6 Circles of Hell Part III
Puke wasn’t the only bodily fluid we ride operators got stuck cleaning up.
Blood happened occasionally. Random bloody noses, kids who decide to pick at crusty scabs, Dracula got suddenly hungry, who knows. We rarely ever saw it happen, we’d just unload the ride and there’d be streaks of red all over one of the seats. Beautiful.
One night, I was hanging out at the ferris wheel, when I got a call from the Starfish requesting my help. I went down to find two operators, a girl and a guy, and one of the seats on The Fish covered in blood. The guy asks for my help in cleaning. The ride has been closed down to take care of the blood, so I can’t help but wonder why I’ve been called in to help clean. “Princess here won’t go anywhere near it.” The guy explains. “Why would I?” the girl shoots back. “It’s all red and nasty, and I bet it’s full of AIDS too!”
With Princess keeping a vigil a good 10 feet away, the other guy and I started to clean up the bloody mess. We weren’t too happy about this — I suppose Princess had a good point about sanitation, but we were all in the same boat, and we weren’t happy to see her bailing out while we cleaned up blood. It didn’t help that she wasn’t exactly being pleasant about it either.
Her: Aren’t you guys finished yet?
Me: No, we’re not finished yet. Although, you know if there were three people cleaning instead of just two.
Her: OMG, I think I’m gonna throw up.
Other Guy: You do, and I swear to GOD I will rub your nose in it first before making you clean it up yourself.
Me: All we’d need is for somebody to come along and piss and jizz, and we’d have the Grand Slam of Bodily Fluids.
Other Guy: (eyeballing Princess) I call the jizz part.
I decided to have a little fun with this girl.
Me: Oh my God!
Me: You were right. This blood is literally CRAWLING with AIDS!
Her: OMG, really?
Me: Yeah! Here, take a look. (Throws one of the paper towels at her.)
Her: AAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! (Literally runs away screaming.)
Other Guy: (Choking back tears.) You are such a bastard…that was so awesome!
Me: It had to be done.
It may seem like now, that half the job of a “ride operator” was also “clean up nasty mess.” And you would be right. Aside from cleaning up vomit, and the occasional blood/piss stain, we also had to tidy up our ride area, picking up all trash–half-eaten hot dogs and hamburgers, carelessly discarded drinks, gooey tissues, and even used tampons. You may think that a typical Az exaggeration, but no, really we found a used tampon once. What the fuck is that shit? That’s a brand new level of trailer trash right there. I can’t even imagine–some woman is in the middle of an amusement park and is like–“Whoa hey, this one’s all full. Don’t need that anymore!” *pull* *toss*
It wasn’t just enough to clean our own area, no. If we tried to clock out “too soon” by management’s standards, they’d withhold our time cards and force us to go help clean one of the bigger roller coasters. “Too soon” was, apparently, anytime before tomorrow. Keep in mind that we’d been working for hours on our feet, dealing with gross body fluids and stupid people and large pieces of machinery prone to just breakdown for no reason at all and we *really* wanted to go home. We’d herd all the sheep, I mean guests, out of the park, clean up our own area, deliberately stall for 15-20 minutes knowing that, as it was only 11PM, that was still far too early, and then finally mosey our way up to the front office, only to get denied anyway.
Me: Time card please.
Girl: No, sorry. Go to Roar for clean-up. (Roar was the newest and biggest coaster there at the time.)
Me: Look woman, I’m tired, I’m hurting, it’s 11:30 at night, and I have summer school classes tomorrow. Please give me my time card?
Girl: No. Go to Roar.
Me: Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight?
Girl: No. Go to Roar.
Me: I am not a number, I am a free man! I will not accept my imprisonment here to die like some rotten cabbage! Now give me my time card!
Girl: No. Go to Roar.
Me: You totalitarian hussie.
Another frustrating part of the job was the repetitiveness. It was essentially the same task performed over and over and over again until you felt about as human as a Barbie doll. The worst part about Marine World though was that the safety spiel said before the ride wasn’t pre-recorded–we had to say it each and every time we ran the ride. Eight to nine hours of repeating the same drivel over and over again…yeah. Satan couldn’t have come up with a better hell.
It was so tedious, that by the time I got around to hour 7-8 of my shift, I was sick of hearing my own voice. As this was around 9-10PM, I could safely take liberties with my delivery of the spiel. Although amusement parks are supposed to be fun places for the whole family, families usually went home around 8PM or so. After that, all that remained were the people who had nothing better to do at 9PM on a summer day, especially on the weekdays. Not only could we get away with screwing around, it was fun.
Now, forgive my rusty memory, as it has been almost 10 years or so, but the safety spiel for the Starfish went a little something like this.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for riding the Starfish! For your safety, we ask that you please remain seated for the duration of the ride. Please make sure that your restraints are locked and in place. Also, please do not spit or throw anything from the ride. If you feel sick or uneasy at any point, please signal the ride operator and we will stop the ride immediately. Please enjoy the ride!
After a few billion iterations, that starts to get a little tired. So I began making my own variations on the speech. Like, for instance, the Austin Powers Version.
