This weekend I met the man with the most dangerous job in America. Actually he was a high school kid, I think. He looked to be about thirty to forty years younger than me, and approximately ninety to a hundred years younger than I feel, so that would put him around high school age.
He was obviously too young to fully grasp the gravity of his situation, so to speak. No experienced adult male would have ever signed up for the job this kid had.
We met him on a magical day. We got season passes to our local water slide park this year, and Saturday was opening day of the season. We arrived early and staked out our chaise lounges, and then the boys and I rushed off to The Riptide. It's the park’s brand new ride, and the boys and I have been salivating over it all winter.
It’s an enormous water slide - easily the tallest in the park - with four-person “quad tubes” so you can experience near-death with three of your closest friends, much like the time you let Steve drive the car on spring break.
You are in charge of getting your own quad tube to the top of the stairs, and they are apparently made out of equal parts ballistic rubber, lead weights and more lead weights. I can envision a system where two adults would be able to carry the massive tubes up the stairs together, but unfortunately, the boys weren’t much help. After a few minutes of tripping over each other and almost crushing Son Number Three with it, I reluctantly told the boys that I needed to carry the tube up the stairs myself.
The Riptide is a very high water slide, so we needed to climb up a lot of steps to reach the top. I lost count when I came close to blacking out, but it was probably about three thousand stairs. I didn’t have my Fitbit on, but I’m pretty sure I burned an entire HomeTown Buffet’s dinner rush worth of calories on that one climb.
The slide takes you down a steep tube and then rockets your terrified party of four up a gigantic vertical wall, where you hang motionless at the top for just a split second before your stomach catches up to you. Then, through a miracle of engineering (or a nightmarish trial and error period), you slide back down, directly into another cavernous tube that takes you around a 360-degree turn and into a huge pool of water, where lifeguards await to accept your deepest gratitude for being alive. It is awesome!
We finally reached the top of the stairs and made it onto the platform high above the park. After I had managed to get my heart rate back under four hundred and my blurry vision cleared up, I saw him. The man with the most dangerous job in America. Just a scrawny kid with a whistle around his neck and zinc oxide on his nose. He wasn’t the one who was directing traffic at the entrance to the slide, so it wasn’t immediately clear what purpose he served.
He welcomed us to The Riptide and then asked me and the boys to all step up onto the four-foot-square industrial scale located on the corner of the platform.
Apparently, in order to keep groups of fun-loving patrons from shooting straight up off the top of the vertical wall and into orbit, or missing the exit tube and dying a horrible death under a nine hundred-pound quad tube, The Riptide has a weight range. Your group's total weight has to be between two hundred and seven hundred pounds in order to ride. This kid’s job was to enforce the minimum and maximum weight limits.
Let me get this straight, kid. They've got you stationed up here on a platform, seventy feet off the ground, with no safety harness or anything, and your job is to ask groups of women in bathing suits to step on a scale so you can weigh them?
I’m not sure $8.50 an hour constitutes hazard pay. Good luck, kid. You’re a braver man than me.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen
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