Friday, February 3, 2012

The Power of No

The Power of No

Open your eyes! Open your eyes!

This exhortation has been bellowed at me by every partner I’ve ever had on a ride at the fair as I sat folded in on myself like a clam, eyes shut, white-knuckled hands gripping the cold metal bar that held me in place. Knowing full well that I deplore thrill rides, I have nonetheless allowed myself to be coerced into their little metal death cars more times than I care to admit. School friends talked me into The Scrambler once, with disastrous results that involved the loss of my dinner behind one of the livestock display tents. Several years later, I was talked onto Space Mountain at Disneyland only to have it break down midway through the excursion, leaving me hanging like a side of beef, half upside down in total darkness.

The Songwriter himself has been successful in using his considerable powers of suggestion to place me squarely onto some of these rides, once sending me plummeting thirteen stories in the all too appropriately named Tower Of Terror. As my stomach relocated itself somewhere near the vicinity of my collar bone I made a decision.

Never again.

I didn’t say anything about it. I just calmly stood in line for the next loopdeloop with a smile on my face. But when the roller coaster cars came roaring into the station and everyone climbed aboard, I simply stepped into, and right back out the other side of, my car. I turned to see the startled face of The Songwriter as he flew off into oblivion, seated next to a tow-headed six year old boy. Sighing a peaceful sigh, I purchased a cool drink, took a book out of my straw bag, and sat down under a palm tree to await his return. Thus ended my thrill seeking career.

The power of “no” is a marvelously liberating one, but one most of us seldom employ. We trot off to lunches we’d rather not attend. We join committees we loathe. Now of course we all must do things we’d rather not, perhaps every day of our lives. There are dentist appointments and tax returns. We all have to muck out the stable sometimes. But I speak here of those extracurricular activities that we are no more bound to participate in than we are to fly. Why do we say yes, when we want to say no? I was once invited to a cutlery party by a neighbour. She was a very nice woman but try as I might I simply could not warm to the idea of sitting in a room full of ladies sipping wine and buying knives. So I called her up and told her I could not make it. She asked me why, a question I was unprepared for. So I told her the truth.

To be perfectly honest”, I said, “it just isn’t something I care to do.”

To my surprise she laughed a hearty laugh and praised me no end for my candor saying, “Good for you! If only I’d been so brave, I wouldn’t be having this damn thing at my house. I just didn’t know how to say no!”

It was my uncle who got me on my first ferris wheel when I was just a toddler. As the car we were in rose higher and higher in the air, swaying malevolently all the while, I became more and more terrified until I was too scared to scream. Then I noticed my father on the ground far below. His expression was grim and highly determined as he faced down the operator of the ride. I could read his lips as they formed the words,

Get Her Off This Thing. Now”.

Ignoring the line of riders waiting to board, the ride slowly, slowly, lowered until my little feet could touch ground and I ran like a bullet to Daddy.

You don’t ever have to do that again”, he said.

Such a valuable lesson.

It just took me awhile to learn.


  1. I also do not like the world of amusement rides, and in my younger years had a difficult time saying "no" to them. I use to get sick as soon as my feet touched the ground. A grim affair to say the least.
    As I wander into my fifties, I am learning to say "no" as you did to the cutlery party. It is a freedom that makes me smile inside and out. It is also empowering. Now, if only I could say "no" to the Tax Man. :)

  2. Wonderful.

    You and Edward, I should have mentioned this before, are gorgeous in autumn.


  3. I used to love these rides when I was young. Now that I am older they make me quiet uneasy.

  4. Hi Pamela,

    I need to say No more and in particular when it is jewellery or cutlery parties.

    I, too, am terrified of rides and for love nor money would I ever go on anything beyond small world. I learned the hard way, at Disney World about 30 yrs ago, I ask a young 7 yr old what his favourite ride was and he said Space Mountain, that was my first and last rollercoaster ride.

    I laughted at the visual of you entering the ride by one door and exiting on the far side.Clever

    Helen xx

  5. What a delight and like Helen I giggled at the picture of you calmly climbing in and then out!!!
    I must learn to say no too!!!

