6 Circles of Hell Part II
Unwanted discharge of bodily fluids wasn’t the only thing that made the Starfish so miserable. This particular ride had three safety features that were just downright annoying.
1. Height requirement
2. Horizontal bar restraint
3. Each seat had to have exactly two riders
The height requirement usually just meant turning away kids who were a few millimeters short. In addition to the sign at the front of the line, we operators also had a big stick, with a band of black tape on it. If we doubted a kid, we’d have them stand up straight next to the stick–if their head didn’t come up to the tape, too bad, too sad. Go have four of your closest friends pull on each of your limbs and come back tomorrow.
The ride had the height requirement rule because any kid who was below that height would probably be too small for the restraints to actually restrain them. They’d come flying out of the ride and be seriously injured or dead. Six Flags was very unforgiving about this rule. Even if the kid was a hair short, we couldn’t let them ride. Theoretically they’d be fine, but then in the event that something did happen, Six Flags would be 100% liable. To help motivate us to properly enforce this rule, the managers told us that Six Flags would have no reservations whatsoever about having us pay for part of the resulting lawsuit, and if you’re poor enough to be working at Six Flags, you CERTAINLY don’t have enough money to take on a lawsuit.
And then, there was also the issue of, y’know, not killing kids. Amazingly enough though, this didn’t actually seem to matter to one mother.
While advancing the line one day, I spotted a woman carrying a small little girl, no older than five or six. I knew just by looking at her that she was way too small for the ride. Despite that, when the mother got up to the front of the line, I asked her to put the girl down so I could measure her. Not even half the requirement. I tried to tell this to the mother, but then an interesting thing happened.
(I’d like to note beforehand that, unbelievable as this is, it *actually did happen.*)
Me: I’m sorry Ma’am, but she’s not tall enough to ride. I can’t let her on.
Mother: Aw, but she’s been wanting to ride this all day!
Me: That may be, but she’s just not tall enough to ride.
Mother: C’mon, please? She really wants to ride.
Me: This is a safety issue, Ma’am. She’s not nearly big enough for the restraints to effectively hold her in place. We cannot guarantee her safety on this ride–in fact, it would be quite dangerous. I don’t know your daughter, but I like her enough to not want to kill her.
Mother: Aw, c’mon. Please? I’ll hold onto her real tight.
Me: (Astounded, I point to the area around the ride.) Do you see those cups and bags and souvenirs and what not? People were holding onto those real tight too.
Mother: (Now getting angry.) Fine. I want to talk to your manager.
Me: All righty then.
(I call the manager, who comes out after about 10 minutes or so. Upon arriving, he can obviously see that the girl is too small, but he takes the height stick and measures her anyway.)
Mother: This jerk (referring to me) won’t let my daughter on the ride!
Manager: Good. If he had, I would have fired him. Your daughter does not meet our safety requirements.
Mother: But, she really wants to ride!
Manager: I’m sorry Ma’am, but that would be highly, terribly unsafe. We just can’t allow it.
Mother: I’m her mother! I’m the one responsible for her safety, not you!
Manager: Yeah, well, you’re not doing a very good job of it.
The woman, absolutely furious at us, leaves in a huff. The manager looks back at me, and although he doesn’t say anything, the look on his face says it all–“Was that woman pissed off at us because we wouldn’t let her kill her kid?” I’d like to think that she knew exactly what she was doing. She wanted a pay-out. Get Rich Quick Scheme #26:
1. Crap out a kid.
2. Wait a few years.
3. Take the kid to an amusement park.
4. Convince the ride operator to let the kid on a ride despite the kid being far too small for the restraints.
5. Collect large payout from the park over the death of the kid.
That’s gotta be it. I mean, the only other option is horrible, inconceivable stupidity–the desire to have your kid go on a ride that’s not even that exciting, when the likelihood that she’ll come flying out like a Pop Tart, crack her head open, and DIE, is somehow greater than the notion that, hey, this might not be a good idea. I despair for humanity.
