A young man stood on a platform 1100 feet above the Vegas strip. He grinned and posed, giving the camera a thumbs up.
But when the attendant hooked the caribbeaner onto his harness and started backing him toward the edge, the young man’s expression changed. Terror. Regret. He grabbed onto a rail desperately. The attendant ignored his pleas and gently unclamped his fingers from the rail.
And then, he dropped.
We watched as the thick steel cord quickly unwound from the giant spool in front of us. It took seventeen seconds before it finally ran out, with a jerk. The attendant smiled impishly and pointed at me. You next?
I smiled back, but shook my head. Nope.
The rope slowly slid back onto the spool as it was cranked up. Finally we saw the hook at the end…But no person attached.
This is not the beginning to the next dystopian teen novel. This is an attraction at the top of the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas. Yes, people pay $120 to plunge off the side of the tower.
There are three other rides at the top of Vegas’s tallest hotel, in addition to a swanky lounge with glass windows all around, overlooking the sparkly city. Andy and I started with cocktails at the lounge, and with the aid of a little liquid courage I was able to try one of the rides.
We picked X-Scream, because it seemed least likely to make me hurl my fancy cocktail. This is basically an abbreviated roller coaster. One train car rests on a track that teeters over the side of the tower. The track raises up on a mechanical arm and tilts 45 degrees. The coaster zooms down the track toward the tiny lights below, and stops at the end. Then the track lifts back up and starts all over again.
I watched several times before buying a ticket. There are four drops, including one fake-out. The whole thing lasts less than a minute. I decided I could handle it.
Despite my mango martini and careful observation, I was still nervous waiting on line. Andy tried to make idle chit-chat to distract me, but I wasn’t having any of it. He squeezed my hand as we were strapped in. The track raised up. I opened my mouth to scream.
But before I could let out a whimper, the first drop was over. We were already moving on to the second. I hadn’t even gotten that weightless feeling in my stomach. Yes, we were suspended off the side of a tall building, but the city lights below looked more like a blanket of stars than a patchwork of buildings.
We went over the edge, but we came back.