult?

But I really wanted to go on the ride too.  I can’t really explain why.  For the last two summers, there has always been an easy out for why I didn’t try it.  But this time, we had my inlaws there too and they took the twins while we got in line.  And I have to admit, I was really scared.  But I was also jealous about the way the kids tried the rides and the way they handled the Buckets o’ Dead Crab and I realized that I needed to get over my fear of the haunted mansion ride and prove to myself that even if I can’t pick up dead animals with my hands or hug a half-chewed claw to my chest and ask Josh if we can bring it home and love it forever as my daughter did, I can face one of my fears.

The ride, of course, is exactly what you expect.  Completely dark, scary music, things jumping out at you, questionable safety system in place on the rickety boardwalk ride.  I shrieked a few times and I made Josh hold me, but I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I got through it.

You can all stop laughing now at me.

Josh and I are the type who don’t call ahead to check things.  9 out of 10 times, things go exactly as you expect them to go.  1 out of 10 times, things don’t go as planned and half the time it’s great but different and half the time it’s a Bucket o’ Dead Crab.  We decided to take my inlaws to Smith Island because they had never been to the area.  My MIL asked if we had called ahead about the ferry to make sure it was running and we admitted that we hadn’t because we never do things like that.  It’s just too sensible.

Of course, after driving almost two hours to Crisfield, we found out that the ferry wan’t running and the woman at the ferry office was somewhat gleeful in telling us this.  She told us our only option was to hitch a ride on the mail boat, but that if we did this, we’d be screwed because nothing was open on the island, it was going to rain, we would be drenched and miserable and hungry and she knew that NO ONE WOULD LET US PEE ANYWHERE ON THE ISLAND.


I though it was a brilliant plan to hitch a ride with the mail boat–a few other people were doing it too–so we crowded into the mail boat with the daily post and bags of fertilizer and grocery deliveries and a dog and headed off to the island with the assumption that nothing would be open and our bladders would inevitably burst because why would the good ferry lady steer us wrong?

The boat started slowly out of the marina and it was noticeably more choppy than it was when we take the ferry.  I suddenly realized that I had a lot to fear–you feel more on small boats than on large boats, the Chesapeake Bay is rougher in the spring, this boat goes a lot faster than the ferry, and have I mentioned that as much as I love being on the water, I also feel a little crazy on the water?  I am the type who could never do a cruise because I’d spend the whole time focused on the fact that I don’t have the choice to leave the cruise ship.  And that’s what I thought about as the boat picked up speed and started bouncing around on the water.

When I thought about the fact that I was stuck on the boat for 40 minutes and stuck returning on the boat, I wanted to die.  I was anxious and tense and hated the feeling of the boat bouncing.  The Wolvog was clinging to me, but I was clinging just as much to him.  At some point, my body came to realization that I needed to get over my fear and adjust because I was stuck, I was stuck in this big Bucket-o-Dead-Crab-type of an experience and I could either accept that I had gotten myself into this and would survive it, or I could spend the whole ride with my body rigid and the whole day worried about the return trip.

I discovered that I felt much better on the open-air part of the boat with the dog than I did in the cabin so I sat outside, getting damp from the spray, and even enjoying the motion of the boat once it slowed a few miles from the island.  I got to catch a glimpse of Tylerton and took photographs of Goat Island.  And even though no one but Josh and I knew how terrified I had been when the trip started out, I was damn proud of myself for being so brave.

The ferry woman’s business was indeed closed, but the restaurant, Rukes, was open and we had a great picnic on their porch even though all we bought were drinks.  Smith Islanders are gracious like that.  We peed in their bathrooms.  We walked around the island and sent ourselves a postcard from the post office.  We returned to Rukes before we left and shared slices of Smith Island cake.  It was a wonderful trip to the island and we even found a geocache hidden in Ewell (seriously, if you live in the DC area, Smith Island and lunch at Rukes is one of the best day trips you’ll ever do).

