Dollar Vodkas and funnel cakes: A Summer at the Jersey Shore

When I was 19 I spent the Summer working at a theme park on the Jersey shore.

I worked for $6-an-hour, 12-hours-a-day, in 100-degree-heat…
And it was genuinely the best Summer of my life. (Largely thanks to a seedy fake ID bought from the dodgiest Latvian man I’ve ever met.)

I was in charge of a ride called The Maelstrom.

Here he is:

Don’t let the smile fool you, I hated him. I wanted to roll him into the sea.
He was a bugger. Always breaking down, seizing up, and getting fat people STUCK.

You see, you had to be over 52″ and under 300 pounds to ride him.

The height-thing is easy. You get measurement-sticks for that, so it’s quite obvious who is too short and who isn’t. But to this day I have no idea what 300 pounds looks like. Maybe because I am British, and we don’t think in pounds. And partly because I can’t weigh people with my eyes.

Even if I had been vested with the ability to recognise who was too heavy, how on earth was I supposed to confront them? “Sorry love, you’re a bit fat for this, aren’t you? Why not try something else? Maybe a running machine?” Probably not going to happen… As I’m genuinely not a soul-less dickhead.

This gross incapacity of mine to determine who was 21 stone-or-over lead to all kinds of chaos.
I’d let the 300+ pound people on to the ride, they’d sit themselves down, they’d pull the harness over their shoulders, and “Christ!” the harness would say to itself “This is an obese bastard! We’d better LOCK ourselves tight so it doesn’t fall out.”

And the harness would lock itself so firm that when the ride finished I’d go to let everyone off, but be unable to get the large people out of their seats. They’d be squashed in there like frogs under the wheels of a bus.

Yeah, it was partly my fault. But it was mostly theirs, for a.) not reading the ride restrictions and b.) EATING ALL THE WORLD!

I’d have to call maintenance, who would lumber over with their spanners and saws, to cut the more-visually-conspicuous American from the ride. It took a couple minutes, and broke up my day quite nicely.

So of course, like most things? This became a game.

“How many fat people can I got stuck on the Maelstrom in an hour?”

My record was three. Three roly-polys wedged on the ride in 60 minutes. They made me a name badge that said “Kaylee-Can’t-Say-No-To-Fatties” after that incident, which I wasn’t allowed to wear at work.

I quite fancied the guy who worked in ride control, the dude who I had to ring when something went wrong with my ride. So yes… I was constantly sabotaging my ride as an excuse to phone him.

I’d spot a MASSIVE person a mile-off, and wave them over, practically begging them to try out The Maelstrom, (even imploring them to ride for FREE!) then hoping to death they’d get stuck. Some of them did, and this was a WIN.

The Maelstrom went upside down, spun you around, and genuinely just threw you about until you wanted to die. I had to tell people to take all their valuables off or out of their pockets before boarding. Some people were stupid and didn’t bother, so their money/ cellphones/ KNIVES were always falling out and almost causing me and the general public gathered beneath grievous injury.

It was this negligence to secure possessions that lead to my personal FAVOURITE EVER CULTURAL MISUNDERSTANDING. Ain’t got one? Sort it out!

Mine goes something like this: After one ride cycle I was accosted by a frantic American woman, all “Help me, Miss! Help me!”

I give her the “what’s up?” and she thrusts upon me the single greatest line I’ve ever heard. No amount of living could have prepared me for what she had to say, the short but brilliant:


Disarmed? Like the Texans at The Alamo, I had nothing!

Rendered speechless I just stared back at her until she repeated, “I’VE LOST MY FANNY.”

“You’ve lost your WHAT!?”

“My fanny! It fell off on the ride!”

“Your FANNY. Fell OFF. On the RIDE?”

“YES. My husband was in the crowd and he saw it fly down there!” she ejects, flailing her arms to the no-man’s land beyond the barriers.

I had to investigate.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to find there in the crevice behind the ride. I was just hoping to GOD it wasn’t another crevice.

What did I uncover? Well, there in the murky darkness was a dirty, brown, fairly large… BUM BAG. Or, FANNY-Pack, as the Americans refer to them.

In abbreviating fanny-pack to FANNY, the American woman had lead me to inadvertently believe she’d lost her vagina. An image that will stay with me until I die. An image that made me laugh myself to the floor, where my supervisor found me in a giggly heap 10 minutes later.


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