Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Well, Hey There, Buckaroo!

If you worked at the Park in the early to mid 90's, you probably remember Alex and Chris M, the twins who worked security. Nice, funny, super-friendly guys.

Before I worked Alpine Center, I worked in retail. For some reason, I always got scheduled taking pictures at the "Shark." It was a big shark's head made of foam and, I think, plaster. Guests could climb in its mouth and get their picture taken. For something like 8 bucks, they got a Polaroid. It was kind of cheap-looking, but everybody liked it and it was easy to work. I never really minded being there because I was in the shade nearly all day. I can take the heat, but my skin burns easily.

The Shark was also the base security post. I think the actual base security post was supposed to be along the Bumper Boats fence, but they always stood over by me because we always ended up talking across the pathway. Plus, they were in those crazy polyester pants, so if they were over by me, they could be in the shade, too.

Anyway, one day, Alex/Chris (I could tell them apart then, but I can't remember now.) is standing over by me and my Shark when a little boy comes up crying his head off for his mother. Between M Twin and I we figure he's lost. I mean, who wouldn't? The kid's all by himself, crying for his mother in the middle of a water park. You naturally think, " lost."

Well, Alex/Chris squats down to eye level with the kid, puts on a cheery face and says, "Well, hey there, buckaroo!" Before he could ask the kid if he's lost, the kid's mother came flying at him from out of nowhere! "Stay the hell away from my kid!" she screamed, much to our sheer surprise. Poor Alex/Chris was stunned. I thought the lady was going to deck him one.

Now, if you knew Alex and Chris M, this story probably made you go "Aww! Poor Alex/Chris!" I mean, they were just so darned nice, and he was only trying to do his job. If my kid were ever "lost" at an amusement park, I would certainly hope that a security guard as nice as Alex or Chris would try to help him out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wait, whuuuuuttt????

I was recently telling a story about a woman we worked with named Denise. Along the way, I gave some exposition: She was a complete hippie. She worked at the bungee tower in the summer and as a snowboard instructor and sometime lift attendant during the winter. She had an awesome old farmhouse in West Milford, the next township over. So far, all pretty normal stuff, right? And then I uttered the kicker:

"Her parents disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle."

I said it with authority and conviction. But the thing is, I have no idea if it's actually true. Melissa says it is, and she's not one to tell tales out of school. If it is, it would go a long way toward explaining why a woman who was in her mid-30s (at least) would be working with a bunch of college kids for $7 an hour.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Stacey M had a second job at a bar called Sheridan's Lodge. It was at least 30 minutes from the Park, but Stacey lived within stumbling distance, so was a popular hang out for the Alpine Center crowd.

And when I say stumbling distance, I mean that literally. One night as Stacey M, Stacy G, Melissa and I were leaving the bar, Stacey M announced that she knew a shortcut. We trusted her because we were in her neighborhood. And because we were drunk. Well, Melissa was sober, but she humored us because she's a good sport.

"There's a path," Stacey M said, with a vague gesture at the wooded area across the street. "It leads right to my house."

So into the woods we went. There was a short, but steep, hill to conquer. It was tough going. I was wearing wooden-soled, platform shoes. Stacey M had to give me a push. Stacy G stopped to pee, and then looked to Melissa for help up the hill.

"I love you, Melissa!" she declared, as Melissa grasped her hand and hauled her up to the top. "I think I peed on my hand."

I take back what I said about Melissa being a good sport. Melissa is a SAINT.

We walked on. And on. And on. Stacey M stumbled, fell to the ground and just laid there. Almost immediately after that, I stepped into a hole and found myself up to my waist in brush. At this point, I realized that the shortcut was a colossally bad idea.

Despite my unforgiving footwear, I managed to get myself out. Stacey M got up off the ground, took a bleary look around, and slurred, "I don't know where the fuck I am." That made four of us.

