It’s my first day. I arrive at 11:45. I notice a kid who used to ride my school bus, we make eye contact and nod. A hunched old man with a comb over and a beaten look on his face I find out is named Doug tells me to clock in and i do so. He owns the waterpark with his wife, Alex. Another man in his mid 40’s, with a 5 ‘o clock shadow and what looks like a burn across his neck tells me to go to my station. his name is Rich, I like him. I am a ride operator, and my first rotation is the wild river inner tube ride. 15 minutes later rich walks up to me “you’re official” he says and throws me an extra large orange T-shirt. I put it on, I am beaming.
I’ve been working here a week, I’m up on the 3 and a half story “pirate” slide, the ride is made up of two fiberglass slides, I’ve only ever seen one working. “broken” is the response i get when I asked later, I push more, “when will it be fixed.” Doug looks at me and shrugs his humped shoulders. I’ve beeb sitting with my feet propped up on a lawn chair reading “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. In the past hour 3 people have gone down my slide.
The park is in a constant state of disrepair. the park is home to 5 rides, of which only 4 work, and only 3 work the way they were designed. only 1 works safely.
On my break I talk with Rich and he tells me how Alex and Doug came into possession of the waterpark. Apparently. The original owner named it after his daughter. One day his wife came home early from her job and found the owner in bed with another man. He had to sell the part to pay for alamony, and these 2 bought it up.
Rich has 3 foster kids, Nick, Kevin, and Adam. Nick and Kevin both work here sporatically, I never figured if they got paid or not. Adam is retarded and quickly took to calling me shaggy, after the character from Scooby Doo. I quickly make friends with everyone who works with me. I see a few outside of work, we share out laughs.
My first paycheck. I quickly notice i’ve been underpaid by nearly 100 dollars. I say nothing. I start taking food from the snack bar on my break. We are even, at least for now. I quickly begin to notice the park is not big on safety. Accident reports are mysteriously “lost.” I am asked to sit in life guard chairs for periods of time when no lifeguard is on duty. Concrete is dangerously exposed. Weight limits are not enforced.
My managers name is Heather. Heather is twenty eight, pregnant, engaged to a 45 year old man, and a chain smoker. she has misspelled my name on every schedule and paycheck so far. I grit my teeth and say nothing.
A month. we have our first group. 1000+ people. the occupancy for the average day is 30+. We are helplessly overwhelmed and the inevitable happens. A child grip breaks, he slips and his head makes contact with concrete. the paramedics are called and he is wisked off to the hospital. I inquire about him later “don’t ask questions” is the response.
I’ve been working for a month and a half, on my breaks i talk particle physics with Matt, a lifeguard. Matt is tall, blonde, a Chemistry major at Pittsburgh, and a bit of a hard-ass. we talk about the large hadron colidier and the mysterious Higgs Boson. I like matt.
We are assigned chores ever day to do. they range from the easy (trash in the park, Trash in the parking lot) to the annoying (tubes and mat clean up) to the frustrating (bathrooms.) I am assigned bathrooms his particular day. i hate bathrooms, We attach a hose to the sink and spray the stray toilet paper in the corners, douse most surfaces with windex and call it a day.
The rest passes by without incident. though every day is an adventure, we start taking bets on weather or not a ride will work on any given day. motivation begins to slip, and breaks become mysteriously longer. Text messages are exchanged more than customers are helped. We all realize this place is a dumpster and everyone knows it.
I’m told that when the park was first built in the ’60s it was incredibly popular. it was one of the busiest places around, and made quite a bit of money. When dorney park was built the traffic slowed and now people simply stop coming.
We don’t care, it’ll be bulldozed in a month. This is the last year for the park. No one is happier than me.
My last day. I take an hour and a half break, I leave without doing my chore. “check’s in the mail” Rich says, “yeah right” i mutter under my breath. I look back over my shoulder and shoot everyone a look that says see ya later. As i turn the key in my ignition I am beaming.