The scalper on Peachtree Street wouldn't take no for an answer.
"Track and field," he said, holding a stack of tickets as thick as a deck of playing cards. "You need them."
"No, thanks," I said.
"Come on, man, track and field," he said.
"Thank you, no," I reiterated as he chased me down the sidewalk.
"I've got to get rid of these tickets," he pleaded. "Come on, man."
Enough was enough. I'd been pushed, shoved and trampled for an hour on a hot subway. Then a fascist security guard screamed at me over a bullhorn for poor escalator etiquette. And now I was being hunted by a maniacal ticket scalper who saw me as his sole salvation. That's when I snapped.
"Tickets? I don't need no stinkin' tickets!" I screamed.
He backed off. "Sorry, man."
Twelve days in Hotlanta had baked my brain. I'd had enough of the Olympics. I needed a release, a change of pace, or surely I'd go mad. That's when I saw it towering above the skyline, like a beacon guiding me home.
"You want to try it?" the man behind the counter asked. "Afternoon special, $25."
The machine looked like a monstrous sling shot with a love seat attached. You pay your money, they strap you in, then fire you toward heaven.
"Three Gs on the way up," the man said. "If you think you are stressed out now, wait till you're hanging 150 feet in the air upside down."
Good point, I thought. When things get hot, turn up the heat; then you'll think you were cool.
"It seats two," the man said. "That kid is waiting for somebody to ride with. Go ahead. Make his day."
Josh Peterson looked a little apprehensive as two women from Sweden exited "The Ejector Seat" ready to retch. Here's my chance, I thought, take out a little of my pent-up aggression on a defenseless 14-year-old from Dayton, Ohio.
"Looks pretty scary," I said as I sat down beside him. "Wonder what would happen if those big rubber bands broke at the apex of our flight and the chair flew off and landed in the middle of the interstate?"
Josh looked at me for a moment, as if to size up the threat. "We'd die," he said calmly.
This kid was going to be hard to scare.
"He does it all," said his father, who was listening through the fence. "Skateboard, Rollerblade, whitewater rafting."
Hmmmmmmmm. A daredevil. A real thrill seeker. Bet he cries for Mommy when he's 15 stories off the pavement.
"It will be fine," I reassured him. "I do this stuff all the time. Trust me. I'm a professional."
As handlers prepared the seat, I took a moment to read the sign. "Shut up. Get in. Hold on. Know Fear."
They strapped Josh in first. Then they came for me.
"Empty your pockets," Stan Brown said. "We don't want any accidents."
They pulled the straps uncomfortably tight. Then they locked a bar across my feet.
"What if I get sick up there?" I asked.
"Well, I think if somebody got sick on me I'd have to hit 'em," Brown said.
Good thing we cleared that up before launching. They asked if we both were ready. Josh nodded. I gulped. Then they lowered the seat and locked the trigger mechanism.
"Five, four, three, two, one."
The chair rocketed toward space, sending my stomach up my throat. A few hundred feet above, the Atlanta Police Department blimp floated peacefully by and I thought of the words to a Jimi Hendrix song, "Excuse me while I kiss the sky."
We lingered for a moment above the skyscrapers.
"You okay?" I asked Josh.
"Are you okay?" he responded.
Then we spun and tumbled straight toward the earth, the shocked faces of onlookers growing larger as we fell.
The bungee cords kicked in and the chair bounced back toward the clouds, spinning as it went.
Suddenly, as I floated there above Atlanta, the world seemed to stand still. The Earth seemed at peace. I turned to Josh and he smiled.
But it didn't last. Gravity took hold and sucked us back down to reality.
Three or four more times, then the chair bounced to a stop. They let us sit there a few moments so we could regain our composure. Then they lowered us to the ground.
"I'm glad you didn't get sick," Brown said.
"That makes two of us," I said.