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.