Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.


Written 28 July about work around 14 July.

There are two buttons in front of me. Red. Green. And a power switch. The system is simple enough. It is my all-clear signal to the attendant at the top of the giant slide who is hidden behind the roof of the warehouse called Coney Island.

There is a woman beside me. Late thirties, dark features but no discernible accent. She could be of Persian decent, maybe Indian. I can’t really tell. She holds her iPhone up waiting for her time to film.

A couple kids come racing down. After them will be a few more. Then some of her friends who will tell her that her target is up next.

Her target is her sister-in-law. We get a couple minutes to talk during the wait which is how I find out. It is her brother’s 40th birthday. They are celebrating by getting babysitters and coming out to Luna Park to hit the rides. The group has seemed energetic and fun loving. I’ve seen people who are more into it, but only slightly. And these adults are easily more in the moment than most of the kids around.

I’ve hit the green button and stand in wait. The light is hidden to me along with the operator, but the fuzzy reflection halfway down the slide indicates that it is working.

Nothing happens.

The woman beside me fills me in that her sister-in-law is a bit terrified of heights and might be chickening out. It is the reason she is filming. She is now filming.

I stand there. I wait. This is something I’m not particularly fond of doing as such. I spend many of my shifts standing around knowing that I will soon be called on to act. But I don’t wait. I dance. I bounce. I engage others. Standing silently and motionless is death in this job.

I bring one hand clutched in front of me and the other above my head in small circles. A few rotations and I throw the lasso up to the top of the slide. I pull the rope taut. I’ve got her now. She is going to come down this slide whether she wants to or not.

I pull. I might as well have the rope around a boulder. I pull again, harder. Nothing. I yank. Nope. I take a couple steps forward and wrap the rope around my waist. I lean back to put my leverage into it. Nothing.

The look of effort expended is on my face. My pantomimes are making my brow furrow and a few beads of sweat start to form.

I turn away from the slide and hoist the rope over the shoulder. From this position I have a better angle to put my legs to work. I also have a better angle to realize that the woman is no longer filming the slide alone. She has reframed the shot to focus on my efforts.

I put one foot in front of the other and bend my legs, grip tight on the rope I lean into the pull. Nothing. I strain against it. I back up a couple steps and in my most impressive feat of miming I take a couple running start steps and stop abruptly, upper body pulled back in recoil from hitting the end of the rope as it gives not an inch.

I wipe my brow. I flick the sweat away with a defeated look. Forget it. With a dismissive brush off flick of my wrist I sneer at the top of the slide. “Fine, don’t go. I don’t care.”

A brief pause. And, scene! With a quick small exhale through my nose my lips retake their default work position – a smile. I feel the mustache shift on my upper lip and the skin around my eyes relax. The smile isn’t fake. When it flashes back onto my face my eyes follow suit and my mood is again placid.

I retake my position at my station. Hand ready over the binary choice of color. “I tried,” I turn and say to the woman behind the camera. She smiles and stops recording.

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This entry was posted on July 29, 2012 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney).

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