  6. Pamela, you are braver than I have been, it took me 74 years to learn that lesson but the last year and a half has been bliss . . .

  7. I love "No" and use it often. It's the art of saying "No" graciously that is difficult to achieve...I'm still learning also!

  8. In 1977 I went on the Space Mountain at Disney World. When I got off, with bruised knees (from bracing myself) I swore a solemn oath that I would never, ever go on another thrill ride. I've kept the promise to myself and am relieved every time I say 'no, I don't do that'.

  9. Last year my family and I went for the first time to Disneyworld. The Tower of Terror was the first and last ride I took.... Like you, I have more then slight side effects. Like you, I feel sick, sick sick!
    And like you I never enjoyed markets with any rides in town as a child. A carrousel is the closest I can get to.
    The same, I found out years later, holds true for skiing. I learned it when I was over thirty and after a nasty accident when I was forty I finally said NO! I have not regret it since. And I have had never any problems letting my family ski and all the while I walk, read, explore!
    It has ben peaceful and I spare my family my fretfulness. In this case an unsurmountable fear!

    Saying NO is an art and I try to walk the fine line between my true intensions, my little lazy devil inside and the things we do for love!

  10. I do like adventure, however I have finally learned to say no to excruciating committee meeting, Cutlery parties and such!

    Life is too short!
    Art by Karena

  11. Dear Pamela,
    Well, this is where we differ ..... I LOVE rides. When we went to Disneyworld I was in HEAVEN !! I loved it as much, if not more, than our children. We should be in The Guiness Book of Records for the amount of times we went on Space Mountain and The Tower of Terror must be one of my favourites of all time. The queuing was just as good as the ride itself for me !!.....and, don't get me started on Six Flags!! My only problem is that I can't go on rides that go round and round like the Teacup Ride....I know, it's pathetic ..... something to do with the inner ear. I can't even sit on the children's roundabout in the park but give me the biggest roller coaster and I'm in my element !
    As for saying NO well, the older I get the easier it has become. Definitely no Tupperware parties for me !! XXXX

  12. I love saying 'No' these days! 'It's not my sort of thing at all' is easy enough to say (now that I'm retired; I rarely dared say no when I was working and it's why I'm so glad to be out of there). It was a marvelous thing to learn, that setting boundaries for myself meant not that I could choose what others did, but that I could definitely choose what I would participate in. That discovery made me feel terribly powerful!

    The photos of you and Edward are stunning. Is it sheer coicidence that you both have similar hair colour or is that what drew you toward him?

  13. Wise words indeed Pamela. It took me a long time to say no - particularly to people who asked me to do things which I didn't have time to do. It is a very important word which needs using wisely.

  14. People who enjoy 'amusement' rides (aka: rides of terror) think we are missing out on fun and believe if they talk us into it we too will live fuller, more fun-filled lives.

    How many times I've had friends attempt to coerce me ... and a few times I gave in to the peer pressure. But there was no fun in fear for me. Same for horror movies, a definite NO. I watch some 'good verses bad' TV shows with my husband, which always always always show the details I do not need to see (at the crime scene or on an autopsy table) and I not only close my eyes, I cover them with my hand just in case my eyelids become see-through. A totally unneccessary make-up job that we do not need to see Hollywood!!!! Please take note!

    I live a fun, full life without a need for terror on those carnival rides, I am with you 100% on saying those 2 magic words ~ NO!

    ~ Violet

  15. I hate amusement park rides too, even as a kid. What a horrible story - being stuck upside down in the dark! I've learned to say no too.

    A late happy anniversary to you and the song writer!

  16. I'm with you. I also say 'no' to amusement park rides, and I don't think my children were maimed for life by not taking them (though they went with groups sometimes). I also say 'no' to violence, gore, and terror on TV and in movies. I just don't need that (though sometimes the violence is hard to escape). It's nice to reach an age where you can simply choose not to do something for your own reasons, and hold fast. Nothing worse than someone badgering you to do something you know you won't enjoy or won't fulfill any purpose. I've earned my right to be 'a stick in the mud'!