Luckily, there's only so lost you can get in an acre or two of woods. Especially if those woods are between a county highway and a residential neigborhood on a clear and moonlit summer night.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Not So Much Prodigal Returns

I went to the Park yesterday for the first time since I got an orange soda on my break nearly ten years ago. My son Sean and I were there for my nephew's birthday party. We had to go to group check in to get our wristbands. I don't remember where it was before, but it's in Cobblestone Village now where Fitzgerald's Ice Cream used to be.

As soon as I cross under the archway, I immediately become pissed off and cranky. It was odd really. Nothing happened to make me angry. None of the hundred guests milling around without direction did anything to make me annoyed. It was just walking through the Park again. Of course, I did have to hoof it in the heat and humidity from a bottom dusty, rocky lot with a four- year-old that refused to hold my hand with cars and buses driving by not paying any attention. Personally, I think if you're there as an invited "guest" for a party they should reserve you spots near the entrance. Seriously, it's not like I was going there of my own free will. If I was just popping in as a regular old guest patronising the Park, fine. I'd park wherever the parking attendants half-heartedly pointed me. But since I haven't been there in ten years, I think it's safe to assume that I wouldn't have been going there on my own recognisance.

But enough for now of the snobby side of me; I'm digressing.

Sean and I go into Group Check In. They're very nice, despite the fact that a horde of people are heading their way. We sign in, they give us our wristbands, they even cut the excess off. They're very friendly 16-year-olds. Then one goes to point out on the map where Tristen's party is. Turtle Island or something like that, the kiddie park's called now. So I immediately look for the kiddie park where it was when I worked there, but she's pointing below towards the base area.

"Oh, the old Roaring Springs?" I say. I also want her to know that I've been in her shoes and I'm not there because I want to be. It was code, you see.

But I shouldn't have tried to use code with someone who would have been about six when Roaring Springs was there.

"Wha?" says Ms. Not-Yet-Jaded-By-Her-Job, complete with head tilt and all.

"Yeah, the old Roaring Springs." comes a mysterious voice from the back door. I look over and I swear I could hear that old western music they play when it's high noon and two cowboys are squaring off for a duel. The guy's, I'm not kidding you, smoking a cigarette and leaning up the against the railing, obviously on break. I wonder for a minute if it's Indian or Wacky. Whoever he is, is definitely a throwback to the old days. Maybe he was a washed up Gladiator, I'm not sure. But he disappears, remembering the old rule about not allowing guests to see you smoke in uniform.

But we understood each other, so it was okay.

Off Sean and I go to cross the footbridge and head into the park. I'm met in the base area with Janie's Got A Gun playing out of Sirius radio. I won't bother trying to explain Alpine Center; we all know it's gone. The base area is looking not too bad. They're obviously putting some money into the park and it's starting to gain a Great Adventure feel to it. I think this might disprove my husband's theory. You can, in fact, shine a turd.

You have to get your bag "checked" before you can go up the hill. Imagine my surprise when the black teenager in front of me gets completely searched and the guy hardly gives my scrappy sac a jiggle.

I hoof it all the way up past the Wave Pool to the lockers to stash some stuff. My husband will be disheartened, I think, to learn that one of First Aid's favorite hang outs no longer exists. You can no longer hide out and watch women go down Surf Hill and lose their bikini tops. Surf Hill I believe is still there, but I didn't see the hang out.

Sean's playing around in Turtleland, or whatever it was called, for, like, 15 minutes when we head up to the old Tiki Bar for lunch. No Bob Marley playing that I used to hear incessantly as I worked that little retail gift shop by the wave pool.

We're there for a few minutes when Melissa and her son Nathan join us. Melissa greets my brother in law and I with a "I hate this fucking place," grumble or something along those lines (the same misery acknowledgement that I had earlier) and I tell her about the cloud of annoyance that settled over me when I walked through the Cobblestone Village archway. She understands.

