Monday, November 20, 2006

I Once Saw a Frenchman's Testicles

True story. It was in the ice cream shop--more loss of innocence.

In the early 90s, the preferred style of shorts was, well, not very short. Therefore, to be contrary, the Park decreed that we must wear what could be described as hot pants, and I swear, they we partially made out of paper. My friend, Kerry, used to describe said uniform as "soul-crushing." She wasn't wrong. These things were short and uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to wear and uncomfortable to watch someone else wear, as we shall soon see.


I mentioned the Brit, right? The poor exchange student who was bamboozled into near slavery at an American water park? So the Brit had friends--other foreigners who'd visit Fitzgerald's on their breaks for free ice cream. Together the Brit and the other foreigners would lament being stuck in podunk America, and plot how they could illegally get some beer, which was perfectly within their rights at home. Seriously, these poor guys.

My favorite was the French guy. Let's call him "Antoine." Antoine would come by for ice cream and I'd practice my 9th grade French on him. "Je m'appelle Melissa. J'ai quatorze ans." He thought I was adorable. He'd visit often.

During one visit, Antoine was tired and decided to set a spell. He hopped up on the counter, which didn't matter because we never had customers, anyway. As he was plotting, "Ah got a ride to zee leeker store; zees weel be zee beegest party," he pulled up his legs and hugged his knees.

And there they were. Balls. French balls.

And where does one look when one is 14 and has never seen a set of grown-up, hairy balls--not to mention grown-up, hairy, foreign balls? Oh, it was terrible! I couldn't look and I couldn't NOT look. I was so uncomfortable and self-conscious and terribly afraid of ever sitting in the shorts again for fear of displaying my unmentionables! What to do?

I scooped him some ice cream.

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.


Monday, November 13, 2006

The Importance of Protective Covering

Like Melissa, my first job at the Park was in the Food & Beverage Department. It was one of the only departments that would hire a 14-year-old.* And believe me when I tell you, you don't want your lunch made by a bunch of bored 14-year-olds. And you REALLY don't want to eat anything that came out of the deep fryer. When it got slow, we would amuse ourselves by throwing things into the oil to see what would happen. It was like science class but, you know, stupid. Plastic cups? They became frisbees! Whee! Loose change? Boy, it sure is fun to throw hot quarters onto the floor for unsuspecting Park patrons to pick up!

On rainy days, most of us would be sent home. But sometimes, management would keep some of us around for projects that couldn't really be completed during normal operating hours. One such day, my friend Emily, a senior(!) named Chris and I were dispatched to Papa's Pizza with some rubber gloves, a bottle of mysterious pink stuff and instructions to clean the ovens. Simple enough. But that pink stuff was probably supposed to be diluted, or something. Despite the rubber gloves, we all ended up with chemical burns on our forearms. Management's response? Wash it off. Then take the rest of the afternoon off. (No hospital, no incident report, I don't remember even going to First Aid.) So Chris drove us to the Dairy Queen and then we spent the rest of the afternoon hiding in the Festival Tent, drinking wine coolers we stole from the stock room. Woo!

*The others being Parking and General Services. Neither of which was an appealing option for me. Stand in the parking lot all day? Bor-ing. Pick up garbage and clean public bathrooms? Grody.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ice Cream, Light Bulbs, and the Loss of Innocence

My first job at the Park was in Fitzgerald's Ice Cream Shop in Cobblestone Village. It boasted a broken waterwheel and a sign that advertised homemade ice cream with Belgian waffles. We had neither. There was a constant influx of optimistic guests who really thought they might get a fresh, hot Belgian waffle with vanilla ice cream melted on top. Sounds good, doesn't it? I had to tell them that we were "fresh out." It was June and it was my first job. At 14, I did what the 18 year-old supervisor told me to do. For a while, at least.

One time, a customer claimed that she was "seriously pissed" not be getting a waffle. This disturbed my co-worker, a disappointed British exchange student who had come to "see America," or New York City, at least. It turned out that just getting a ride to the A&P was a big deal for him. Anyway, my Brit friend, being a Brit, took "pissed" to mean "drunk," and thought we'd have this reeling, beer-soaked wench screeching about waffles. Alas, no. But we chuckled over the language barrier.

The summer went on without incident. Other than the waffle controversy, and the fact that I was feeling increasingly guilty about the "fresh out" lies, things weren't bad and I was an obedient little food&bev girl. And then.

The skies opened one evening in August and we had a rush of campers in the shop. They were shivering and soaked, but they wanted ice cream. I was madly scooping when a flourescent bulb in the ice cream case burst, sending shards of glass and some powdery substance into the open containers of butter pecan, vanilla, and chocolate. I called over my 18 year-old supervisor.

"We need more ice cream. A bulb burst into the case," I told him.
"Scrape off the top and serve it. We don't have time."
"No, you don't understand. There's glass in the ice cream."
"And I'm telling you to scrape off the top and serve it." He gave me a threatening stare. It was the threatening stare that did it. Because while he attempted to intimidate me, I realized that I wasn't intimidated. My "boss" was just a kid, and a stupid kid at that.

"If you want these children to eat glass," I announced, "then you serve it to them." And I thrust the scoop into his hand.
One of the counselors overheard us. "There's glass in the ice cream?" she asked.
"Yes, Ma'am. You may just want to go get pizza next door," I told her.
"How about you just give me a waffle with no ice cream?" she asked. Silence.
"Ma'am," I replied, glaring at my supervisor, "I have never even seen a waffle in this place."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It all started with Wikipedia

Actually, that's not true. It all started when I was 14 and dissatisfied with my meager allowance. But we'll get to that later. For the purposes of this blog, it all started with Wikipedia. Specifically, this article.

Now, I used to work at the park in question. As did most of my friends. And while most of what was written in the article was probably true, or at least true to those who wrote the article, it really didn't cover my experience. Which was singular. And universal at the same time. It was nothing if not a giant contradiction. Which I will try to distill here. Hopefully, with the help of some of my friends who were there with me. They're the only ones who would want to read it anyway.