Merry Christmas! Still super busy, but figured I should crank one of these out for the holidays.
This column is not FFXIV-related.
#101: “A Story About Ferris Wheels, Airplanes, and Rollercoasters”
Published in 2018/02/01 and 2018/02/08 combined issue
Happy New Year! Please continue to support us this year! With the New Year greetings out of the way, let’s get right into the column. There’s no time left before the deadline. (I completely forgot about it…)
This is sudden, but I’m not good with Ferris wheels. Well, it’s more like I’m terrified of those things. Even if I’m not riding one, just looking up at it from nearby is enough to make me imagine being on it. Honestly, I really respect people who are able to ride them.
It’s not just Ferris wheels—airplanes also make me extremely uneasy. However, it’s not the airplanes themselves that I dislike; I’m fine with the part when they’re moving along the ground. In fact, I treasure the time spent relaxing in my seat and reading a book. So, to be precise, it’s “being on an airplane in flight” that makes me uneasy.
Going by this logic, I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable on a Ferris wheel if I’m in a passenger cabin close to the ground. Indeed, I do feel fine imagining that.
Some of you are probably saying, “Wait, if that’s the case, then you’re just afraid of heights!” But to me, it’s completely different. That’s because I don’t necessarily have a problem with “being somewhere high up” in itself. For example, I love rollercoasters, and even on the so-called “scream machines” with their rapid succession of steep angles, fast speeds, and swivels, I don’t scream at all. In fact, I’ll happily ride them again and again. I ride them so many times that the people around me get annoyed.
Whether or not I dislike these things is based on whether or not I feel fear. Ferris wheels and airplanes which go above a certain altitude give me fear, but rollercoasters don’t, even when they go high above ground. What makes me afraid is “being in a situation where a mechanical accident is almost guaranteed to kill me.”
There’s another subtle difference here. I’m not saying that I need to be in absolute safety—it concerns the probability of survival in the case of an accident. A Ferris wheel only has one point of connection between the passenger cabin and the wheel itself. So, if that point suffers physical damage, the cabin will fall, crashing into other cabins before inevitably hitting the ground.
When you’re on a Ferris wheel and reach a certain altitude, the “connection point” makes a cracking sound. The vibrations in the cabin make it seem like it’s about to break, taking you down with it. The instant I realize this, I start imagining my helplessness, unable to protect myself in any way, and that terrifies me. If there were airbags inside the cabin, I think I would be able to enjoy Ferris wheels without fear.
In the same way, when I’m on an airplane, I look out the window and think, “Ahh, all it would take is a single piece of wing plating getting blown off, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything!” Imagining it makes me so scared that I want to cry. Even if I close my eyes, all it takes is for an air current to sway the aircraft a bit for me to imagine, “Ahh, if that was an equipment failure, I’m going to die!” and the fear comes back.
However, if I sat in my seat while wearing a parachute on my back, I think I could be at ease in a flying airplane. Even if the airplane exploded and sent me flying into the air, I’d still have a chance of surviving by my own power. On a rollercoaster, the car itself is always connected to the ground with rails, and a multi-layered safety bar fixes you in place on the seat. Even if something went wrong with the bar, I could still cling onto it with my own strength. So, I love rollercoasters, but I never do anything stupid like taking my hands off the bar. Only after wrapping my arms around it and ensuring my safety do I enjoy the fast speeds and sharp angles. I don’t ride suspended rollercoasters (can you even call those rollercoasters?), and I absolutely refuse to ride in the front or back seat.
Now, why am I writing so much about something like this? I assure you, it’s not because I want the column readers to think, “Yoshida is weird, or rather, a pain to deal with. I wouldn’t want to be friends with him.” (This article is already enough of a pain.) What I wanted to say was that individual people’s views and preferences are composed of layers and layers of subtle reasoning that only the individual in question can understand.
At the end of the year, I visited my parents for just a short while, because my mother was extremely angry with me. “You have to show your face here at least once a year!” My family is from Hokkaido, but my parents moved too, and now they live very close to my place. They’re quite elderly now, so I pay their rent, while they both spend their retirement time on their interests.
The food that my mother and father prepared was laid out over the entire table. “I can’t eat this much. I’m getting old, too,” I said as I drank the sake, appreciating the comfort of being with family. By the way, after two hours of this and that, my parents got into a fight over something… really trivial. What a pain.
Those two are good at splitting hairs, so when they get into a fight, both of them bring up plausible arguments and criticize the parts of the other person’s that they don’t like. From an outsider’s point of view, both of their arguments are basically the same thing, and they ended up asking me whose opinion was right. I was already fed up by then, so I said, “Can you listen to my story? Try to stay quiet until the end, if you can.” Then, I told them the story about Ferris wheels, airplanes, and rollercoasters.
When I finished, they both looked annoyed, and said, “What are you trying to tell us with such a pointless story?” to which I replied, “Exactly, it’s a pointless story. I wasn’t trying to teach you anything or advocate for anything. But the argument is over now, so it’s fine.” On the inside, I was thinking, “Now that this war is settled, we can finally eat our New Year’s Eve soba noodles.”
This is a story about how pointless stories can sometimes be useful.