Twelve Dollar Coaster

Back in 2001, I had an epiphany. A mind-blowing light bulb moment, leading to a secret about life. Mind you, I’m no philosopher or even an expert in any particular life skill. I’m actually thrilled that I successfully put on a shirt today that wasn’t inside out.

Let’s rewind 20 years back. It was an era pre-iPods and the term Facebook would have sounded absurd. Accompanied by my boyfriend, Jason, Discman in hand, we boarded a plane to visit my sister in Las Vegas. Moby’s tunes kept me company as I flipped through Cosmo during the four-hour flight from Pittsburgh.

Being that we were in our 20s at the time, we intended to vacation on a budget. We planned out a warpath of affordable buffets and lowest-minimum table games. We gazed in amazement at all the ceilings that resembled cotton ball cloudy skies … for free. We giggled at the lovers traveling the canals in the Venetian. Those suckers probably paid a fortune to ride a circuit in a fabricated city … with a gondolier named Dave.

New York New York Casino. Istock. February, 2019.

But then we went to the New York New York casino. The bustling interior took us straight to the heart of New York City. It was complete with people from all walks of life and from every part of the world. I think we may have even seen Santa vacationing there.

This building was grand enough to house a big red steel roller coaster. One that cost $12. A person.  Back in 2001.

And what did we do? Ran like giddy elementary school kids racing to the Jack Rabbit at Kennywood Park. I almost felt the pigtails sprouting out of my head. We hopped in line and dished out the $24.  During the wait, the topic of conversation was highway robbery and how this coaster better blow our minds, given the cost we paid. We skipped out on Krispy Kreme for this!

We boarded the coaster and the ride twisted and turned through the casino. A mere moment later, we were back at the station. I think it took longer for the passengers to be secured than it did to tour the scaled-down city. I’ve had a sneeze last longer than that ride. Jason and I glanced at each other. We nodded mutually. Simultaneously we said, “not worth it.To put it bluntly, the coaster sucked.

Our conversation continued as we meandered to the next free attraction. (“Did someone say free souvenir at the MGM Grand?”)

Here’s where the epiphany smacked me in the face. Was the coaster expensive? Yes. Did it suck? Yes. Were we glad we dished out the 24 bucks? Yes! We didn’t regret spending the money at all. I’d pay for a crappy experience any day over wasting it on a Big Mac and fries (with a Coke, of course). We decided it was worth shelling out the money for the experience vs. wondering how that coaster was for the next 20 years. The money was spent on a story, not just the quick ride.

There are so many things out there that aren’t worth it … The treadmill claimed by 15 years of dust or the George Foreman grill that has cheese on the grate from 2002.

What IS worth it is spending the resources on stories and experiences, no matter how terrible they turn out. To this day we use the $12 coaster as a deciding factor. Is it really worth driving endless hours just to see the world’s largest rocking chair?  Is it worth it to get that tattoo you’ve been talking about for the past 15 years (and yet no one thinks you’re the type)?  I think it is.

Playing the game of what ifs can become tedious and tiring. But, taking a chance can pave the way to experiences and good stories (even if they’re bad).

So, if you ask me, I think you should go and ride that $12 roller coaster.

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