The Hundred Days
I'll preface this by saying a few things about working at Six Flags Over Texas. It was a BLAST! I was there throughout the summers of `88 and `89 and, although I was older than the majority of the employees, felt right at home. During the main season no less than two thousand kids worked there, most of them between sixteen and eighteen, and, during the time I was one of them, they were the partyingest bunch I've ever known. About half lived in Arlington and most were better off than I. That and the fact that school was out meant that out-of-park parties were the rule, so there was rarely a weekend when I couldn't find at least one multi-kegger to go to. In-park parties, which we called "fake parties" because they were officially sanctioned by the management, were dry and cheesy, but still afforded an easy way to meet tons of people. I made the most of all of it, despite the fact that, in `88, I hadn't yet tasted of the Fruit and had yet to lose the conviction that girls never wanted to have sex at all. In `89, after being with Candace, that hangup was history.
I was nineteen, going on twenty, and wanted every minute to last. At least, when I wasn't in Fort Worth. Living at home, working Mcjobs, and riding a scooter weren't exactly the most mature, manly traits expected of someone my age, as my dad constantly reminded me. Once I was in Arlington, however, I didn't care. Whether picking cigarette butts off the hot blacktop at work, cruising the main drags of Cooper and Collins, or getting trashed with my fellow freaks somewhere in Southy, I was on top of the world and needed only a push to make a total fool out of myself. This I did often and with reckless abandon. It wasn't that I felt immortal, it was that I simply didn't spend my time worrying about that. It's amazing that I got through the first year without getting laid. Equally amazing that I got through the second without getting VD.
The general employees of a Six Flags park are divided into departments, including; Rides, Shows, Foods, Games, Admissions, and mine, Park Services. "Services" is a nice way to say we were the ultimate peons, picking up the streets, cleaning restrooms, running trash at the end of the night, and doing whatever wasn't included in everyone else's jobs. A few jobs were contracted out, like the Maids who more thoroughly cleaned the restrooms, Arts, Security, and Maintenance, but it was Park Services who got to unclog the drains, look for jewelry lost on rides, admonish linejumpers, keep tabs on celebs trying to stay "anonymous", and report any rules violations by the guests. We worked eight hour shifts, often splits or doubles, walking endlessly over tarred pavement in the sweltering Texas heat in full-length midnight blue polyester slacks. I, for one, couldn't get enough of it.
Why? Unlike Rides, Foods, Games, and Admissions, who tended to be those kids in high school that filled the "in crowd" niches, we got to move. That meant we got to gossip with all the rest, chat with guests, or find spots to slack off. We got to scam lemonades from the foodstands, sneak into shows, spy on kids making out in the places they erroneously thought were private, and generally socialize with each other. We paid for our perks with shit jobs, but it was worth it to be able to torment the Rides kids on especially hot days and chat up that particularly cute girl at the Dolphin Show. We called the main season the Hundred Days, but it felt like a vacation that would never end.
As the employees were divided into departments, so too the Park was divided into areas. Both summers, my choice was area Five, which included the Texas Tower, the Music Mill Ampitheater, the Shockwave, and the Roaring Rapids. In square footage and total number of trash cans, it was the largest area, but we usually had more people to work it, so we often won the dumpster competition after close. This was sometimes a wildly contested race between areas, and Five considered it one of pride. It was fostered by the stupid-visors who wanted us to spend as little time on the clock as possible, but that didn't matter, because it was just as fun to laugh at one of our own dumping melted Pink Things and trash-piss all over himself in his haste as it was running our over-filled tubs down to the dumpsters just in time to cut off one of the other areas. The dumpsters were behind the next area, Six, so those of us on the north side of the park had an unfair advantage, but we didn't care. The biggest contest was usually between Five and Four, anyway. And herein lies the first of my tales.
One of the perks about working there that was always touted by Management was the in-park parties and, sometimes during them, the privilege of riding a new ride before the guests got a chance at it. This was another bit of misdirection on their part, as they needed guinea pigs to test the rides without incurring hefty insurance costs and bad publicity from an accident on opening day, but we, as eager as lemmings, invariably jumped at the chance. In `89, when we heard of the Flashback Party promoting the new Flashback rollercoaster and the reopening of the section of area Six formerly styled as a turn-of-the-century penny arcade, we flocked. There was to be no alcohol, of course, and no tolerance for drugs, but that wasn't much of a deterence for a population of mostly upper middle class white kids whose parents were either old hippies or out of town in the Bahamas. Half of us were drunk before we got there and the half that weren't, the ones who were just getting off work, were amply supplied by our buddies. I was part of the then dumpster champions, area Five, so I had some recognition, if only amongst Park Services. This was a "fake" party I was ready for.
The fact that my area was currently the dumpster run champions had a particular interest to me because our major competition was area Four, which contained The Cave, most of the Spanish section, and the as yet unfinished Texas Giant rollercoaster. Also, there was a cream-skinned, red-haired girl working in that area who I had my eye on. For the sake of discretion, I'll call her "X".
