Monday, April 30, 2007

Weebles Wobble But They Don't Jump Down

I recently read that the Dean of Admissions at MIT resigned because she fabricated her academic credentials way back in the 70's. Which reminded me of a bungee supervisor at the Park, who also acheived power through a lie. (dun Dun DUN!!) His name was Bill, but we called him Weeble. Because that's what he looked like. He was red-faced and shiny and round. And while Weebles, with their wobbling and their not falling down, give joy to children, Bill was a total douche. And though Marilee Jones fibbed on her resume, she apparently was very good at her job and was beloved by the MIT community and the world of higher education. Bill was completely incompetent. And he wore lame sunglasses.

Now you may be saying, "Come on, Therese! Are you really equating the dean of one of the most prestigious colleges in the U S of A to a low-level supervisor at an amusement park remembered more for its injury rate than its rides and attractions?" Yes. Yes, I am.

Anyhoo, one of the former bungee supervisors had moved to Colorado and his position needed to be filled. Enter the Weeble. According to his resume, he had been a bungee supervisor someplace in upstate New York. Or maybe it was the Jersey shore. The point is, no one checked his references. He got the job. At first, we just thought he was a dick. But a dick you kind of felt sorry for, because he was the kind of dick who desperately wanted to be popular.

Then we started noticing that, though he would frequently climb the tower to offer the jumpmasters his opinion, he never jumped. He would always walk back down the stairs. Weird. And he was frequently out of his area. He'd be spotted in down in Motorworld, or up at Surf Hill. Once, he even came to check on me at the summit of the Alpine Slide. Which, despite what has been said about Water World, really was the easiest position in the entire Park. You literally just sat there all day because, legally, someone had to be there. There was no contact with patrons, since they got off at a mid-station. You might possibly have to maybe take a cart off, if they missed it at the top of the slide. And someone might call you to ask about the weather, since the spot was at the top of a mountain and thus offered a pretty sweet, and long, view. It was a great place to get a tan, read, smoke the smoke... But I digress.

He would show up for the interdepartmental water polo games (held afterhours in the Wave Pool) not to compete or to cheer on our team, but to leer at his female subordinates in bathing suits. The day after one match, he came up to me at the tower and said, "Therese, I saw another side of you last night. Of your top half, that is." Ew! Inappropriate, and worse, not even funny!

Management caught on to his duty-shirking, sexual-harassing ways pretty quickly. Upon a belated check of his references, it was found that he exaggerated his qualifications. He had worked at another bungee facility, but briefly and not in any sort of supervisory capacity. The Weeble was shown the door.

Several months later, as I was buying a ridiculous pair of white vinyl go-go boots at the Joyce Leslie in the Rockaway Mall, my friend Stacey came tearing up to me with a look of horror-spiked delight on her face. She had spotted Bill and his lady friend at the back of the store shopping for racy underthings. You stay classy, Weeble!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Orange Soda

Double shifts and 60-hour work weeks were common at the Park. It was the only way to rack up enough hours to qualify for an unlimited ski season pass and besides, all your friends were at the Park, so what else were you going to do? Might as well come to work.

One day, my friend Mark* and I were pulling doubles at the top of the Bungee Tower. It was well into the afternoon and neither of us had had a break. Mark got on the radio and tried to get someone to relieve us, but we were short on jump masters that day and it was going to be awhile before anybody would be able to come up. A few minutes later my sister Anne Marie came back from her break. Mark called down for her to come up because he needed an orange soda. Anne Marie put on a harness and made her way up the tower. Mark jumped down and took off towards the Lodge. A few minutes later, we saw him out in the parking lot, walking toward his car. Confused, I yelled out to ask him where he was going. Mark made a vague gesture, got into his VW and drove away. All the way to his mom's house in Florida. For the rest of the season, the orange soda was our rallying cry anytime we felt exploited or unappreciated.

Fast forward 10-plus years. Mark and Jen, his girlfriend, showed up at my last birthday party, said hello and promptly disappeared. I later found out that they left after waiting at the bar for 20 minutes without so much as a nod from the bartender. Jen's all, "We can't leave! We just got here! It's Therese's birthday!" Mark's response, "She knows about the orange soda. She'll understand."

*Mark T, not to be confused with Opposite Song-singing Mark B.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Ride That Spawned A Thousand Legends

I give you the most notorious ride at the Park, the Cannonball Loop- pictured here on one of the rare days it was operational:

Yes, it is a looping water slide. Crazy, I know. Rumors that someone got stuck at the top of the loop or that a dummy was dismembered during testing were just that- rumors. I think...

This was an enjoyable ride to attend, because most people were completely afraid of it, so you didn't have much to do but sit around and talk with your co-workers. Though if your co-workers were creepy, as they sometimes were, then it wasn't so much fun. Anyway, on the infrequent days that we had enough staff on hand and enough patrons in the Park to justify opening the Loop, the protocol went like this:

  • Manager and maintenance inspect the ride for proper water pressure, cracks in lining that could snag a rider, etc.
  • Employee volunteers are sought to test the ride. When no one volunteers, incentives (bribes) are offered, lunch, cash, a date with a Jungle Chick...
  • Eventually some poor fella agrees to be the tester. He (it was always a he) strips down to his shorts, removes any jewelry, is hosed down (for maximum slippery-ness) and off he goes into the tube, to emerge seconds later looking shaky and pale.

