The term “bucket list” has been loosely thrown around since 2007, the year that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman starred in the film of the same name. The term was coined by the film’s screenwriter, Justin Zackham, and it refers to a list of things a person wants to do before they die.


Coming up with one’s own personal bucket list differs greatly from person to person, depending upon the type of person one happens to be.  Some approach the task with serious thought, adding such things as “see the Pope” or “visit Alaska” to their list.  Others long for the improbable dream, such as “meet Paul McCartney” or “play center field for the Yankees.  While a third group opts for the hedonistic pleasures of life, such as “date a Playboy bunny” or “eat bacon until I pass out.” Each list reflects the innermost desires of the individual, and can be quite revealing – sometimes in disturbing ways.

Agoraphobics have bucket lists, too. Those more seriously-afflicted may opt for goals that might seem simple to everyone else.  They might find ultimate elation in being able to attend their daughter’s wedding, being able to speak in public, or leaving the house without a panicky feeling in the stomach.

The more progress I make in dealing with my agoraphobia, the more I find myself adding things to my bucket list.  My goals expand with my increasing ability to leave my home and to deal with crowds of people. This blog entry is dedicated to my accomplishing something on my bucket list this past summer: taking the boat ride at the foot of Niagara Falls.

I had wanted to do this for some time; but I always kept the secret of this desire to myself.  This past summer, I shared it – and once I did, there was no backing out. I packed my bags and my satchel full of stomach-soothing products, stuffed my passport into my pocket, and headed to Canada with my wife, knowing that, even if she couldn’t soothe my nerves, she would hold my stuff while I upchucked. It was a good plan.

Getting across the border was the first hurdle.  Although I have nothing to hide, for some strange reason I think I will wind up trying force an innocent-looking face upon myself and therefore look like a criminal. I calmed my nerves by telling myself that my wife could hold my stuff while I was being strip-searched.  It was another plan.

Once across the border and settled into Niagara Falls, we walked toward the rushing sounds of the water and the blood-curdling screams of the people drowning in the choppy water at the base of the falls. I began to get nervous.  I prepared my stuff for handing over to my wife.

We located the boat tour service, “Capt. Pepe’s Niagara Falls Tours,” and got in line along with the hundreds of others, who no doubt had similar lists and people to hold their stuff. I gazed at the sign that read “The most scenic tour of the Falls as voted by Daredevil Magazine. Double your money back if you drown.” I began to have doubts.

We paid our money, and a man with a sly smile on his face handed us a flimsy red plastic poncho, no doubt to be used to locate you if you fell overboard. He handed everyone a piece of paper with instructions not to take anything with you that you “cared about” and a disclaimer in case of bodily injury.  Looks like Capt. Pepe was off the hook.

Paying customers were then herded down a steep, slick ramp and shoved onto a boatniagara-1 where we stood elbow to elbow awaiting departure – in one way or another. Then, a voice came over a loudspeaker with further instructions:

“This is Capt. Ed.  I want to welcome you to your official tour of the rapids at Niagara Falls.”

Rapids?  Did he say rapids?” I asked my wife, who shot me a dirty look.

Capt. Ed continued, “I would like to express my sincerest of thanks to all of you aboard, as this is my first trip since the accident.”

I started looking for the exit, but there was none.  A crewman had chained us in.

“Now for the emergency instructions in case we capsize,” said Capt. Ed. “You will find flotation vests in a cabinet marked “DISASTER” in the center of the boat.

“Where?  Where are the vests?” I asked.  Then I noticed that they were in a large chest with people sitting on it.  I closed my eyes and said ten Hail Mary’s.

niagara-4Then, the boat took off – straight for the Falls – and the rocks.

The roar of the water grew louder, and I couldn’t hear a thing. I looked skyward and saw all sorts of swarming gulls and buzzards, looking full and fat, no doubt from frequent meals at the base of the falling water grave site.

I took out the tiny camera from my pocket and began snapping pictures – for evidence. I kept snapping until the water soaked my eyeglasses to the point where I could no longer see.  I tried looking underneath them, and I could see that we had navigated past the American Falls, a long, horizontal waterfall on out left, and were now headed straight for the center of the Horseshoe Falls, and a watery death.

I kept snapping pictures blindly because I knew that if I survived, it would make a niftyniagara-6 blog entry. When we got precariously close to the center, I returned the camera to my pocket, handed the rest of my stuff to my wife, and hung on for dear life as the boat listed from side to side.

From that point on, I could not tell what was happening.  Every part of me that was not under the poncho was soaked.  I didn’t dare try to clean my glasses for fear of dropping them into the water. Soon, the boat stopped rocking and I could sense we were turning around.  The din of the water stopped and my stomach un-clenched.  Finally, when I had enough balance to avoid falling, I wiped off my glasses and enjoyed the view on the way back.

I had done it!  I survived the trip past the Falls!  What a magnificent adventure!  Here are some photos of the fun…

niagara-3     niagara-5



About Joe

Freelance designer and writer whose goal is to help others by writing about my experiences with fear and anxiety (agoraphobia), health struggles (cancer) and my wonderfully-happy life as a husband and stay-at-home dad. I want to empower everyone to have a happy life.

8 responses »

  1. commakazes says:

    What a fun read. In the last picture (You with Glenda) you look so much like my brother that I was mesmerized and almost didn’t notice the loch ness monster in the background. Looks like you escaped with your life Joe.

    ~ Debbie


  2. This is a wonderful read, Joe! Thanks for helping us understand a little about what it means to be agoraphobic. Your great way with wit makes it all seem less painful, but I know that it must be hard. Great story!

  3. Colleen says:

    Love the rainbow falls shot. All the times I’ve gone to the falls I’ve never ridden the Maid of the Mist. I definitely have it on my bucket list now.

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