top of page

A Rollercoaster of emotions

Hunter Manatt


Robert Borota

Life is filled with awesome memories, like hitting that home run in fifth grade, and wholesome memories, like watching your brother open the gift that he really wanted from you. Life is also filled with those not so awesome memories like freezing up while giving your speech in seventh grade. During my sophomore year of high school, the band went on a trip to Orlando, Florida where we spent two whole days in Universal
Studios. This trip was filled with some of the best memories of my life. However, a few of my friends and I went through one of the most surprising and sketchy experiences of our lives while there.

My group of friends (Alex, Wyatt, Sean, Ezra, Tyler, and Brady) and I decided to head to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. We had spent all of the first day and the morning of the second day in Universal Studios, so we wanted to check out the rest of the park since it was our last day. It was approaching lunch time and our stomachs were grumbling like grizzly bears, so we decided to grab a little snack at the Cinnabon Shack
to get us by. There was no way we could walk by the heavenly cinnamon swirl smell that radiated through the air. Brady decided to go meet up with another group while we ate. This was a choice that he would soon regret.

The little brown shack with a dark blue roof was conveniently located under the infamous Incredible Hulk Coaster. Just looking at it gave me vertigo. The bright green 110-foot-tall tracks put chills down my spine. The thought of going through seven inversions while feeling four G’s of force on my chest at sixty-seven miles per hour was enough to make my legs quiver.

After everyone finished refueling their bodies, we all knew that we needed some time to digest before hopping straight back onto some rides. Our solution—wait in the three- hour long line for The Incredible Hulk Coaster. On the first day of being at this park I told myself that there was no way I would ride that beast of a coaster. Inversions were not my thing and The Hulk had plenty of them. Yet, with butterflies in my stomach, I agreed. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

As we put our belongings into the tiny little lockers and got in line, my anxiety began to build. I didn’t want to back down in front of my friends so I turned my fear into fake excitement. As we were chatting in line, Sean broke off from the conversation to start talking to one of the employees. The employee was fairly tall, skinny, and had pimples scattered all over his face. His little round glasses topped off the cliché nerdy look. Sean started asking Travis, the employee, if he liked working at Universal and a bunch of other silly questions about his job. Sean got him to change his frown into a smirk in a hurry. Then, Travis hit us with the question, “Are you guys tired of waiting in lines?” Obviously, we said yes.

Deep down I really wasn’t tired of waiting in this line because it meant that I wasn’t on the green beast yet. Travis then unlatched the rope that was keeping us in line and told all six of us to follow him.

This was shocking. Why would he pull us out of line? We are going to lose our spot.

We followed him around back where his friend scanned us with one of those hand held scanners. Travis and his friend had this smug smirk on their faces the whole time and I really didn’t know how to feel about it. After we all passed the scan, he led us into this fenced-in area with nothing but an elevator door attached to the building. We all began to realize how sketchy this situation was getting. The elevator door creaked and rattled open. The only light was a dim, yellow tinted bulb that made the elevator look even more sketchy. We followed Travis into the elevator only after Ezra, the buffest member of our crew, went first. An old, musty smell permeated the air. The noisy doors rattled shut, and we found ourselves crammed into a tiny elevator with a complete stranger. As it began to move, none of us could tell if we were moving up or down. This whole extravaganza took my worries off riding the coaster, as I now refocused my concerns on this strange and potentially dangerous situation.

Ezra finally spoke up and asked, “Where are we going Travis?”

He responded with a smug look. “I don’t know.”

This is truly when I thought we were getting abducted. Travis was taking us to the basement and we would never see the light of day again. I could envision the newspaper headlines: Six Iowa high schoolers go missing in Universal Studios while on a band trip. Where could they be? The elevator came to a sudden stop and the doors creaked open.

My jaw may have hit the ground out of pure shock. We were at the front of the ride, looking at the first two rows of The Incredible Hulk Coaster.

“Where do you guys want to sit?” asked Travis.

We were all speechless except for Ezra who simply screamed, “Travis!”

How did this happen to us? What is going on?

As we claimed the first three rows, I thought to myself, “Well, there is no backing out of this now.” I was on the verge of tears from either terror or Travis’s random act of kindness. Before I could fully comprehend what was going on, the ride just took off like horses out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby. We zoomed through the launch tube in just enough time for me to prepare for the drop at the end. However, the whole Travis situation made me forget about the corkscrew at the peak of the drop. To say it caught me off guard would be an understatement. From that point on, my fear turned into pure enjoyment and I loved every second of it, even the seven inversions.

As we all got off the ride, we could not have been on a bigger high. How did we all just get through a three-hour queue in five minutes? Words cannot describe the rollercoaster of emotions that I was experiencing. I was happy. I was surprised. I was even still a little sketched out about what had just happened. We were all in shock from Travis’s random act of kindness and the memorable mark it made on our trip. After
failing to find Travis, we did what we could and shouted, “Thank you Travis!” at the top of our lungs.

As we all grow older and continue to build more memories, we realize that not all of the most memorable stories are all good. A lot of the best memories in life come from a little suffering or getting outside of your comfort zone. When Travis told us to follow him, we could have all done what our mothers told us to do as kids and “never trust a stranger.” Despite this, we decided to put ourselves in a dicey situation that ended up being one of the most surprising and fondest memories ever. As for Brady, well, he missed out on one heck of a memory.

bottom of page