Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

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The Giant Slide

My first partially unattended shift at Luna Park was yesterday. I’ve been sitting through inductions and welcomes, reading safety procedures, getting walkthroughs on some of the rides. And yesterday involved a bit of that as well. Stand here. Turn on the machine like this. Stop it in case of these situations. If there is an evacuation, the person you report to is over there and you’ll need to take the patrons to the boardwalk and out to the greens.

But for a few glorious hours they let me loose to do the job I’ve been hired for.

I sat at the top of the giant slide. Benefit number one of that specific operator position: a chair. It is one of the few places where I will get to sit down on shift and not just stand there for eight hours.

The giant slide is aptly named compared to the other slides on offer. Steep drop evening out to a long flat slide track. You sit on a potato sack of sorts and ease yourself over the edge. Gravity does the rest.

School group after school group lined up for the ride. And for an hour I didn’t stop having people go over the edge. Each time I have to say a few key things. Feet in the pocket. Hands on the straps. Sit up. And go. Some kids returned a few times. I could shorten it, but I still had to say it all.

As the first few people went over, I quickly honed the spiel. As the minutes went by and the people kept coming, I tailored it to my mood and the person. Boys between six and twelve have the compeditive side in them, and generally were already talking about who was going to get down first, so I catered to that. Who’s going to make it down first? Who is going to win? Slide up, set up, and rocket off on three.

Those who were out of breath from climbing all the stairs to get to me got a congratulations for vanquishing the steps. Their reward, a much easier way of getting back down. One that would make it worth all the effort of getting up.

The adults got jokes about how hard it was to get into the mats. The kids were just jumping up and bending legs in all which ways to set up pretty easily. The adults had to sit down, bend their knees, and almost pull their feet with their hands to get them into position. Getting old sucks.

Those who were hesitant usually were obviously so. And I had a few who got to the top, looked over, balked, and walked. But I had heaps more who were clearly nervous and didn’t want to push themselves over. “This is one of my favorite rides in the park,” I told them. I was telling the truth, just based on fun of working it, not fun of experience. “I’ve never seen anyone get hurt on this ride.” Another truth, given that I’d been working it for only an hour. “It looks scarier than it is. Once you’re over, it is all fun. After all, why do you think people are willing to climb those stairs over and over?” Their friends usually helped encourage them. “Come on. It is awesome. We’ll go together.” And time after time I got to watch the nervous scooting forward, the pause of self-preservation, and then the plunge.

And with almost no exceptions everyone who had been so hesitant and nervous sprinted back up to do it again.

Then there was the girl. I didn’t get her name, but I’ll call her Julie since she looked like a child version of the female lead from Airplane!. She was the slide champion. After the school groups had left, my line was short. And I might have even gotten bored if she wasn’t there. But she was determined to ride the slide until she was dragged away by her mom. I noted her efforts around trip six. She got a high five at trip ten. I started asking her for tips on how to go fastest around trip fifteen. She informed me that the right track was better around trip twenty. She only stopped sprinting up the stairs around trip twenty five*. She was helping me ease the nerves of the hesitant riders and giving demonstrations of how fun it is throughout. And on her final ride we did a victory march up the last set of stairs together. She got a high five, a handshake, and I told her I would give the slide her name in honor of her accomplishments. Thirty three trips on the ride in a row.

After I was off shift I finally got my chance to ride the giant slide. I lined up, put the mat down, weaseled my feet into the pocket, and sidled up to the edge. Eeep! The drop really did look intimidating, and there was the brief moment of hesitation. But after everyone I had encouraged I had no doubt that I needed to throw myself down. And so I did. Wheeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

* Kids are nearly indefatigable.

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This entry was posted on June 16, 2012 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney).

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