Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Welcome to the Twilight Zone: A Metaphor Based on My Experience at "The Tower of Terror"

Disclaimer: This is a post about one of the experiences I had at my Disney World vacation last summer. If you've been waiting for a post like this one, this is the chance to start reading. 

However, if you're bothered by spoilers or long articles, this might be a post to skip. 

While I do make some exaggerations in this article for humor and descriptions, I'm not trying to make everyone believe that The Tower of Terror is the worst ride ever, or that no one should ride it. 

I think it's a great experience for everyone, even though I didn't enjoy riding it the first time.

I'll also be sure to write about other fun experiences I had at Disney that will not be long, spooky, or have spoilers! :)

Life as a student in the month of May is a lot like the experience of riding "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" at a Disney park. In other words, "terror" definitely warrants the name.

The Tower of Terror reminds me a lot about what the month of May is like for high school/college students. So, I'm going to walk you guys through the first time I rode the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride and how it's a metaphor for my life right now as a student.

So you're walking in to this condemned place, feeling all jittery and excited like: "Oh my goodness, this is going to be a fun ride!" But I'm not a normal person, so I was interviewing everyone in my family who has ridden the ride before:
"Are you sure it's not scary?"
"My word, this is a tall building!"
"Is this even safe?"
"Ummm, why are there screaming people in the open window under the hotel sign?"
That's right, dear readers, the people who are currently on the ride are clearly visible and screaming looking out of an open window of this condemned, creepy building. And then the window mysteriously closes....
"Hey Mom, I don't know if I want to go on this ride."
Dad says, "Don't be ridiculous, it'll be fun."
Right. Of course. This is Disney World after all. Nothing to worry about.

Anyway, you finally get into the part of the line where you're inside of this creep-o place, and your first glance when you walk through the doors looks like this:

Yeah....is anybody else noticing that there are NO guests walking around the lobby of this hotel?
Is anybody else checking out the uncanny amount of cobwebs in this room?
Has the health department ever known about this?
And the question that of course, I'm thinking is: Why in the world am I still here?
Oh that's right, it's a Disney World ride...moving on. (At this point my dad is excitedly pointing out all of the special effects, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm going insane, or if I'm totally overreacting for no good reason.)
  • Student-life metaphor: You've been at school for a long time now (kind of like how you've been in line for a long time) and things were going pretty ok all year. It's been exciting and scary, but you've been doing really well. You start to think, "hmm, this is getting kind of creepy, maybe I should start preparing for the worst now" but of course, if you struggle with chronic procrastination like I do, you're not going to be thinking about preparing for the worst now, because you're being distracted (kind of like the absence of hotel guests and amount of cobwebs in the lobby). And...you just wait until the worst does come. It can't be that bad...
You walk in to this chamber of darkness and old books, and an old television set in the corner of the wall magically turns on and guess what program we're about to watch? The Twilight Zone! Cool, you've heard of this show! Hmm, never seen this episode before...

Rod Serling shows up on the screen and says,  "You unlock this door with the key of imagination, beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into . . . The Twilight Zone." Wow, this is going to be a good episode.

"Hollywood, 1939. Amidst the glitz and the glitter of a bustling young movie talent at the height of its golden age, the Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right..." Hey! That's the hotel we're in right now! Wait a minute... Are we in a Twilight Zone episode?
"The time is now, on an evening very much like the one we have just witnessed. Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard because in tonight's episode you are the star. And this elevator travels directly to...The Twilight Zone." Oh goodness. We're in a Twilight Zone episode. I guess I like The Twilight Zone, but I have NEVER wanted to be a part of it!

  • Student-life metaphor: Things are starting to pick up now. A little more stressful, some things are still familiar, but your teachers and assignments are now surprising you a lot like how the familiar storyteller Rod Sterling is surprising you with your participation in an episode of a story that you really DO NOT want to participate in. A storm is brewing, but you're still paralyzed by all of the surprises.

The creepy bellhop that led us into the library is kicking us out of the room because the video is finished, and we are now being led into a boiler room...getting in line to go on some really creepy elevators.

You look down right next to you, which happens to be right where the elevator generator is, and uh...there's sparks coming out of it, and...let's just say it's seen better days.

This is Disney World. I'll be safe. It's fine.

You're up. Time to get into the elevator. (I was sitting in the far back row on the left between my grandpa and my mom.) Thank goodness there are seat belts on this thing, and you immediately make the decision to buckle up, because you'll take any safety precaution you can get at this point.

Another bellhop checks to make sure that you're all buckled up and safe, she says some obvious safety stuff like hold on to the arm rests, don't unbuckle, and good luck.
Thanks, bellhop. Luck is exactly what I need right now...not.

  • Student-life metaphor: This is the part of the school year where you know you're about to take your last steps, if you will, and the rest is the ride to the finish. It's a little scary. You know that this ride is about to take you to summer and no homework and everything you've been waiting for all year long. But it's also a ride that takes you to final exams, missing your friends, finishing up every last assignment down to the last minute. But you're not giving up now. You're getting on this ride. The only thing that anyone can do is to wish you luck and make sure you buckle up.

The doors to the elevator close. Here we go...