My inlaws bought me a flip camera as an early birthday present so we spent our time on the island making movies.  The very real haunted house we found works much better in story form if you get to see the video footage as well.  So give me a chance to do the sandy laundry and I’ll upload that to the site.  Prepare to crap your pants.

Unless you believe that shit about the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.


1 queenie { 05.23.10 at 11:45 am }

Made note to self about Smith Island. I can totally relate to your sentiments bout cruise ships-and that made me laugh, because whenever I think like that, internally I sigh and think of how nice it must be to be everyone other than me, who don’t seem to have such quirky mental hangups. Now I know I’m not alone!

And, it’s funny that you consider yourself timid, given how much you put yourself out there. I perceive you as bold and brave!

2 a { 05.23.10 at 11:49 am }

Hurray for haunted mansions! But I’ll know you’ve conquered your fears when you confront a cricket…

Sounds like a lovely trip…

3 Suzanna Catherine { 05.23.10 at 12:13 pm }

I can certainly identify with your post! As a timid adult, I was having difficulty even READING about your trip over to the island. I’m the sort who wouldn’t have set foot on the mail boat. The wind! The waves! Eeeek. And double eeeek!

I believe the psychological term for my behavior is risk aversion.
I’ve always thought that if I had lived in the past, and somehow my parents had dragged me (kicking and screaming) onto the Mayflower, I would have lived the remainder of my life in the second house down from Plymouth Rock.

I echo Queenie’s perception above: I think of you as outgoing and by extension, bold and brave!

4 Jem { 05.23.10 at 7:13 pm }

It’s fun to face your fears, in a controlled sort of way. Last year I faced my fear of roller-coasters and had a blast! Of course the first step can be we worst, but once you get going it’s a fun adventure.


5 Kristin { 05.23.10 at 7:21 pm }

Conquering fears as an adult is one of the hardest things to do. I am damned proud of you!

6 S.I.F. { 05.24.10 at 3:54 am }

That actually sounds like an amazing weekend, and I’m insanely jealous! Except I hate small boats (and small planes) and the anxiety eats away at me, so I might just let you have that one! 🙂

7 kristi { 05.24.10 at 11:23 am }

I love reading about your adventures.

8 Jamie { 05.24.10 at 11:48 am }

Thanks for the tales from the Eastern Shore. That is home for me, even though I live 2500 miles away now. And I love that boardwalk haunted house.

9 Busted Kate { 05.24.10 at 2:20 pm }

I loved this post!!! Love your story-telling style. Its timely for me too, because my post today is also on overcoming fear. As always, Mel, you rock!

10 debbie { 05.25.10 at 7:08 am }

i love that haunted house ride. And nicobolis, please! Could anything be better at the beach?
Great story Mel.

11 Delenn { 05.26.10 at 9:08 am }

I find that I am less bold/brave as I have gotten older. I think as someone above said, its Risk Aversion. And sometimes, experience can cause fears…as I read about your experience on the mail boat, it reminded me of a time we went on a Harbor Seal cruise gone wrong. It was our second time doing it, but with a different company–and the first time had been sooo pleasant and fun…and the second time was a nightmare. The waters were choppy, the boat small with small children unboard who became frightened…the skipper of the boat felt that the best way to get through it all was to go FASTER…thus drenching us and making me more motion sick. I remember huddling my son (who was about 6 at the time) in the small cubbie to protect him and fearing we would all drown just to see some seals who had the good sense to steer clear of the nasty weather….

Yep, so now I don’t go on small boats anymore…

Glad you faced your fears! (Maybe I will face mine this summer)

12 Bea { 05.28.10 at 11:30 pm }

Now I am wanting to go to Smith Island. By mailboat. It sounds like an adventure!

The not being able to pee thing is… too gleeful, though.


13 Bea { 05.28.10 at 11:30 pm }

Oh, and well done!


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