Working at a Small Amusement Park Sucked

For one summer I worked at a small amusement park (I won’t say the name to keep me safe, heh) in New Jersey. The location of this park was in an area with many fairly upscale towns nearby and it was always attended by young married couples with little kids that lived in the general area.

A typical ride control panel has many buttons; three of which are all the ride op really needs to know.

I’ve always wanted to work as a ride operator and when I got the job I was like “all right I get to work on rides!” During weekdays it was usually never that crowded, unfortunately this was sort of boring because time just crawled by. Every now and then some kids would want to ride and I did my thing, simple. I didn’t mind running the rides, the only reason I didn’t like the park was because of the people that went to it!

The first bit of annoyance I encountered were people asking about the ticket prices when they were blatantly posted in front of the ride. It’s alright though because I know they were doing it because every single ride was 4 tickets and they just couldn’t believe their eyes; the Scrambler was 4 tickets and so were the kiddie boats. There was also a nice rule that regardless of the ride, the parents had to cough up 4 tickets to ride with their kid. This rule would cause an up-roar with the parents when a kid wanted to go on a ride that he/she was too short to ride alone. Of course the ticket booth does not have this rule readily posted so it was up to the lowly ride ops to break the news to the parents. “I have to pay 4 tickets? But I’m not even going to have fun on this I just need to accompany my kid! I don’t understand this at all!” I got this line almost every time. Once, and only once, have I heard this:

Woman: “You don’t have to pay 4 tickets do you?”
Guy boarding ride with son: “Well I am getting on the ride aren’t I?!”

Of course, some parents wouldn’t even get to the “4 ticket rule” before they argue that their kid is responsible enough to ride even though they are under the height restriction. People would practically bargain with me to let their kid, who was under the height limit, on the Scrambler. Now, the restriction is there for a reason, it’s so you’re kid doesn’t fly off the damn ride! The amusement park didn’t have an L shaped bar to see if you’re tall enough, instead it was a piece of tape on the entrance gate. Kids would try to stand on their toes, lift their head, anything to make it seem that their over the limit. I personally think that the height limit on the Scrambler is too low to ride alone; it really needs to be high enough so that kids don’t slouch down in the seat at all. People that argued that their kid should be able to go on even though their kid is an inch under the limit don’t know what their talking about because it’s so easy for one of those kids to fall over in the seat and then slide under the bar. And if an accident should occur, guess who everyone will blame first? The ride op!

I remember one time I was running the ride with a kid who just made it over the height limit. Once I got the ride to full speed, I saw the kid repeatedly lean to one side and then let the G forces pull him into the side of the car. Every time he hit the side he would be in a laying position; a quick thrust forward could have sent him under the bar. Once I saw this, I slowed the ride down and yelled to him “hey you sit up!” He did for a bit, once it got to full speed again, he started to pull the same shit. Again I slow it down and told him to sit up. The third time this happened I slowed the ride down a bit and yelled a stern and decidedly pissed off “HEY STOP MESSING AROUND AND SIT UP!” This finally set him straight for the remainder of the ride. I was surprised that the parents didn’t make a comment to me for yelling at their kid. After that incident I was a little weary about running the Scrambler with kids just about or at the height limit again.

Kiddie rides are boring as hell to operate

Kiddie rides are boring as hell to operate

A lot of the kids that went to the park also would break rules that I thought everyone knew. One time while I was running the bumper cars, these three kids unlocked and opened the entrance gate, and ran up to me to give me their tickets. I mean, the ride is running, don’t they know enough to not open the entrance gate themselves let alone to not walk into the ride area while it’s running?

A few times on different rides, kids would take off their seatbelt while the ride is running. Man that is stupid! One of the worst things I saw was when a kid pushed the speed adjusting lever on the Scrambler while his mother was holding his hand! She saw it and didn’t even reprimand him or anything! You know, if that ride didn’t work in conjunction with a foot pedal, then that kid would have turned the ride on and weedwacked everyone in the ride area! Another time I was letting people on a small drop tower ride, and this 10 year old or so kid just slaps the e-stop on the control panel while walking past it! I had to go and reset the ride because of that, which didn’t take long at all but if I didn’t know how to it would have held everyone up. I really should have kicked that fuckin’ kid off the ride and I look back ashamed that I didn’t.

No matter how bad the kids were though, the parents always could top them. A lot of the time a parent would assume that they could stand inside the ride area while their kid rode and then, when I asked them to wait outside, would question this rule while kids waiting for the ride to start would get restless and start taking their seatbelts off and shit which delayed the ride even more! On a busy day, running bigger rides became hell because it was just you with no other ride op. Factor in all the people that questioned the height restriction, and the 4 ticket rule, and it could easily take 10 minutes to load a ride.

The worst parent ever was this one guy who thought I didn’t secure his kid in. It was on a ride called the Crazy Submarine. The bars on the ride only snap down to one position; they don’t ratchet down to the persons lap. There is also a door to keep kids from exiting in mid-air. So I fill the ride up, check the bars and doors and start up. Then some big, white ‘gangsta wannabe’ dude says “Hey you didn’t pull the bar down for my kid!” I was a bit shocked at this statement so I looked as the car came by. Nope, sure enough, it was in the down positon; the bars only lock into one position so it’s not uncommon for them to be a distance from the rider’s body.