  17. What an eloquent reminder, just say no. I loved the story about saying no to the knife party. It's really simple, yet I am always saying yes with a smile, then regretting the event for the days/weeks until it happens. I'm going to try this and see how it feels.

  18. Yes I think it comes with age, the ability to say No and how wonderful it is, liberating in fact.

  19. Ahh...she is working her magic again...I smiled the whole way thru. Saying a hard thing to do. People seem to see me coming a mile away...sometimes I feel like Mikey from the Cheerio ad of our youth...ask Jeanne...Jeanne will do it...and she always does. Then something happened (the M word) you, I just a smile. If you had seen me in the back seat of our car last week going up down and around as we climbed the height of the Atlas Mountains in would see why I could never get on one of those rides! Some things never change. :)

    I discovered something new this week too...Following by Email..I love getting yours in my post box. Old dog learning new tricks?



  20. Amen, Sister! I say no, some might say, all too frequently. -smile- Especially since Dave died, I say no A Lot. It's the only way I can survive all the paperwork and other Must Do stuff that's required by law.
    I'm still trying to graciously say 'no' to rude people when they ask personal questions; that's taking more tact than I want to bring to the task.

  21. Brilliant Pamela... Note to self... Say No more often... You are absolutely right.... xv

  22. No one will ever get me on a ferris wheel ever again, but I wish I too could say No more often!

  23. Oh, I so agree about the thrill rides...since Space Mountain, I always stand aside for everything but the peaceful sky ride.

    Fun story...lotza giggles and nods along the way. :)

  24. I also hate roller coasters and the like. Luckily, my children hated them too. I think I learned saying No quite early. Your post is lovely and very funny.
    I keep reading you from the wet North of Spain, I love your blog.

  25. what a wonderful daddy! my daddy was of the persuasion of "buck up. stick it out. you can do it. builds character" type. you were never ever to quit if the going got tough. (my brother grew up to be serve as a marine in viet nam.) interesting, now that i think of it.
    to this day i have never been on a roller coaster. i'll get my character some other way, thank you!
    and as to no... it took me years and years to learn to say that simple little word. now i have no problem and life is fun!
    tammy j

  26. You say just the right words. Thank you !!


  27. This is such a smashing post Pamela! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it and recognising myself right the way through. I had to laugh at your description of deftly stepping out of the other side of the carriage. I bet The Songwriter's face was a picture, and got some earache afterwards!!
    You're a better gal than me to actually get on in the first place. I was always first to declare "No Way!" to my friends entreaties and became known as 'the girl who had hysterics on the caterpillar ride, and that one is for babies ;)) I think if I like you had been suspended half upside down in total darkness on a broken down Space Mountain I would have had grey hair standing on end much earlier.
    Now your Daddy sounds like the perfect knight in shining armour...wonderful!!

    Hugs Jane

  28. If we ever bump into each other at a carnival, I'll join you, and perhaps Edward, under the palm tree with my book Pamela!

    I really hate carnival/theme park rides too. The last one I was coerced into was Space Mountain at Disneyworld in 2000. Bob and granddaughter Jasmin 'made me' join them on their second go because it was 'awesome' they thought. I was so utterly terrified being rapidly tossed about in the dark - and unlike you didn't even have to hang upside down, I think I would have died at that point - I vowed never to get on another ride anywhere, and I haven't!

    That being so, back in San Francisco soon and hopefully getting the Zeppelin airship flight which was canceled last year! Hopefully I won't be nervous - will grit my teeth and enjoy..............because yes, I couldn't say NO. However I would to a 'knife party"!

    Great story - perfect illustration.
    Thanks so much for your very sweet recent comments on my Thailand/Vietnam photos etc.

    Hugs - Mary

  29. Good for you Pamela, no need for assertiveness classes for you. I could not agree more about theme park rides, why do people do that?

  30. Hehe... I can just imagine the look on the Songwriter's face. :) But good for you! I still need to learn how to say no.


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