I had met X early in the season when I had taken an extra shift in her area. "Jumping" areas was a good way to get extra hours and a very good way to meet girls. By the end of the `88 season, I had worked in all seven areas, a feat I repeated in `89. It was well known the cutest girls in Park Services worked in One, by the front gate, because that was the one with the fewest rides and, therefore, the fewest trashcans; but these were also the girls who'd been hired too late to get Rides jobs. I prefered the ones who were "one of the guys", and X was happily just as grubby as the rest of us, though she cleaned up better. For a couple of weeks after working in Four with her, I happened to have the part of our area adjacent to hers while "walking butts" and we traded friendly insults in passing. Also, during that time, we walked out to the showers together after the last dumpster runs. In this way, her and my areas' playful competition helped to give me a chance for something that otherwise I'd not have had the guts to pursue.
Our zones of buttwalking were regularly rotated, so she and I stopped talking by day, and I became a "red tag", or assistant area manager, so I no longer had that particular job. Our walks after hours dropped off, as well, when my area finally perfected the fine art of timing dumpster runs and continually finished well ahead of everyone else. It simply wasn't as easy to feign indifference while keeping contact when there were a gazillion gossips frothing at the mouth to spread that kind of news, and she had landed the bomb that she had a boyfriend out-of-park. Here I was, nearly twenty years old and worried about something I'd been too much of a geek in high school to even be subjected to. Have I mentioned I'm a late bloomer? At any rate, we cooled down to "Hi"s and "Bye"s . Then came Flashback.
I was a newly minted red tag, a position I had gotten not by interest, but by employee attrition and seniority, in the dominant area of the Park Services out-crowd. Besides the Services Supervisor and our area manager, I was the senior peon on the north side of the park, and I had connections. At least a week before the Flashback party, the area manager, our other assistant manager, and I had lined up a quarter ounce of weed and planned out how we'd bring in some alcohol. The three of us were really total geeks, and only the other red tag had a girlfriend, so we made our plans known to a few discreet buds around the park and were happy to hear we were but three of many who'd had the same idea. For me, this kind of undermining of authority had become routine in Fort Worth, but here it felt like a John Hughes film. I was especially glad to hear that we'd be joined at our pre-party party by several kids from our former enemy, area Four, including X.
That night, everything went perfectly. Better, even. Four and Five finished early and together, so we conspirators had nearly a half hour to suck down a fifth of JD and another of Smirnoff, along with smoking some fatties between eight kids, while jockeying for room in Five's cramped utility closet under the Texas Tower. Needless to say, we would be a happy mob when we joined the rest of the kids in area Six. Now, I've never been sure of the opinions of Management about just how raucus the employees got during the height of the summer. Surely, they didn't want drugs or underage drunks in the park, especially during official gatherings, but the security on hand at such functions never bothered me about it and I never heard through the grapevine about anything serious happening. Perhaps they guessed, and rightly, that we'd go to great lengths to keep these things quiet, at least before the festivities began. Maybe they just turned their heads and hoped for the best. We certainly never saw any "suits" at in-park parties.
X was on the last trash run, when Four and Five came in at a tie, and helped me and Five's other red tag to compact the trash. Four and Five ran together to drop off the tubs and clock out, then again to the locker rooms and showers. For once, it didn't matter who was first among us, and in the utility closet everybody shared out as equally as we could. It's hard to believe nobody called us out when the eight of us showed up at the party, but they were already getting the rollercoaster up and running. Luckily for our group that was the first call of business, because we'd have been unable to hold our stomachs later. The Flashback itself was a bit of a disappointment to me, too short by far, and the one loop and "scalloped" inversions were inadequate in a park that was at the same time building a wooden coaster with the ground area of two football fields. Oh, well, they had only so much money to spend. X loved it, though. especially the backwards bit. She caught me and dragged me and her two Foods girlfriends onto it for a second ride. This time, we sat together and I enjoyed that minute and a half much more than I had the first.
That done, though, two of the stupid-visors told the group about the other changes to that section. Of course, we already knew all about it. I had jumped Six only two weeks before and learned that they were leaving the new retro-50s Flashback Cafe unlocked at night. It wasn't to open until the next day, but the idiots made third shift hose it down inside every night anyway. It was a tidbit of information that, as fate would have it, was valuable.
Then came the dancing to local DJs spinning the latest top 40 radio gaga. That year, if I remember right, it was still mostly pre-gangsta rap, post-new wave club, and pre-Nirvana metal ballads. There wasn't much for me, and not much for X, either. I resigned myself to thinking we'd probably reached our height that night and tried to think of ways to get her to go to area Five's after-party as well. In fact, I was afraid she'd leave before I'd even get a chance to talk to her. It went on like any night at a teen club, with people filtering out regularly to re-spike their drinks, myself included. Area Five's conspirators had agreed to leave the rest of the pot for after, but our manager ganked one more for himself when it became obvious the party wasn't getting any better. There was about an hour left when I got fed up with trying to dance to the crap they were playing. That year, I'd begun hanging out at Joe's Garage and the Axis in Fort Worth, which were always packed with raging, moshing punks, so I was looking for something with more of an edge. I asked the DJ what he had, and he pointed me to the crates of vinyls. Without a thought to the coincidence of this, I picked out the one hard album in the bunch, AC/DC: Back In Black. He shrugged, and, two songs later, spun up "You Shook Me All Night Long." Like all of their songs, it was short, but long enough.