Speaking of the restraints, they were nothing fancy. Just a horizontal bar that extended from the center of the ride, that lowered down over the rider’s lap. So yeah, zero protection for small kids and anorexic supermodels. The nature of the restraint also made the reverse a problem–getting it to lock for big folks. The genius who designed this ride only left maybe 30-40cm of space between the back of the seat, and where the restraint would come down. Now, if this were a perfect world of shapely beautiful people, or even an Asian country, this would be no problem. But no, we’re talking about good ‘ol America. Land of the Big Mac, Home of the Whopper. We pledge allegiance to the Big Gulp–one nation, under hot dogs, with cheese-covered garlic fries and caramel-topped cheesecake for all. There were some guests for whom getting that restraint down to the lock position was nothing short of an epic Spartan battle. Usually, I could ask them to inhale/suck it in, and give the bar a mighty shove, and somehow, it would lock.
However, one day, as I was circling around the ride to check the restraints, I saw two very large ladies, sitting next to each other. Have you ever had a moment in your life, where you just looked at something, and you knew your shit was fucked up? Like you’re taking the SAT’s, and they plop the test down in front of you, and as the pages rustle in the fall you see a bunch of words that you aren’t even sure are in English? Or, when you were a kid, you come home three hours late and completely covered in mud, and Mom’s standing there in the doorway ominously holding a frying pan with that look on her face? Or like you’re Superman, and you’re surrounded by Doomsday, Darkseid, Wonder Woman’s pissed that you didn’t call her back like you said you would, and Lex Luther is there holding a chunk of kryptonite the size of Texas? Yeah, that feeling.
The restraint locks at a 0 degree position, parallel to the ground. The restraint here was sticking up at a 45 degree angle. Fuck!
I push down on the restraint. I get it down to maybe 35 degrees. I ask the ladies to suck it in and inhale. 30. They also start to pull on it. 25. I ask them to *really* suck it in. 15. I pop a can of spinach and fight to da finnish. 10. In a move unprecedented for the Starfish, I jump up on top of the ride, and put ALL of my weight on the restraint from above. 5. Goddammit, what more must I do?! I suppose it would have been easier to ask them to just not ride…but I really didn’t want to do that. They were nice too, so if there was any way possible to get that restraint down, I was going to do it. I guess God or Buddha or Jenny Craig or someone gave us some divine intervention, because I somehow got the restraint to lock at 3 degrees. I got off the top of the ride feeling like Evander Holyfield after a fight with post-insanity Mike Tyson–I won, but I’m never going to be the same again.
Despite my heroic efforts, one of the ladies expresses some concern about the situation.
Lady: Are you sure it’s locked?
Me: (double-checks) It did lock, Ma’am. It’ll stay.
Lady: You’re sure it’s not going to pop open in the middle of the ride?
Me: Let me put it this way. Before that happens, this chunk of land we now stand on would separate from the Earth, begin to orbit the sun making its own planet called Starfish. I would be the ruler of Starfish, and I would be as fair and just as possible, at least until I got corrupt and drunk off my own power.
Lady: (laughs) Okay, okay. But how are we supposed to get out of this thing?
Me: Uh. You know, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.
Another restraint-related incident–one day as I was herding people into the ride, these two thugged-out junior high schoolers came through the line. I say thugged-out, and I suppose had this been South Central LA that might have some merit to it, but since this is the Valley I’m talking about, they were about as hardcore as Vanilla Ice. I could only think about how the grand total of the carefully sideways-tilted baseball hat, the oversized basketball jerseys, and the shiny new Nike shoes, were collectively probably more expensive than my entire salary for the whole damned week. As they pass through the gates, one of the boys notes my high school class ring. “That’s a nice ring you got there,” he says. I say a courtesy thank you.
Later, I circle around the ride to check the restraints. As I do this, I like to hold the height stick. It’s a very big stick, and holding it makes me feel a lot like Darth Maul. I’m NOT the Star Wars kid. But it does help to keep potential unruly guests in check. Because the only thing more intimidating than a large black man, is a large black man with a big wooden stick. Anyway, to check the restraints, I grab it and give it a firm tug upwards–if it’s locked, it doesn’t move, if it hasn’t locked, it does. I get to Kriss and Kross, and as I grab their restraint, one of them grabs my arm, and the other begins to try and take the ring right off my finger!
I’m sure many of you have already picked up on it, but for those who haven’t, allow me to explain why this was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever encountered in my life (aside from the mom who nearly got her daughter killed–that’s just special.)