So after seeing this I said, “No, I checked it before, it’s locked.” Then the guy goes “Bullshit! I didn’t see you check it, it isn’t I can see it above the door, it’s not down!” Again we come back to the fact that the bar only goes down to one position. I was in no position to explain to this guy that the bar was in the correct position so again I say “I checked it before, it’s locked and I can see that it’s locked.” The guy said the same thing over again and then said “If my daughter gets hurt I swear I’ll beat the living shit out of you!” Uh oh…

Now, I should have said, “and if you lay a finger on me I’ll fucking sue you for all you’ve got, which probably isn’t much!” However, that would have resulted in a vicious beatdown (this guy was pretty big) and as an added bonus, my foot would have come off the ‘dead mans switch’ causing the ride to stop, standing riders in midair…it would have been quite the scene. Instead I asked if he wanted me to stop the ride to show him that it’s down and unfortunately he did.

As I brought the ride to a halt, one parent on the ride started yelling at the guy saying “You idiot it’s down! Why are you threatening to beat him up when he did everything right? You just made him stop the ride for nothing!” The guy was like “oh shutup woman,” like a total dick. I showed him that it was down and he didn’t even apologize! What a sack of shit! After that I decided that I would finish up that summer and then never work at a small amusement park again.

Now I might sound like an asshole after this whole rant but then again 75% of all the ride ops at the park that I talked to felt the same way! Now, I wouldn’t mind working at a park with bigger rides; rides that I can run the way I want to run them; you know rides that can be run manually like the Breakdance or Top Spin. But a small family park, no way, never again! Well…maybe for $25 bucks an hour. lol

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  • Tyrone says:

    I just read your article and I too can relate when it comes to the height rule and the dumb-ass parents wanting you to bend the rules just for them….over and over again. I used to work on the Himalaya in Ocean City, Maryland 2 years ago, and this lady wanted me to let her kid on the ride but he was way too short, so I wouldn’t let him on. In result, she kept trying to talk me into letting him on, but I repeatatly told her I couldn’t let her child on because he was too small, so she started to get a bit belligerent with me, but I kept my cool. Not only she was causing a scene, she was also holding us all up and the line.

    This wasn’t the worst part. This chicken-shit guy who I was working with who was my best friend’s girl’s brother didn’t even bother to step in or find one of the security guards to help me settle this situation, instead he just quickly walked past us telling me that the ride was about to start. So I had to run back to my spot so the ride can start, but after the ride was over, the same bitch started with me again as she got loud and cursing me out telling me I was rude and everything, and all I did was my job. Once again, not a single person bothered to step in.

    After she left, this fool who was so much help starts getting in my face and laughing telling me how pissed she was. A friend of mine who I was working for who was on break when this was going on, tried to talk to me trying to calm me down. I told my best friend about the situation last year, and he even found it to be strange that no one called any kind of security to settle the confrontation. As for the other guy (his girl’s brother who shall remain nameless) I do not want anything to do with him as long as I live, because there was no excuse for what he did…or should I say, didn’t do.

    • DoD3Brian says:

      Hey Tyrone, thanks for commenting!

      Seriously, those parents who would bargain to get their kid on the ride are some of the worst! I think ride ops should just be allowed to blatantly tell the truth in that situation:

      Parent: “My kid is only 5 inches short! Why can’t he ride?”
      Ride op: “Well…because he might fly the hell off, be severely injured or killed and I’ll get sued and/or thrown in jail.”

      Nah, that probably wouldn’t work either; then they’ll break out the “well he/she has been on this before and nothing happened!” Rides ops never win…

      By the way, I love your site! I remember stumbling across it a while back when making the Himalaya page for this site; there’s a lot of great info there! Those old Reverchon models were some of the best; they seemed to run faster than the modern ones as well. Thanks for putting the site together!

  • Cat says:

    Oh god, tell me about the height problems!

    I work at Morey’s Piers, and most of the rides I operate are major ones: Musik Express, Maelstrom, Waveswinger, Sea Dragon, those guys. As such, the height requirements are generally high (Express and Maelstrom are both 52 inches, Waveswinger is 48, and Sea Dragon is 40 with an adult or 48 alone). I’ve run into so much drama over kids being too small to go on a ride. Honestly, I think the Sea Dragon height requirement needs to be higher because even when kids are with a parent, they still look like they could slide under the lap bar! It scares the hell out of me!

    I get the most drama on the Waveswinger, though. I get parents who will take the height stick out of its holder while the ride is moving, wrongly measure their kids, and then claim that they measured them and they were tall enough when I open the front gate. The BEST is this, though: “His doctor said he’s 48 inches tall!” Lady, either your doctor is lying or you’re lying. Go ride the Kiddie Swings. I don’t think they understand that it’s for their child’s own safety!

  • John says:

    Your stories are exactly why I would not work at a kiddie park, especially one on a ticket system. Spending my day bickering with grumpy, trashy, cheap parents about tickets seems like hell.

  • Julie says:

    Brian, you don’t sound like an asshole at all. Dealing with angry, ignorant, irrational, and often tired/heat exhausted people is a miserable and thankless job. (So is dealing with hungry people, so food service jobs suck too.) You’d think they’d care more about their kids’ safety but they just don’t want to deal with their kids’ whining… so they whine to you instead. I’m sorry that people gave you shit for wanting to do the right thing. I hope you are doing something more rewarding now.

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