Very few perks to working the Transmobile. It was the ride of the lazy, the lame, and often, the drunk. (The fact that it was maintained by the stoned should be of no surprise to anyone.) It was simply a slow, one-way trip to the other side of the park. Sideways. No one was ever happy to ride the Trans.
We ran into problems when people tried to make their own fun. Let's stand up and surf our way across the park! So what if we're 12 feet above the concrete path? Or, Let's pull on the brake halfway up the hill to give our buddies in the next car a chance to catch up! (And then what? Were they planning to hold hands?) What they didn't realize was that pulling on the brake caused the sad little car to lose all momentum and break down-- shutting the ride down for 40 minutes while we waited for the techs to stumble out of their smoke-filled shack to climb a pole and work their magic. Cheech and Chong repair machinery. Hang tight!
One of my jobs at mid-station (which wasn't actually a stop at all) was to yank the offenders off the ride and mark their wristbands so they couldn't ride again. That'll show you! No more riding slow and sideways for the rest of the day!
I got to the point where I could anticipate trouble. It sounds awful, but it was a bit of racial profiling. Black guys would just chill and look as cool as was possible riding sideways in an orange tram. Latinas would laugh and pretend they were on a scary roller-coaster. Rowdy white frat boys were generally a problem. They’d rock the car, give each other noogies, or whatever guys do when they’re pretending not to be gay, and call out obscenities to any girls that had the misfortune to walk underneath them. I’d yank them off the car, write on their wristbands, and decline their invitations to Staten Island. Then I’d go about my day.
The worst patrons were, without a doubt, the white women. (I can say this because I am a white woman.) White women, very often, weren’t in a good mood, didn’t want to be in the park in the first place, and didn’t believe that the rules applied to them.
Which leads me to my showdown. The number one rule of the Transmobile was that it was a ONE-WAY ride. This is important, as it would get very congested at the end of the day when people needed to get to the side of the park where they left their cars. It was always crowded on the Motor World side, because after a long, hot day, people didn’t want to climb a massive hill in order to go home.
It was the end of another scorcher and the air hadn’t yet cooled enough to render my sweat-soaked uniform shirt a comfortable clammy. I was pushing buttons at the Motor World Trans when the phone rang. It was Jen.
“Just so you know, the lady in the Sea World t-shirt in Car 14 was specifically told that this was a one-way ride, so don’t let her try anything,” Jen warned. “She’s going to try to ride round trip, and that’s just not fair.”
Damn straight, it wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t going to happen. My line was absolutely mobbed with exhausted, sunburned, and dehydrated New Yorkers, and I wasn’t about to let this lady jump the line, and have them lynch me. Besides, I had a sense of justice. I would handle this calmly, I thought to myself. I’m a rational person.
Then Car 14 rolled into the station, and there she was, already glaring at me. I approached Shamu Lady and lifted her safety bar.
“You can put that bar back down, girlie, because I’m riding back up.” Girlie? Girlie?
“Ma’am, this is a one-way ride. You were told so at the top,” I responded in my best my-parents-raised-me-to-be-polite voice. The crowd, lined up behind me, began to quiet down to listen to our exchange.
“I don’t care what you say. I’m not getting off this ride!” And she folded her arms over the image of the smiling dolphin.
The polite me vanished and was instantly replaced by someone who sassed, “And I don’t care what you say, lady, but I am not pushing this button!”
I heard a woman in the crowd behind me whisper, “Oh, no, she DI-int!”
“And,” I continued, “I don’t think all these people, who having being waiting on line for a long time, would appreciate you cutting in front of them! So I’m not pushing any buttons until you get off this ride.”
Then I folded my arms and stared at her. She didn’t move. I was nervous, but made myself look pissed off instead. I’m not a confrontational person. I started to worry, What if she doesn’t get up? Then what?
But the crowd was with me. They had my back.
“C’mon, lady! We’ve been waiting!”
“That’s not cool, yo!”
“Get off! Wait your turn like everybody else!”
They grumbled and hollered until finally, she stood up, and exited the station. I had won the standoff. It was silent. I slowly turned to face the crowd, paused for a second, and raised my arms above my head like Rocky. Victory! The crowd erupted into cheers! Yeah, girl! I felt amazing. I was a peon in a soul-crushing uniform, but I was not without grit.
“Next four people!” I called. “Next four people, step up! Have a safe trip home!”