1. I’d seen these boys more than enough to provide an adequate description to the police, authorities, child services, or Fred and the Mystery Machine gang.
2. They were restrained in the ride already. Even if they had gotten the ring, they weren’t going anywhere.
3. I was carrying a very big stick.
Sometimes, you want to give someone credit for doing something stupid yet ballsy…but then sometimes, the act is just so retarded, so ass-backwards, that you can only shake your head and be ashamed to be human. Like, if a guy were to try and rob a police station with a loaded banana. Or, a guy who’d throw away a management job and give up everything he owns to “invent” a game where people slap a ball across a table.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the editorial (a long, long time ago), one of the unique features of the Starfish that made it suck so much is that there had to be exactly two people in every seat. This was another safety feature–a single rider would end up sliding around in the seat and getting their ribs bruised up pretty badly. This sucked because people didn’t always come to amusement parks in even numbered groups, which meant we often had single riders. The first solution would be to have the single riders pair up with each other, and then fill out the remaining seats with pairs still in line. If that didn’t work, we could pick other single riders out of the line to pair up with the single riders already on the ride. Sounds simple, right? Ha! Know you nothing of mankind’s foolishness?
Amazingly enough, the kids were never a problem. We ask them to move, and they moved without hesitation or complaint. And they were more than happy to be able to jump ahead in the line by becoming a single rider. It was the adults who were the pain in the ass. They just refused to move. We’d tell them that they couldn’t sit by themselves, and they’d sit defiantly in the seat and tell me to go find someone to sit with them. I’d circle the ride, find another adult single, ask him/her to move, and s/he would also say, “I’m not moving, go find someone to ride with me.” Once, I had a family of three (father, mother, son) sitting back to back, with the father riding solo. I addressed them both at the same time about the single rider policy. I asked one father to move, and left it up to them to decide. Neither man moved an inch. They were sitting back to back! Vindictive bastard that I am, I would have been perfectly content to let them sit there like idiots in the hot sun for however long it took–but that doesn’t really make my job any easier. I ended up having to grab two single riders from the line (both kids, not at all surprisingly) to come sit with these assmunches.
When I first took the job, I dreaded having to work with annoying little shit-kids all day long, but interestingly enough, the kids were never that much of a problem. It was the adults who were always the most difficult.
Anyway, in the middle of the day, when the park is busy, and there’s a long line, if we can’t pair people up on the ride then we can pick single riders from the line. However, later at night there’s less people, and sometimes no line at all. In those cases, the single rider thing becomes a real headache. Aside from the people who still refuse to move, sometimes you just end up with an odd number of riders.
In those cases, we the operators could serve as the second rider. Usually, no Six Flags employee is allowed to ride any ride while on-duty. However, for the Starfish, if we just couldn’t find another rider, and if there were at least two operators on the ride, then one of us could ride in order to accommodate the single rider. The train usually closed at dusk, which let the two people who had train duty that day come back to the area to help out with the Ferris wheel and The Fish.
One day, I was hanging out at The Fish after having closed the train for the day. These two girls came by, and they were absolute stunners. Long hair, beautiful faces, nice, big round tits, plump asses, they were indeed fine specimens of the female form. Now, since this job was causing my soul to wither away like a grape in the desert, I didn’t take notice of them at first. However, when they started giggling and smiling my way, I started to pay them great attention. It wasn’t the “OMG his fly is open and his junk is hanging out!” kind of bad laughing, but the “OMG, this man is so hot I just want to sit on his face” kind of good laughing. Despite being a college student at the time, I wasn’t having nearly the amount of college student sex I should have been. That is to say, I wasn’t having sex at all, and while that’s sad in any case, it’s triply extra-super sad for a young college male. With an opportunity this wonderful, I couldn’t just pass it up–the girls started to flirt with me, and I flirted back. Not professional, I know, but for my thoughts on that, please refer back to my use of the Starfish as an electric fan in Part I.
As I came around to check restraints, one of the girls had a question for me.
Girl: Hey, y’know, sometimes I see you guys riding the ride. Is that okay?
Me: Technically no, but for this ride, since there have to be two people in each seat, if we can’t find a partner for a rider then we’ll ride for them.
Girl: So, if someone doesn’t have a partner to ride with, you’ll ride with them?