As soon as it started, the dance floor emptied. Obviously, those who loved AC/DC either were too old or too cool to work there in the first place, not interested in dancing with what amounted to a high school glee club, or had better things to smoke than Marlboro lights 100s. I was oblivious. I abandoned all dignity and jumped around like the hardest freaks in the Deep Ellum dives in Dallas. How shocked I was when X barrelled into me at full speed! Laughing at ourselves and the gawking eyes around us, we moshed away into that dark, animalistic place that you can't find in a ballroom. We had just a few minutes to stomp out whatever anxieties we'd worked up that week, and we took full advantage. Oh, yeah, we slammed and pushed each other down, hair and sweat flying, and everybody else stood around looking stupid.
I was hoping the DJ would catch the groove and put on something equally loud, but, as the weak family-oriented atmosphere required, he followed it up with a slow song, OMD. X and I looked at each other sheepishly, but joined up as the dance floor filled again. This was a joke to us, though, and we left the rest to it, filing out to where she had been sitting on the sidelines with her two friends. There was chatting, but we had little in common besides work and our love for hard music. Soon, there was nothing to say but for me to offer her and her friends one of the jays my friends and I had stashed back in area Five. She whispered, "Shh, ______ doesn't like that shit," but added that she'd get away if I'd bring it. Oh, how I felt like James Bond slinking around behind Security and my friends to go get it. In truth, neither Security nor my friends were paying attention to anything but the hoochies out on the dance floor. Some self-defeating part of my mind told me she'd probably take that chance to leave, but when I got back, winded and packing, she was still sitting in the same spot. And her friends were dancing. How conveeeenient.
I sat down on the bench next to her, feeling way too confident, but when I gestured toward the Flashback Cafe across the crowd from us and she smiled, my heart began to pump in earnest. If I were a religious person, I'd say there was the devil in her smile. The kind of devil that lives in your pants. Like that first, real kiss with Denise and that first night with Candace, I had come to the occasion horny as hell, but hadn't realized that sometimes it works both ways. We snuck around the crowd and behind the faux storefronts to the rear of the building where area Six's utility closet was, as well as the door to the Flashback Cafe. When I opened that door, she didn't hesitate, but went in first. After some oohs and ahhs at how clean the kitchen was, we hopped up on one of the burnished steel counters and lit up. Lemme tell ya, truth and beauty fans, there ain't nothing like sharing a full-on fatty with hot little thang like her! I was already slurring my words from the whiskey we'd drunk earlier and our moshing, and she was at least as far gone, but we giggled and played around like we were grade schoolers with a new toy. It all still was pretty new, for me at least, and I was nearly terrified we would get caught. She didn't seem a bit scared, though, and so, before the joint was half gone, we were trading shotguns. While passing the joint, she dropped it on the floor and laughed, then gave me that smile again.
That's all it took, me droogs. Whiz, bang! Before we could slip our jeans all the way off, we were fucking on that cold, hard countertop while the joint smoldered on the floor. Condoms? Other important questions like age or medical history? Not for us. Once again, pot, alcohol, and hormones had made their demands and we were more than willing to comply. While Candace had been submissive in bed, X was sizzling on the grille. She did most of the work, partly because I was so toasty, partly because she insisted on being on top. Hey, who was I to fight? My legs were still tangled in my jeans. At least I lasted longer with her than I usually had with Candace. I'm not sure she got off, which probably means she didn't. She didn't make much noise beyond breathing heavilly, but I got the idea she was having fun. I've said before that I know I'm no Lothario, but my pride again hit record levels. When we were finished, I reached down to that floor that never again would be as clean, picked the roach up, placed it between her lips, and lit it like Bogey would. And gave her back that smile.
Nope, we didn't get caught. We were almost angry when we got back to the party and it became clear nobody had noticed we'd left. But we didn't tell anyone what we'd done besides mentioning the joint to my two co-conspirators. I think my manager got the hint, but my fellow red tag was pissed that he hadn't stolen one himself. So he stalked off to do that. X and I tried dancing again, but neither of us had any energy for it and she soon left with her friends. I stayed `til the last dregs shuffled out and we tres amigos shared out what was left of the mota. My manager had decided not to have the after-party, and I was no longer in shape for it. I ended up sitting out by the employee gate where my scooter was parked, shooting the shit with the night guard until the sun came up. None of the girls leaving even asked to drive my scooter. A first. Make fun of it they did, but they loved it, all the same.
She and I stayed friends, of a sort, until I quit. She hadn't gotten pregnant and we hadn't exchanged anything unwanted. We never got any closer than that, either, but every so often we talked like two people who had. It was enough for us to share that secret smile.