Humbly Corrected Through A Ride of Terror


Having just returned from a holiday with the family in Melbourne, it is that time when every one and now I get a flashback of a moment, a scene or a conversation from the trip.  There were lots of delightful memories and a few unpleasant ones.  Last weekend, I took a ride on the Twin Dragon (the equivalent of the “Viking” if you’ve been to the one in Singapore) at the Luna Park , an amusement park in St Kilda’s. It was a ship with a dragon head at the end of each bow, that swings from side to side, suspended by metal constructs. The only requirement for the ride, which was posted on a signpost, was that you had to be at least 110 cm tall. 

After much persuasion on my part to get my 12-year old to go on a ride, I ended up getting on it with husband and younger son instead. I suggested we take the middle bench of the ship so we would be at the lowest, least frightening point when the swing comes. Little did I realise I would also be the first to see the downswing. As the ship started to swing from side to side, I was joyfully but somewhat nervously screaming “Oh no! Oh no!”

Then the moment arrived, the moment when my mind told me that I was in a situation I did not want to be, the moment when my senses got knocked right and I saw the reality of the situation. I was being swung what – 15, 20 metres into the air? The monster itself stood on a raised platform. I wanted to stop it all and walk out. The “trauma” of it was that I could not. I saw, not just sensed danger, for I was not sure I could go on. I panicked. I realized I could not just shout “I’ve had enough, I’d like to stop now” to the ride operator. The deafening screams around me would have drowned it anyway. There was no buzzer or button to press to have the machinery slow down and stop. I realized I could not get myself out of the situation. I had to live through the rest of the ride in “gripping” fear. Screams of “Oh no!” suddenly became faint chants of “Jesus, please, please slow it down!”, hearing in between those words my reassuring husband’s voice of “Pauline, just hold on”. When the ship came to a steady slow-down and finally stopped, I was already in a daze. n. It took me a while to stand up although I realised I could now get out. The reality of the experience, but more so the lack of control I had over the situation, began to sink (bad word) in.

I now wonder about people who say you have a choice in any situation. You just need to weigh (the consequences of) each of those choices and choose what sits well with you. Yah, right! This situation was different; there really was no other choice at that moment but to endure the experience to the end. Coming to my senses took on a different meaning, and here it was not a good thing to have. I wished I had not sensed the danger. It was “chaos” to me because I had no control over the situation and had to just let it run its course, and yet it was weirdly orderly, given the way a swing moves.

And then there was the question of my son. Why was it that he was more discerning than me? He knew he could not handle the ride and sat it out. I was thankful he did not listen to his mother that time. Why did I misjudge my own capabilities? I should know myself best, right? Why did I think that if there were 3 of us it would not be so bad? Why did my senses have to heighten in the middle of the ride? I had a bad time and recalling the “moment” still sends shudders.

Do we do the same with people in organizations, try to persuade them to get on board, whether it’s a project, a new initiative or programme, when they know they cannot handle it? Could we be wrong about what they were capable of or worse still, what we ourselves are personally capable of? Do we assume we know better than them? That we have more information than them? Do we collect enough information to help one another make decisions?

Except for the height restriction, there were no objective benchmarks to help make this particular decision . Other considerations would have been common sense like if you had a heart condition or something.Should I have had more information before going on the ride, perhaps looked at the faces of people on the earlier ride or scanned their reaction when they ship stopped? I had no ignorance management strategy.

I had a responsibility to my son but he had more information or perhaps, intuition than me, in this decision. I’m glad I allowed him his freedom to choose then. Maybe, it would help to have a sign in every corner of the office that says “If In Doubt, Do Not Ride”. It could be a way to remind people of their responsibility to gather more information before jumping in/on or getting others to do it. I stand humbly corrected.

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