Me: That’s right.
Girl: And that’s only if they don’t have a partner.
Girl: (turns to her friend) Get out. (turns to me) I don’t have a partner.
Me: Dayum. Goddayum.
A quick change later, and I’m on the Starfish with this hot girl who aggressively wants me. It looks like things are finally going to go my way, doesn’t it? Of course, in the ongoing sitcom that is my life, naturally there’s a twist. I’m talking with the girl, when she asks how old I am. At the time, I was 19 or 20, so that’s what I answered. At this response, the girl became disappointed. “Oh, I’m too young for you,” she says….C’mon, what’s too young? 18’s legal. 17 is almost 18. 16 will be 18 sooner or later. After a little prying, I finally get her to tell me her age. “I’m 14,” she says.
…Wha in the fuc…?
Trust me when I tell you that neither this girl or her friend looked anything remotely close to 14. They had the tits and ass of a well-built 20-something. This news was shocking to me, to say the absolute least. This immediately threw me into a weird area of moral ambiguity.
Me: Oh my God, she’s so hot and she wants me. But, she’s only 14!
Devil Az: C’mon man. It’s not that she’s “only” 14, she’s “already” 14.
Angel Az: Listen to your heart, you know it’s wrong.
Devil Az: Listen to me, and go get you some.
Angel Az: Listen to him, and you just might end up in prison.
Devil Az: It’d be worth it. Take a snapshot of her with you and explain that’s why you’re locked up, you’d be a fuckin’ prison hero.
Angel Az: If you don’t care about your freedom, then think of her. She’s not mature enough yet for these things.
Devil Az: The hell she isn’t! Look at her! You think God gave her them titties and that ass for, what, balance? Decoration? She’s in her prime.
Angel Az: This isn’t about “if there’s grass on the field, then play ball.”
Devil Az: Field? Field? This ain’t no fuckin’ field we’re talking about here. This is a pristine holy land–with gentle, supple peaks and warm, fertile valleys. The purest of lands, not yet soiled by human hands. Az, you owe it not only to yourself, but to every man who has ever existed, to do what man does best when it comes to finding pure, lush, undiscovered countries–go rape the shit out of it.
Az’s Penis: I agree with this guy wholeheartedly.
Me: Hey! WTF are you doing here? This isn’t the Body Parts bit.
Az’s Penis: I’m “guest starring” here to tell you that if you don’t capitalize on this, I will never forgive you. I will find ways to hurt you for this. I will pop the hardest of boners while you’re wearing thin silk pants. You bring the hottest woman home, and I will go on fuckin’ vacation. Comprende?
My moral struggle was ultimately decided for me. The girl decided I was “too old” for her and left with her friend. How the fuck does that work? Don’t women LOVE older men anyway? And since when is 19 or 20 “too old”? Perhaps now you have a better appreciation of just how sitcom-like my life is. And why can’t I get any free sex thrown my way from anyone that’s over 18? Real funny, God. I’m laughing real hard over here. You see these tears? Yeah, these are funny tears.
And while I’m thinking about it, what the fuck is up with the 14 year-olds of this generation? They’re parading around with D-cups and wearing thongs and shit. It certainly wasn’t like this when I was a kid, no no no. The girls were flatter than us guys were, and they’d walk around in dirty potato sacks and shit. I remember back in the 7th grade, all of the guys had a crush on the *one* girl who’d actually developed tits. The *one.* And she was a B-cup at best! What’s going on with these oversexed 14 year-olds who look like 20 year-olds? And why couldn’t this have happened in my generation?! Seriously, all of us who grew up in the 80s/90s have been royally SCREWED. It’s like, I read about all the free love in the 60s and 70s, and you look now in the 00s, and you’ve got girls who are overdeveloped and trying to out-sex each other…and what the fuck did the 80s/90s give us? A gas shortage? Hot pink? Rainbow Brite? MC Hammer? The Macarena? FUCK this bullshit. I haven’t seen a screwjob this offensive since Bret Hart in Montreal.
Ahem. Sorry. I just had to get that out of my system. I’m better now. Well, not really.
Anyway, yeah, Six Flags. I *still* haven’t covered all the ways that this job sucks. Which means that next week, it’s Part III a go go!
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it, I guess.