All of a sudden you hear Rod Serling's voice: "You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone."
Oh boy. You can feel the elevator rising and all of a sudden, you can see down a long hotel corridor, and some ghosts say hi. Well, actually they don't really say hi, they wave at you...and wait a second, are they inviting you to come with them?

  • Student-life metaphor: These ghosts kind of remind me of the college students who talk about how miserable their life is during their final exams and end of the year stuff, because their end of the year always comes before we do. Those poor students always remind me that I'm about to go through the same difficulty very soon.

Lightning flashes, the ghosts are gone. Good thing too, because they were starting to freak you out.
Then the hallway disappears. All that's left is the window at the end.
What's going on here?
You see some really pretty stars and darkness, and then the window begins to move...
It quickly evolves into the window from the opening of the Twilight Zone--and the window shatters!

Stuff just got real.

Rod Sterling's back: "One stormy night long ago, five people stepped in the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. That door is opening once again and this time, it's opening for you."

Two words go through your head: Oh, crud.

KAPLAM! The elevator plummets (on my ride, the first drop was all fifty feet. The absolute lowest it can drop). It goes SO fast, that your bottom starts to come up off of the seat, only to be stopped by your seat belt (I told you those seat belts would be a blessing). You hold onto those armrests for dear life, close your eyes, and don't open them up again until you know you're safe.

The elevator rises and falls, rises and falls. Now, windows are starting to open up when you rise, and then drop. You can see the whole park from those windows--not that I would know, because my eyes were completely shut and my head was down the entire time.

My grandpa kept trying to take my hand when we were near the window and said, "Look up! It's great! Look up!" My only response was keeping my eyes shut and my head down, as I shook my head "nuh-uh, I can't. No way."

  • Student-life metaphor: You get hit hard with reality. Yes, you're coming to the very end, but your life is at its highest stress level that it's ever been. The best way you can handle it is to keep your head down, keep moving, keep studying, finish what you can, and don't stop until the last day of school is over. Each day feels like a harder and harder challenge to make it to the end. Fortunately, you have people with you trying to get you to enjoy the ride as you're trying to get to the end, but sadly, sometimes we still keep our heads down, and miss some of the good things.

Up and down, up and down, up and down. You're starting to worry for your life, it's so scary. You're even praying when you can. Up and down, up and down, up and down.

You finally go up and then come back down for the last time. It's over. You can open your eyes now. You're taking deep breaths. You're alive!!!

Rod Sterling's back again. Where was he when we were plummeting 50 feet?
"A warm welcome back to those of you who made it--"
Gee, thanks.
"--and a friendly word of warning, something you won't find in any guidebook: the next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling, or you may find yourself a permanent resident...of The Twilight Zone."

One of the first things you get to see before you exit is the picture of you "enjoying" the ride....or screaming your head off.

I still remember my picture on The Tower of Terror. As I said before, I was sitting in between my mom and my grandpa. They were holding my hands as I had my head down facing my knees, and eyes completely shut. Everyone in my family was saying, "Hey look! It looks like Hayley's praying!"
My response: "I was!!!"

  • Student-life metaphor: It's the last day of school and life is looking up for a change. Everyone is congratulating you, and maybe in some cases, you're graduating! You're looking back on the last few weeks, and the only thing that you can say is "Thank goodness I made it out alive." You get a whole 3 months before you'll have to experience anything like this again, but in the meantime, you can enjoy summer vacation. Hooray!

As my family and I were walking out of Tower of Terror about to move on to the next ride, I ran up to my dad and started talking about how SUPER SCARY that ride was. Who knows why, but he began to explain why Tower of Terror is his favorite ride, and you begin to wonder why people volunteer to get on a ride that will make you so stressed and terrified.

  • Student-life metaphor: Have you ever wondered why people volunteer to put themselves through high school and college, often willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars that will take their whole lives to pay off? Yet, when we think of school, we groan at the thought of it, remembering how difficult and scary it is?

On the ride home from our second day at Disney World, I looked at an advertisement billboard for Tower of Terror, and I looked at my mom and said, "You know, it's a good feeling when you conquer your fear by doing something that you didn't want to do. I can now say to myself that I rode a really dark, tall, and scary ride for the first time."

  • Student-life metaphor: One of the things that an education provides is being able to conquer our fears, and train ourselves to do hard things that we normally wouldn't ever want to do. For example, I'm about to finish a pre-calculus class, which was beyond a doubt one of the hardest classes I've ever had to pass. But even though I'm going to remember how much I struggled, I'm also going to remember how good I will feel when I finish it. And hopefully, I will remember the times where I worked as hard as I possibly could to conquer that fear and difficulty, and how it was all for the improvement of my mind and soul, and for the glory of God.

I know that many of you are about to enter finals or summer vacation, and I hope you all remember during this time that God is always there to help you and strengthen you, and that while something may be difficult and scary, the reward of conquering it is indescribable.

Another moral of the story is to not go exploring in creepy, abandoned hotels...
Unless, of course, they're at Disney World. :)

Questions for the Reader: Did you have any super scary and difficult classes this year? Have you ever been to a Disney park? Have you ever ridden a really scary ride like Tower of Terror? (Please tell me all about it in the comments, I love reading your stories!)

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 
--2 Corinthians 10:3-5