Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Being for the Benefit of the Nondescript Family-of-Four

The stories of how the deregulation of King Gene's empire influenced the safety and well-being of patrons and employees alike could easily fill volumes of virtual space. I too suffered burns on the job at the hands of mismanagement, as a minor, but was fortunate enough to be sent to First Aid (but had to find my own ride home- with my parents out-of-town and no such policy on parental notification). The first aid attendant bandaged my second-degree burns, and, with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, advised me that, "if it gets worse, you should probably see a doctor."

Little did I know that this first experience with the Park's esteemed emergency services would lead me to a lifelong career in the healthcare field.

But first, I had to pay my dues.

I was hired to work the Park's First Aid Department fresh out of EMT school and couldn't wait to spend my summers riding around in those golf carts that, as a lowly F&B grommet, I always saw the EMTs driving while I slaved away behind the grease-fire grills. Uniforms emblazoned "EMT;" tending to the Aqua Skoot wounded; copping a peek at the misfortunes of teenage girls that searched franticly in the Surf Hill lanes for their bikini tops? This was definately the job for me.

But as it turned out, every day was a mass casualty incident.

As had been reported in Weird NJ, patron-controlled attractions and unabated alcohol consumption proved to be strange bedfellows- sometimes resulting in the utter hilarity of human stupidity, other times in the tragedy of collateral damage for some nondescript family-of-four that had to find their way to the local podunk Emergency Department because their kid was run over by a drunken alpine slider. Hundreds of people were maimed here, every week. I learned more in three summers at the Park then in four year of nursing school.

Downgrading of severity of injuries by First Aid management was commonplace to keep their statistics under the radar of the Department of Health. One day you would resuscitate someone (a code "red [really bad]" and come in the next day to find out it was downgraded to a code "green [bumps and bruises- but hey, you'll be OK]") Some days you treated so many people so quickly it was hard to even get their names. Other days you had time to play games with the patrons.

Our favorite was called "the Box." Patrons would come in to FA with abrasions (sometimes head-to-toe) from the Alpine Slide. Picture rugburn at 40 mph. In the infinite wisdom of our vocationally trained management, the best treatment for this injury was a spray called tincture of thimerisol (a combination of iodine and mercury, but hey, what don't kill ya [right away] only makes ya stronga). This stuff burned like the goddamn bejayzus, or so I was told by everyone who received it. It burned so bad, people ran around FA, sometimes screaming, often running out the doors into the GS lot.

Did I mention that First Aid was right next to the dumpsters and grease traps?

So we invented this game. We painted a 2 foot by 2 foot box on the floor in First Aid, and told patrons that if they could stand and remain in it while we hosed them down with this pink shit, they would win a prize. Most of these patrons, being drunk and male, were up for the sport. In three summers, after treating literally thousands of people with "Alpine Abrasions," only once did someone actually stay in the box. Imagine our shock and subsequent concern when we realized that we had never actually come up with a contingency plan to award a prize for this feat. The best we could produce on-the-spot was a Park pen. Boy, was he pissed.

But in the end, I will always look back with fond memories on my days at the Park. To this day I still have a close bond with colleagues from FA that can only be described as similar to that of people that have lived through some of the most shocking and horrible human tragedies. We fended off wild Latino mobs after they were disgraced by a pummeling from the resident jouster. Punched in the face by a Biggie-sized black woman as I tried to stabilize her boyfriend's dislocated shoulder. Patting down someone's scalp after an unfortunate "meeting" with the bottom roller of the Aqua Skoot.

But to put all the joking and sarcasm aside, it was always sad to see some family whose $200 day was ruined in part because the Park's management did not put the time or effort into providing a safe, quality environment for people to enjoy themselves. Whether I was an instrument of the Park's machine, or provided some semblance of compassion and reason (I hope the latter), we were all perishable resources that the Park consumed with a voracity that has only been matched by the New King of Hardyston's penchant for building golf courses and townhouses.



therese said...

From a practical stand point, First Aid was probably in the best possible place. Central location, easy and discreet access to the parking lot thus sparing the panic and bad PR of ambulances driving through the Base Area... Doesn't change the fact that it was totally gross over there. They could have at least tried to come up with some sort of separation between the injured and the garbage.

Melissa said...

First Aid also had air-conditioning (you bastards). One sad year, I was in the unfortunate position of having to work in the off-season. My job for the first week of the fall was to enter all the summer's injuries into an excel spreadsheet. It took me an entire 40 hour work week. I typed fast and ate lunch at my desk. Yeah.

tflynn said...

There were always rumors when we'd go to get on unemployment at the end of the summer that The Park would call us back to do trivial work like data entry, etc.,in the Fall. Once I recieved a call from HR after I filed my unemployment that I could come back and wash windows or something and if I didn't do it I wouldn't be eligible for unemployment. I asked if this work involved patient care, which it of course didn't. I refused the work and they were forced to pay me $400 a week through unemployment. I was the richest kid in my apartment on campus, and I didn't even have to work! Still, I'd say I paid my dues those summers, even with the air conditioning.

00doc said...

I used to work first aid there in the mid 80's (maybe 83 through about 86). The jump box (as we called it) was invented while I was there. We used to track how par people would jump out of it with a piece of tape on the floor and the kudo's would go to the one who did the spraying when a new record was set.

The "pink stuff" was tincture of thermerisol. It was used mostly because it was cheap. At one point Christine (the supervisor) had some extra money in the budget so she thought she would spring for Zephram, a clear product that did not sting or stain. People got upset at the LACK of a sting and accused us of using water and not cleaning their wounds adequately. After a few weeks of taking more abuse for not hurtng them than we used to take for hurting them we went back.

MR10 Driver said...

I also worked first aid when you did Tom.

What a great job.. I only worked part time on weekends and weekdays here or there.

First aid was protected by our manager. She told us that we ran the park, could shut down a ride when we wanted (and we did). I'm gonna space on the name (Marge? no..damn!). Christine was her assistant. She love Tom and I because we were both scorpios. So we could really do no wrong (although I remember Tom being on the bad list more than once!)

The AC was great, but I liked being out on the hill... walking around watching all the RA's work their tales off. We'd find a nice place to sit in the shade, watch the sites. It was important to be at least mid slope. You did not want to run up cardiac hill for an emergency only to die when you got there.

Was a good start for me. I became a Registered Nurse... and now i'm in healthcare management.

I still tell people it was the best job ever.


MR10 Driver said...

Alright...still can't remember the boss's name at first aid.

Corinne was the second in charge, not christine.

Killing me that I cannot remember her name??? She was always in full makeup, jewelry, long nails... her husband even worked first aid for a while. I love her cuz she was so ballsy.

therese said...

I beleive her name was Charlotte. She was, as they say, a real character.