“Squid, make sure to mention that you just had your eighteenth birthday yesterday.  That might up your odds of being chosen.”  I wanted my stepson to have the best chance possible of being chosen to participate in the live “Fear Factor” show at Universal Studios.  It was something he really wanted to do.

It must have worked because he was one of six contestants chosen for the 5:30 show.  We were all so excited.  We had seats on the second row and I had my camera ready.  The contestants were introduced, we cheered loudly for Squid, and watched a little nervously as he and the other contestants positioned themselves on platforms high above the ground.  Safety harnesses were attached.  In a few moments the platforms would drop and the contestants would have to hang on to yellow handles for as long as they could.  The four contestants who held on the longest before dropping would move on to the second round.

 We were positive Squid could make it to the second round.  Then a worker for the show walked up behind Squid and removed his safety harness.  She conversed with him for a few seconds and they began to leave the platform area.  It was announced that something had gone wrong with the platform Squid was standing on and that he would not be able to finish the show, although he was guaranteed a spot in the 7:00 show if he desired.

We were bummed.  We had wanted to see the 5:30 show and then move on to other attractions in the park.  We finished watching the show (Yawlin got to participate by blasting the remaining contestants with a water cannon as they performed their next stunt) and then we stood in front of the attraction to wait for Squid and to see whether or not he wanted to participate in the 7:00 show. 

A man in a white Universal Studios shirt approached me.  “Are you Squid’s family?”


“I feel bad that he didn’t get to finish the show.  Have you been on the “Men in Black” ride or the “Simpson’s Ride” yet?  I can get you all on one of those rides right now, if you want.”

“You can?”

“Yes, I work here.  If Squid decides to do the next show he is going to have to wait here.  I can get the rest of you on a ride while you wait for the next show to start.  It will help you kill some of the time.  You won’t have to wait in line at all.  You will skip everyone in line.”

Squid did decide to do the next show and Juju and I volunteered to participate in part of the show as well.  The rest of the family voted to ride the “Simpson’s Ride” and went off with our new friend, Ryan.  He really did get them right on the ride without any wait time and then they came back for the 7:00 show.

The 7:00 show was fun.  Squid made it to the second round but was then eliminated because the person he was partnered with couldn’t throw worth a darn.  Juju downed a nasty smoothie of rotten fish parts, sour milk, meal worms, and other disgusting things.  And I got to have five Emporer scorpions placed on my head.     

After the show Ryan approached us again and asked if there were any other rides we wanted to go on.  Since Squid, Juju, and I hadn’t yet experienced the “Simpson’s Ride” we opted for that one and Ryan again walked our family right on to the ride–no waiting.  When the ride was over he took us to the “Mummy’s Revenge” (a family favorite) and walked us on to that ride too.

We visited with Ryan and found out that he only works at Universal Studios as a paramedic part time, the rest of the time he is a firefighter/paramedic for Orlando, which was exciting for me to find out because my dad is a retired fire chief and I have a brother who is a firefighter.  We found out that Ryan likes to visit with park visitors when he is off duty and help them in any way he can.  When we asked him why he chose our family to serve that day he said it was because we have nine people.  “That must be so expensive!” he exclaimed.  “Nine people, wow!”

Ryan continued offering to get us on rides and even offered to get us food at any restaurant in the park at a discounted price.  We didn’t want to take advantage of him so we declined, but he did insist on giving us his phone number and told us to meet him in “Islands of Adventure” today at 2:00 and he will get us on any of those rides without a wait.  The kids are thrilled.  They’ve decided Ryan is their new best friend.

I have challenged each person in our family to find someone to serve in some way while we are on this trip.  That has been happening and is the subject of another post, but we never expected to be the recipients of another’s kindness.  The kids can’t believe someone would be so nice to take time out of their day to walk us around and get us on any rides we desire. 

We asked Ryan several times last night why he was being so nice and he always brought up the size of our family.  Then one time he said, “We should all be nicer people.  The world would be a better place if people were nicer to each other.” 

Yes, indeed.