Column: Rising up and being let down


Grace Nguyen

Junior Kelsey Carroll rides the Ferris wheel for the first time at the State Fair of Texas, despite long-time fears.

Was paying 10 dollars to spend a few minutes speeding 212 feet into the Dallas skyline worth it? That’s debatable.

Heights aren’t a big deal. Ziplines–sure. Plane rides–easy. Rock climbing–why not?

The Ferris wheel was a different story. For seven years, my annual family trip to the State Fair of Texas consisted of avoiding eye contact with the towering wheel and avoiding eye contact with my mom each time one of the 44 gondolas came into view.  

But this year, at the ripe age of 17, I rode the Ferris wheel for the first time.

I’m not sure how I ended up in line for the ride, but staring up at the blue metal rails spinning above me felt like riding a rollercoaster, except my stomach dropped before I’d even set foot on the platform. Each step toward the wheel made it grow taller and taller until the top couldn’t be seen behind the trees blocking my view. In hindsight, I feel like I should thank those trees for hiding my fate.

Grace Nguyen
Locked into a gondola and anticipating the ride to come, Carroll laughs and screams.

After what felt like five seconds in line, I was hustled and bustled to my seat where I stared out the barred cage of the blue gondola, moving steadily into the sky. The fear inside me transformed my surroundings, and with a paranoid glance upward, I saw the top gondola swing above me, coming dangerously close to snapping off its bearings and falling to the ground. Were the sounds I heard around me shouts of glee? Or screams of terror? Was the ride operator wishing me a safe ride, or bidding me farewell?

I examined my surroundings to the best of my ability. The doors were bolted shut. Where was I supposed to escape when this thing came crashing down? Had I seen any inspection signs at the bottom of the ride? Why don’t we have seatbelts? Where were the safety flares?

The slightly rusted and chipped rails of the wheel gave the impression of a bumpy ride ahead, but to my surprise I didn’t notice we’d left the ground until looking out to find the Texas Skyway level gliding past underneath me. Big Tex smiled at me from below, and my heart seemed to calm down for just a moment. As we neared the highest point, the only sound was the muffled carnival music floating up to us, accompanied by a beat made by my nervous foot tapping.

Grace Nguyen
Kelsey and her sister Jackie Carroll ride the Ferris wheel together. Once the gondola rises, Kelsey is at ease.

Two trips around the wheel later, I stepped out of the gondola, hitting my hip on the black plastic seating on my way out, and stood on solid ground once again.

Maybe it had been my 10-year-old self overreacting years ago, but the fear I had before stepping onto the Ferris wheel for the first time seemed completely irrational. During the entirety of the ride, I realized just how simple it would’ve been to tell my mom “sure, let’s go” year after year after year, the same way I’d said yes to ziplining on my 14th birthday, flying to LA the summer before eighth grade or rock-climbing just last Thanksgiving. What had I been so afraid of all these years?  

In retrospect, the “spectacular” view I expected was the same one I saw getting on the highway earlier that morning, the awkward silences and sporadic “woah, we’re up high”s were overly present, and the headache I got after two times around the wheel was pounding.

Despite conquering my long-held fear of the Ferris wheel, the ride didn’t live up to my high-held expectations. Compared to the chaotic neon light bulb-infested amusement park scene in “The Sandlot,” or the romantic “way-to-end-the-movie-on-a-good-note” moment from “Love, Simon,” my sweaty, 90-degree Monday afternoon Ferris wheel ride just didn’t size up.