On a trip to New Jersey for a 50th wedding anniversary of some cousins, the Brawny Sherpa and I decide to spend a day at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson with all three Youthful Adventurers. We’ll gladly pay the price of admission in exchange for a blended-family bonding experience—and to reward the youthful ones for good behavior at the family function.
Given that all three of our kids are in high school or beyond, we set them loose to enjoy all of the roller coasters. They will check in periodically, mostly to hit us up for cash for food or trinkets. That’s fine. They are having fun.
The Brawny Sherpa and I, meanwhile, plan to go on all of three rides and intend, basically, just to enjoy a sunny day in a sort-of-crazy place. Here’s how it goes:
On a carousel, a matronly sort gives us a look that says “grown-ups have no place being here.” We are not deterred. After all, a scary ghoul fronts the ride. Surely the little ones, at the very least, will want some adult supervision to get past that?
All is well until, on the second trip round the carousel, the inspector determines that our seat belts are not properly fastened. Mine, she adjusts. The Brawny Sherpa is, indeed, brawny. She will not allow him to ride. This is the first time in 51 years he’s been booted off a carousel. Well, not exactly booted. He is allowed to stand and watch the horse next to him go up and down. We opt out.
Yes, there’s a sign indicating that some riders may be too large to enjoy the ride. Sometimes a company just needs to let go of its legal counsel and let its patrons, especially the adult ones who aren’t actually that vast, have their own great adventure. Save the stern bureaucratic nonsense for actual government. The carousel shouldn’t be someone’s nasty fiefdom. How about a safety belt extension for adults? Besides, it seems the safety belt rule isn’t exactly enforced uniformly. Let’s just say a well-fed mom near us is allowed to continue on the ride apparently without a belt because of a diatribe about how her child could not possibly ride alone.
Next, we line up for the Skyway, the cable car that will take us to the other side of the park. Good for us except for the part where the chains directing the line traffic are not properly fastened, resulting in a super-long and somewhat haphazard line extending from the entrance. We are not being properly corralled, and apparently no employee is nearby to fix things. This gives us plenty of time to contemplate the lack of employee supervision, a certain uncleanliness, and the fact that one side of the Skyway is closed. The ride itself, however, proceeds smoothly.
When we get to the other side of the park, we decide that the Ferris wheel is appropriately our speed. The line is just over two lanes long, and, again, largely unattended, with chains not appropriately directing traffic. No matter. Plenty of adults people this line. Who goes on the Ferris wheel? Grown-ups and little kids. Or, to put this in words that amusement-park managers can understand: wallets and little kids. We are the deciders on where our family’s discretionary funds will be spent. One would think, then, that some attention would be paid to make sure that we have a joyful ride.
Not the case. Each of our kids could manage that Ferris wheel line better than the crew that is actually manning it. Although we are in the third row when we join the line, it takes almost an hour—and possibly longer—for us to get on that ride. The Brawny Sherpa and I can wait forever—no impatient little ones are currently in our company. Too bad so many of the other patrons become frazzled while waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.
Once free of the more adventuresome part of the day, we head to the Cyber Café for cappuccino and pretzels. Unfortunately, although pretzels, we are told by our cashier, are made in the café—which is why we can clearly see them—they are not sold there. We’ll have to buy our cappuccinos in the café, then head across the walk and stand in line at a snack booth. Perfect. While we are not actually thinking, We should have gone to Disney, we are pretty sure we won’t be back for this sort of pleasure any time soon.
We give this place one last chance while killing some time looking for funny hats for Halloween. The Brawny Sherpa is called by Batman, and I decide that my friend Fred needs a cup with his name on it. So begins another unnecessarily long wait—not because there’s a long line, but because there are too few cashiers, and the one that will be helping us is extraordinarily slow in helping the one person ahead of us.
I appreciate that Great Adventure is busy with Halloween activities. I understand that theme parks are crowded. Maybe it’s because our eldest is a business major in college, or because I manage several dozen people myself in my nontraveling hours, that we begin to think of things like efficiencies and returns on investment while standing around and not spending money at Great Adventure. Surely the park could move a lot more product if only more people were sufficiently trained and standing at the register. Maybe if the lines moved more swiftly on the easy rides, I’d leave the park smiling and thinking, I’ll be back again soon. I love taking the kids here.
What we leave thinking is: Next time, we’ll do Hershey. Or Playland in Westchester. Or just New York City. Theme parks have to compete for our discretionary dollars, and I want Great Adventure to try harder.
Planning a trip to an amusement park? Consider these posts:
- Survived the Apocalypse? Head to Disney
- Amusement Park Politics
- Three Lines Worth Waiting On (and Two to Skip)