Confessions Of... An Amusement Park Employee

'You're the one called to clean up vomit puddles'

Melissa Mayntz worked at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, during five summers between 1996 and 2003.

Keeping it clean

I had several different jobs at the park, but my favorite was one most employees hated: the sweep. Sweeps are always walking; my record was 22 miles--and yes, I had a pedometer that day. As a sweep, you're the one called to clean up vomit puddles and spilled sodas. But I loved the exercise, the freedom to roam the park, and the fact that I never knew what I'd find: discarded socks, kids' retainers, and one time, an unopened can of corn. The job does have its hazards--namely, cigarette butts. Sweeps gather hundreds of them, and smoldering cigarettes often rub up against napkins in the dustpan. While doing the "dustpan jig" to stomp out the flames, I set myself on fire more times than I care to mention. It shouldn't have to be said, but if you smoke, please use the ashtrays. It's not like they're hard to find--there's one near the entrance to every ride, shop, and restaurant.

Lines, long and short

Most guests assume the wait for rides is shorter early and late in the season, but that's not entirely true. While lines tend to be long in summer, that's also when staff levels are highest. A fully staffed coaster runs efficiently, with up to four employees checking harnesses, an operator at the entrance to measure guests' heights, and a quick turnover of riders. In spring or early fall, however, rides may have only two employees checking harnesses and no one at the entrance. The extra seconds that it takes the smaller staff to do its jobs add up. In terms of shortest wait time, your best bet is weekdays in early June, when there are plenty of college students already at work, but grammar and high schools are still in session.

Standing tall

Ride operators have a love-hate relationship with the candy cane, the striped pipe Cedar Point uses for height measurements. Guests try to circumvent the system, and we've seen it all: stuffed shoes, 8-year-olds with platform heels, ponytails rising four inches above the scalp. It's unwise to try to fool the candy canes. Parents with children who just make the cut should visit the operations office at Cedar Point for a height measurement. Kids who qualify will be given a wristband to save them from hassles at ride entrances.

Shutdowns

Most ride delays are the result of computer "setups," in which the ride must reset after a stoppage. Setups usually last less than 10 minutes, and operators don't typically bother offering explanations. When an operator doles out vague statements such as "We're temporarily closed for mechanical reasons," and "We don't know how long we'll be closed, but we'll reopen as soon as possible," you might want to move on.

It's our summer, too

Working at an amusement park isn't at all like an extended vacation. I clocked 60-70 hours a week, sometimes with seven days in a row on the job. Roller coasters, while exciting at first, lose their novelty after you've served four open-to-close shifts back-to-back. Still, we employees made our own fun. One summer, while I was cleaning the boats at a ride, a water fight broke out with hoses and buckets. Another season, we created a Fourth of July scavenger hunt, with prizes for spotting the most American flag swimsuits, guests with boiled-lobster sunburns, and identically dressed families.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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