Bernie Delinski

It started innocently enough.

I was just sitting in a nice, comfy chair and putting on these big ol' goggles.

I soon was to learn that the chair was called a "pod," and I was about to get my first experience of the VR world.

VR is short for virtual reality, and let me tell you something, that reality part is highly accurate.

This happened recently while I was at a Florence business that has VR pods. The workers asked if I wanted to go on a "Castle Roller Coaster" ride in one.

Now, I always assumed VR just involved sitting there, watching something through goggles.

I assumed wrong. Granted, in reality that is all that happens. But this was not simply reality. This was virtual reality.

In hindsight, I should have been worried when they showed me the seat belt in the pod and told me to buckle up. I should have been worried when they showed me a control knob for each hand and told me I wouldn't need it for this ride, but I might want to use it to "hang on."

After all, I'm just sitting down watching a show, right?

Right.

In reality.

But this was virtual reality.

So, I buckled up, mainly to humor the workers, and donned the goggles. What happened next is something I'm still trying to figure out.

I suddenly was on a roller coaster that slowly was ascending tracks that weaved around a castle surrounded in part by what appeared to be an ocean.

Somehow, I felt myself moving, even though I was sitting completely still. Soon that seat belt seemed rather important to me, and I reached down and tightened it. I'm sure the workers got a chuckle out of that one.

Finally, the coaster reached a peak and I (gulp!) knew it was time to head down. Those hand grips seemed like a pretty good idea long about then. I grabbed them and the coaster zoomed downward.

So help me, I envisioned my obituary ("He died while just sitting in a store") and realized I was in for the ride of my life.

I mean that sucker was booking it as it descended toward my soon-to-be grave. The twisted people who designed this ride thought it would be funny if at several points they'd make it seem like I was about to leave the tracks on the way to my demise into the ocean. So help me, I think I even saw a shark!

I'm not ashamed to admit I let out a yelp or two along the way.

Finally, I safely reached the bottom and the ride ended.

Relieved, I removed the goggles and triumphantly stood. Well, stood for a moment. I was pretty dizzy.

So there, I did it. I survived my first VR experience.

I was frightened. I was helpless. I was pitiful.

And for some reason that I can't explain, I can't wait to do it again.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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