Sunday, May 30, 2010

The City That's Running Wild

While the Park may only live on in sanitized form, another Sussex County institution perseveres. I am referring, of course, to Wild West City. If you grew up in or around New Jersey, I'm sure you remember the Uncle Floyd-starring commercial:

Yeah, you're going to have that stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Showdown at the Transmobile

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!”

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Summer At The Speedboats

You know what we don't speak of enough? (Besides ANYTHING, as the blog's been dormant since September?) Motor World. Please enjoy this dispatch from the Swamps of Jersey sent in by our good friend Stacy.

My time at the park spanned 7+ years. In the early years I worked in the retail department (where my friendship with Melissa blossomed). The later years were spent as the “Office Bitch” in Alpine Center, but somewhere in between, I worked as a ride attendant at the Speedboats in Motor World.

I think Tom said it best when he likened Motor World to Dante's circles of Hell. On most days it was unbearably hot; the essence of two stroke oil and stagnant water filled the air at the Speedboats dock. The ride consisted of a pond, or glorified swamp, with a small island in the middle. Single passenger boats, about the size of a bath tub, would be driven in circles around the island. Oddly enough, I sincerely liked working there.

We wore Water World uniforms which consisted of a transparent red bathing suit, tank top that read “GUARD” and terrible polyester shorts that caused a chronic wedgie unless worn extremely low on the hips. The “GUARD” tanks gave park patrons a false sense of security given that I probably couldn't save a rat drowning in a bucket.

The Speedboat pond was fuel infested and the only time we ever went in the water was against our will. There were times that we'd slip off the dock and fall in the water or get thrown in by fellow employees as was the tradition on the last day of the season. I can recall getting tossed in the water at the end of the day and then leaving a brown-stained silhouette of myself imprinted on the light gray cloth upholstery of my car.

A common source of fun at Speedboats was at the park patrons' expense. Many times before getting in a boat we'd be handed a camera and asked to take pictures. We would gladly take the camera and snap a few shots and then promptly duck into the boat house and expose ourselves to the camera – careful not to show our faces – and then eagerly return the camera. Thankfully the age of digital photography hadn't hit yet.

It was always fun when someone didn't fully grasp the concept of the engine's throttle lever. We would blow our whistles to signal when the ride was over and often have a boat speeding out of control straight for our dock. Many times that boat ended up either flying up on the dock or flipping over upon impact with the dock's loading area. Good times.

Also important to mention was the 225lb weight limit for riding in a boat. We didn't have a scale so we had many questionable patrons who claimed to be under the limit. My friend Missy and I spotted a very large gentleman on line, made eye contact with one another, shook our heads, but reluctantly allowed him to enter a boat. We were too nice to tell anyone that they were too large to ride. Instead we watched as the man shimmied himself down into the seat and sluggishly left the loading dock with a group of boats. By the the time the other boats were on their second or third lap, the man slowly appeared on the far side of the island with the nose of his boat underwater.

The boat was sinking quickly so I headed out on a boat that was reserved for dealing with emergency situations. When I got to him, his boat was almost completely underwater and the man was frantically trying to pry himself from inside the cockpit. This was one time to be thankful for the high viscosity level of the water because he slipped out of the boat before it completely submerged. With my boat, I dragged the man through the murky pond and back to the dock, but then came the task of trying to get him from the water back onto the dock. I think it took a ride attendant and two boat mechanics to get the man back on his feet, and the ride was closed for the remainder of the day so that the submerged boat could be rescued.

We expected to see a scale at Speedboats shortly after this incident, but this was the Park. We never saw that scale, and as a result I got really good at rescuing people from sinking boats.