February 18, 2009
Would you go over Niagara Falls in a barrel?
This question is making me hyperventilate. I’ve developed a severe fear of heights as I’ve gotten older, and at this point I can’t even get on a stepladder without getting the spins (yup, just like that famous scene in Vertigo). Not surprisingly, the thought of facing a 170-foot drop into rushing, ice-cold, rock-filled water leaves me feeling vaguely hysterical. It’s not necessarily a death sentence, though. People have managed to pull off this feat with minimal damage to life and limb. The first to do so was a 63-year old schoolteacher, Annie Taylor, who pushed off in 1901 and later commented, “No one should ever try that again.” It’s estimated that 16 people (not counting suicides, which average about 20 a year – a cheery thought!) have followed suit and gone over in barrels since then, and I’m kind of shocked to report that 11 of them survived the trip. Those are pretty decent odds, really – about 70%. And unlike those boneheads … er, adventurers, I’d be guaranteed a large payout when (if?) I emerged from my vessel (unlike poor Mrs. Taylor, who died in poverty after expected profits from post-leap lecture tours and publicity failed to materialize). Still, there’s no way in hell that you’re going to see me suiting up for a dive any time soon. My answer to this dare is a big, fat “No way.”
Fun fact: Did you know that barrel-jumping the falls is illegal under the Niagara Parks Act? If the threat of a horrible, watery death isn’t deterrent enough, aspiring daredevils should consider the cost of fines and court fees before they leap.
No. I don’t think there’s any amount of money you could pay me for this, so even bargaining is out of the question (which is kind of rare for me). Why would I throw myself off some super high point – wait, it gets better – in a fucking barrel? (The question is actually moot and kind of a tricky because the answer is: I would not for any reason).