After pizza, I take Sean to the old rock pool which has been mostly filled in to make a little splash pond that's about a foot and a half deep for the little kids. But, of course, teenagers thinking they're hysterical and the first ones to think of it, wander in to get their pictures taken on the animal fountains, invariably getting whistled at by the lifeguard who hooked the cush assignment that day.

There's a frog slide that Sean was taken with. The slide itself is about five feet long, so it's just enough for a kid his size to get some serious speed going into this little pool. After a little while, he starts bouncing a bit when he hits the water, then starts falling back a little bit, coming awfully close to hitting his head on the bottom of the slide. Now, I highly doubt he would have been seriously injured, but it did remind me of the scalpings guests used to get on the Aqua Skoot.

As soon as I'm reminded of that, we're outta there, heading back down the hill for the 20 MINUTE trek back to my car in the stifling heat, humidity and sun.

As I pull out of the parking lot the depressing and annoyed shroud I had for the last few hours lifts like the morning mist and I turn towards home with my climate control waiting.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Home Alone

If you worked at the Park and your parents were foolish enough to leave you at home while they went on vacation and you, in turn, were foolish enough to let your co-workers know, you could expect anywhere from 10 to 100 people to show up at your house every night for the duration of your parents' absence.

When it happened to me, I made the mistake of going grocery shopping BEFORE my home was invaded and as a result was hungry for the rest of the week.

A guy named John (or was it Brian? I always got those two confused.) who had two fish tanks in his family room woke up in the morning to find that the small fish had all been transferred out of their tank and into the other where they had been devoured by the larger fish kept there.

And then there was Dave. Dave's mom went away for a week and our entire department moved in. His neighbors had a motion sensor light on the side of their house closest to Dave's deck. We amused ourselves for hours each trying to see who could make it the farthest without tripping the sensor. You had to moooove verrrrry sloooowly and precisely to make any progress at all, and as this game coincided with beer drinking, most of us would only make it a foot or two before flooding the neighbor's yard with light. (Why they didn't call the cops on us, I'll never know.) Jamie made it all the way to the neighbor's house and most of the way back to Dave's deck before someone jumped into the sensor's field and sabotaged him. Very unsportsmanlike!

Office Invasion

As Melissa noted earlier, the best place to eat lunch at the Park was our department's office. It was centrally located in the base area, right off of the Pizza Cellar. It was also a hub of employee activity, as it adjoined the Security office and was the distribution point for the Park's two-way radios. As such, it was a good place to get the gossip and make plans for the evening. But perhaps most importantly for the attendants, it was a break from the heat and the Park's guests. Most of the time, anyway.

One day, I was having lunch with Stacy, the office manager on duty, and Brett and Nancy, two of the department's supervisors. We heard a commotion outside in the Pizza Cellar. Nancy moved to investigate, but as she was turning the knob, the door flew open and two women tumbled into the office, locked in hand-to-hand combat.

Brett and Nancy jumped in to pry the women apart. Brett got the smaller of the two in a full-nelson and Nancy pinned the bigger one against the wall. They were still shouting at each other as Stacy called for security and I, well, I just protected my lunch. I'm no good in a fight.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

This is John.

John was an exchange student. He was known as John-the-Irish-Guy, John-I-Heard-He's-An-Underwear-Model, or, my favorite, Eurotrash. (That was Therese's pet name for him.) John didn't mind any of the nicknames. John didn't mind anything at all really. He was a laid-back guy.

However, one day, as John was jumping down to take his lunch break, he said something that one of the jumpmasters didn't like. I don't know what it was, but she decided to put him in his place. His place was, apparently, in mid-air. At the time I snapped this photo, he'd been hanging there for a little under 10 minutes. Then the radio started squawking; our supervisor was furious. It seems that some guests had noticed that there was this guy just hanging there from the bungee tower and they thought he was really stuck.

So the supervisor flipped out on all of us for making the only safe ride in the Park look dangerous. The jumpmaster reluctantly lowered John to the airbag. His legs were numb and he had missed half his lunch break, but you know what? John didn't mind.