Once the ride was cleared for operation, the waiting began. Like I said, most patrons were too afraid (0r too sensible) to attempt the Loop. And a good portion of those who wanted to were nixed because of inappropriate attire- anyone wearing anything with zippers or grommets or anything that could possibly cause a snag was turned away. Too big? Sorry, you could get stuck. Too small? Ooh, you probably won't get up enough speed to clear the top, why don't you try the Bumper Boats instead?

If the rider got to the top, he (Again, the riders were mostly dudes. Read into that what you will.) suffered the final indignity of being sprayed with a garden hose. The top attendant then instructed the rider on the only acceptable ride position (on your back, feet first, arms folded across chest, ankles crossed), waited for the hatch attendant to check inside for any weirdness (cracks, water not flowing, etc), and then WHOOSH! Off they went. They made a godawful racket in there, with the bumping around and the screaming, but they always made it out alive, though no one was foolish enough to ride it a second time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

All Right, Get on the Bus!

This is one of my favorite Park memories of all time:

This guy here? This is Jamie. He's one of my absolute faves. I stopped by to see him one day and we found this bus in a storage room. It was originally used as a display in one of the retail shops. I don't know who came up with the idea of getting into the display, but Jamie seized on it. It took some wriggling, but he managed to get in relatively easily. Getting him out was more difficult, but I'm pleased to say that both he and the bus survived.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fruit as Projectile.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that all anyone ever did while working at the Park was act like a responsibility-shirking jerk, but, since most of the job involved sitting around waiting for something to happen, you made your own fun. And that fun was mostly of the Jackass variety.

Watching Michael & Dwight throw a watermelon off the roof of Dunder-Mifflin on the Office last night reminded me of one of those times. For a few seasons in the mid-90s, the Park featured a ride called the Sling Shot. It was billed as "Reverse Bungee Jumping." Two people were strapped into a pod, which was suspended by thick rubber cords between two metal poles. Increase the tension on the cords and boom! The pod goes flying upward. And then downward. And then upward again. (See this similar, but somehow safer-looking, ride in Reno, NV.) It was fantastically scary-- not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

One night, just after the Park closed, the attendants decided to see what would happen if they launched a watermelon. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect. (As long as what you expected was a watermelon-sized crater at the base of the ride and an impressive pattern of fruit splatter. Oh, and MOD Al's apoplectic episode when he discovered the damage the next morning.)

Water World Wars

Most of my Park days were spent working in Water World. Someone paid me to stand around in a bathing suit and get a tan. It's what I would have done all summer anyway so why not collect a pay check? Of course, I took my life guard class and test, and I passed (Thank God my brother DJ was one of the instructors) but I worked as a "ride attendant". I spent my days watching people ride the tube ride and, one year, sliding down Surf Hill. I also gave a lot of "Hello good morning and welcome to the Park..." speeches. Water World was a cush job regardless of which ride you worked.

Every summer we had Water World Wars. All of the employees in water world came to the park one hour before it opened, broke into 2 teams divided by the rides we worked on and competed in the most absurd events you can imagine. We essentially rode every single ride in water world in a way the ride was not intended to be used and in ways that we would have kicked people out of the park for. Of course I don't actually recall there being a prize for the winning team. Maybe there was, but more likely not.

So in my first year as a ride attendant I competed in Water World Wars. In the midst of a tough race we came to the 21-man chain. Here every member of the team sat behind one another on the Green Water Slides, grabbed the person in front of them by the shoulders and the entire team raced down the water slide. There were 2 slides so it was a race to the bottom. The first team down and out of the pool at the bottom won. In true Jersey style, I had absurdly long nails (not elegantly long and manicured--long like talons). As my team got to the bottom of the slide and hit the small pool, the impact made me jump a little and I grabbed the shoulders of the guy in front of me harder. My nails dug into him and he jumped. His shoulder hit my nose and it broke-I immediately passed out. As everyone in my team ran out of the pool to win the race, I lay face down, passed out, with a broken and bleeding nose--someone actually had to come in and get me out. My team lost the race.

Truly a shining moment--I had 2 black eyes for weeks--my nose has never recovered.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Now I'm really stretching.

But I'll allow it, because of the time I was reading Breakfast of Champions at the mid-station of the Transmobile and Al, the Manager on Duty, threatened to throw the book in the Mini Golf pond if he caught me reading at my post again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A tale that is tangentially related to the Park

I'm having trouble with my Cannonball Loop post, so here's a little something to tide you over until I tell the story of the scariest ride ever:

One summer night, some of my Park friends and I decided to go to the Warwick Drive-in.* On the way, we stopped for provisions at Gary's, a popular bar and and packaged goods establishment. After paying for my six-pack, I stopped to say hello to a Park acquaintance named Charlie, who was seated in his usual spot. Charlie was my favorite drunk. It was rumored that he lived above the bar. At an All-Night Ski Party, I saw him slide headfirst down Surf Hill, through a fetid puddle of muck and leaves, and into a wall.

As we were chatting, a small man came out of the kitchen. He was sporting a Yosemite Sam moustache and in his hand were several sticks of dynamite- taped together, fuses braided, the works. Instead of cowering in terror, or trying to disarm Yosemite Sam, the majority of the bar's patrons started chasing him with their cigarette lighters.

I turned to Charlie, "Do you think that's real dynamite?"

"Probably," he replied. With that, I took my leave. The bar is still standing, so either Yosemite Sam was faster than all the drunks, or someone came to their senses and stopped the madness.

*Which is still in operation and currently showing Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse. You should go. For reals.