September

1999

Waterslide Park

“How,” I am asking myself, “did I wind up in a mid-90’s Toyota Corrola with a woman I work with and her screaming, illegitimate child, blaring loud, irritating gangsta rap of the Puff Daddy variety, on my way to a waterslide park on one of my last days in Seattle?”

Now that’s an excellent question.

I have always attempted to not become friends with the people I work with; given my astonishing track record of quitting jobs (I’ve had nine in the last three years), gaining emotional attachements to my fellow drones has always seemed a little pointless. However, as I held on to my last job absurdly long to exploit my health care, vacation days and overtime privleges, I became more than just “that quiet guy who always seems like he’s gonna kill somebody.”

Through a twist of fate more convoluted than my stomach after eating at Arbys, I wound up managing the document retreival department, with four people under me, all older than myself. One of them, Jennifer, was the sister of another person in the company, and, due to a complicated and frankly ridiculous series of events, I was conducting a clandestine affair with her sister’s boss. That’s why I try not to get involved – office politics. Anyway, when Jennifer off-handedly remarked that her and her sister had gone to Wild Waves (a local water entertainment facility and drain-grate for obese white trash of every variety) I made a big fuss about them not inviting me. In my youth, it had been a fantastic place; I even had one of my birthdays there. Little did I know what a cruel trick time was about to play on one of my last pure memories.Originally, we were going to go go-kart racing out at Ocean Shores, a prospect made even more ridiculous by the fact that I have no idea how to drive, but the magnitude of that venture quickly became overwhelming, and we shelved it in favor of waterslides and sunburns. So one Saturday in July, after I had left my job and moved back in with my mother in preparation for my move to New York, Jennifer rolled up in her car, smoking a cigarette, and we were off. The trip was as uneventful as any trip with a crying child can be, and, after meeting her sister and her gap-toothed, lanky, ex-Marine boyfriend in a bank parking lot in some anonymous suburb and stopping at Burger King to fuel the kid (I declined), we were off!

We arrived, parked what seemed like several miles from the entrance in a dusty gravel parking lot that made my eyes bleed, and went to the gate, where we shelled out a fat $20 each, and I was informed that my regulation black cut-offs were not acceptable, and that I would not be allowed to go down any slides.

At this point, a wiser man would have simply given up and spent the day lying on a beach-towel praying for sunstroke and blessed unconsciousness. Me, however, am not smart.Yes, there was an overpriced gift shop. Yes, they sold the kind of swim trunks that were OK for the watersliding.Yes, they were motherfucking expensive. Yes, I bought a pair. $30. My wallet was now officially empty. But man,it was gonna be worth it! Action! Woo!

So me and the ex-marine and the illegitimate mulatto child went merrily to the building that housed the lines for the slides, after they applied a spray-on sunscreen that would prove to be amazingly worthless as our skin reddened and puckered under the blazing day. Arriving at the foot of the line, we were greeted with a cheery sign reading “45 Minute Wait from This Point.”

We settled in. The line moved slowly, our vision obscured by obese fatbags in nylon suits stretched past their limits, furrows and fissures running through their corpulence. I was thankful I hadn’t eaten. The line switchbacked up a half-dozen flights of stairs, and we were seemingly no closer to the top. If I had had a watch, it would have driven me insane. Thin streams of urine ran down the gently sloped hallways.

The child became impatient, and it fell to the ex-Marine to keep him entertained, as my presence there was alien, an observer. I didn’t belong there, and I knew it. I missed the cool, mushroom-cellar ambiance of my house. I had never smelled so many different flavors of sweat and human funk. No light could be seen. I began to become claustrophobic. A sign read “15 Minute Wait from This Point,” but by this time I had stopped believing.

Eventually we made it to the top. I went down the slide that I had remembered with a combination of awe and terror from my youth, an assemblage of hairpin turns and crazy drops, joyous in the knowledge that my increased weight = more inertia = faster speeds.

It was primarily a letdown, over too soon and the water, chlorinated heavily enough to kill anything in it under 12 pounds, burned my eyes, nose and mouth. I staggered out of the pool at the bottom, one hand on the waistband of my ill-fitting new shorts, the other frantically rubbing my face.

We spent some time in the wave pool, a massive area with artificial wave generators running through a 15-minute cycle and a tape of top-40 music piped at deafening volume and repeating constantly, as it was all over the park. I heard “Devil’s Haircut” by Beck a good 12 times, which didn’t really bother me, but I heard “Mmmbop” by Hanson a good 12 times, which did. Listlessly floating, barely keeping my head above water and attempting to forget, I was kicked in the face by a size-10 foot atop an inflatable raft, getting a good look at corns and psoriasis as it floated away. As the raft pivoted around, I came face-to-face with a horrible mongoloid, retarded beyond belief. He blew a spit bubble and floated lazily away. I retired to shore.

The group went to a nearby overpriced concession stand to buy themselves some lingering bacterial infections and I was left, sporadically ogling fourteen-year-old girls and cursing my life.

Later, we waited in line for a roller-coaster that gave me a migrane so bad that even thinking about it makes me wince, saw a grotesque hausfrau wheeling around a boy of seven or eight in an enormous stroller, and everywhere people stuffing their faces and having fun. By this point, my paranoia had become so great that I was convinced they could sense me, they knew that i was urban, educated, not like them, and that when my back was turned they would strike, crease my brow with a shovel and bury me in the duck pond, unsurprisingly devoid of ducks.

Just a few years ago I had been so happy to be here, convinced that this place was the apotheosis of human fun. What was wrong with me? What had gone wrong with me that a place that made children happy, that gave people a chance to get out of the hot sun and buy frozen bananas and gorge themselves on them, why did that make me so pained? What was wrong with me?

That’s another excellent question.