(bad British accent) Yeah baby! Thank you for riding the Starfish, it’s a groovy ride, yeah. But if you wanna swing, you gotta play by the rules, m’kay? No getting up during the ride, because that’s just not peachy baby, yeah. Do make sure those restrains are nice and firm. Firm, taut, strapping restraints, yes of course. And no spitting or throwing, it’s just not right. And if you feel a bit of the heevy-jeevies, do signal a bloke, and we’ll have you carted right off by your knickers. But don’t sweat all that nonsense darling, just sit back and get ready to SWING baby yeah!
Given as how the Austin Powers movies were wildly popular at this time, I sort of figured everybody would be in on the joke. But even if you’d never seen Austin Powers, I didn’t think anyone could possibly be as far off the mark as these two girls one night.
Girl 1: (Coming up to me after the ride.) Wow, you’re really funny!
Girl 2: Yeah, are you, like, Norwegian?
At this point, me and the other guy working the ride can only exchange “WTF?!” looks. But hell, why not roll with it?
Me: Yeah baby. Norwegian all the way.
Girl 1: Wow! I’ve never met anyone from Norway!
Girl 2: Me too.
Me: Yeah baby. I came all the way down from Norway, and now I’m working here on this swinging ride!
Girl 2: So, like, you guys have really delicious chocolate in Norway right?
Other Guy: Chocolate?
Me: (normal, quietly) Of all the things wrong with this conversation, do you really wanna focus on the chocolate?
Other Guy: Good point.
Another variant I did on the spiel was a Yoda Version–
Ladies and Gentlemen, to this ride, the Starfish, you are welcome. Safety, for your, seated, you will remain. Tightly secured, your restraints must be. Spit or throw things, you must not do. If hurl you must, an operator you will flag. Off, we shall kick you. Try not, you will enjoy.
Now, I can understand not getting caught up in the whole Austin Powers phenomenon. But completely missing out on Star Wars? How is that even humanly possible? I didn’t think it was, but again I was proven wrong one night.
Lady: (To the other guy working.) Thank you, oh, and I think it’s so nice of Six Flags to be equal opportunity.
Other Guy: Um, what do you mean?
Lady: (Motioning towards me.) You know, hiring someone with a disability. (Now speaking to me.) You hang in there, brave young man.
Other Guy: (Must check himself from laughing right in her face.)
Me: Fight on, I will.*
*Note that I said this in the Yoda voice too.
This was the first of two times in my life that I would be accused of a mental handicap. How many more times does it have to happen before I get to call foul?
If ignorance truly is bliss, then perhaps you roller coaster lovers should stop here.
The one thing that truly scared me during my time at Six Flags was the maintenance practices … or lack thereof. The managers were about as educated about the rides as an inbred three year-old, and the maintenance worker’s approach to the rides seemed to be, “Well, so long as it won’t atomically explode, it’s all right.”
I remember there was one ride in particular, the Hammerhead, which was always closed down. The maintenance staff would try to fix it, but apparently the parts were all from Germany, and the American mechanics had no idea what was going down. So one day, Six Flags paid to fly the German engineers out to the park, to hopefully fix the blasted ride once and for all. The Germans opened it up, took one look at it, and said, “What the fuck is this shit?” Except, they said it in German so it probably sounded something like, “What the weinerschnitzel farfegnugen is this schwitzer?” I don’t think anybody who owned a Six Flags uniform even remotely considered riding that ride, ever.
The Starfish and Ferris Wheel weren’t subject to that many maintenance problems for some odd reason. However there was one time when I came in to work, scheduled to work the train, only to find it closed. Upon arriving, I asked my scheduled partner, Princess, what the problem was.
Princess: Well, maintenance put some fresh wax on the tracks this morning, but I guess they put too much wax because now the train can’t go up hills.
Me: You mean …
Princess: Yeah, the train would just slide right back down. So we’ve got to wait it out until maintenance fixes the track.
Me: So in other words, grab a seat and wait for the cows to come home.
Princess: Pretty much.
After about an hour and a half, we get a call from maintenance. Princess takes it, then comes back.
Princess: Well, maintenance says we can run the train now.
Me: They fixed the track? How?
Princess: They said they just threw some dirt on it.
Me: Just “threw some dirt on it?” Is that the official scientific solution?
Princess: I dunno, but that’s what they said. They said not to drive the train too fast though, and if it slides down the hill again to call them, and they’ll think of something else.
Me: What is this, a gas powered train?
Princess: I think so. Why?
Me: Oh, I was just trying to figure out if it was possible for this thing to atomically explode.
Princess: Are you kidding me? This is Six Flags. Of course it would atomically explode. The mushroom cloud would wipe out the entire lower Bay Area.
Me: Well, look on the bright side. At least you’ll die a cooler death than from the AIDS.
That’s just a small peek into the horrors of working at an amusement park. There’s a lot more, but these editorials have already gotten way bigger than I ever expected. I hope you’ve got a general idea.
Ten years and several varied jobs later, Six Flags still holds a special place in my heart as a living nightmare. If, according to Calvin’s Dad, hellish experiences build character, then I’ve got enough character to have a fucking mint erected in my name. Maybe that’s why I never let any of my Japanese school teacher experiences get under my skin. I mean, yeah, I had kids trying to violate me, but at least I wasn’t cleaning up their puke or their blood.
Good mothers and fathers don’t let their kids work at a Six Flags theme park. I’d rather have them turn tricks on the street. It’s more dignified.