A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
When you’re a kid, the world looks different. Car dealerships and furniture stores are so dull as to make you feel like you will literally be bored for the rest of all eternity. As you aimlessly circle that station wagon for the tenth time or reread every word on every sign as your parents nod and scrutinize more upholstery, you are pretty sure your world may end here. You’ll never see your friends again, never have fun again, maybe never eat again. It’s over. It doesn’t get much worse.
On the flip side, a trip to a water park on a hot summer day is borderline magical. The rides are thrilling, the pools are cool and enticing, and there is almost nothing better than rewarding yourself with a hard-won Chipwich at the end of a long, tiring, exciting day of experimental water slides. It doesn’t get much better.
It was in this spirit that a friend of mine recently decided that a trip to a water park would be a fun, nostalgic way to celebrate her 26th birthday. So on a gorgeous Saturday, we all piled into cars and took a drive to nearby Vernon, N.J., which anyone from the Tri-State area will remember as the home to “Action Park, Action Park, the world’s largest water park!” They’ve re-branded and downsized quite a bit since those days, and I’ve figured out why.
According to one of the most entertaining Wikipedia entries I’ve read in a while, the park was nicknamed “Traction Park,” “Class Action Park,” and, less cleverly, “Death” and “Accident” Park by local doctors who treated patients with floom-related injuries of all sorts. They even featured a short-lived water slide with a loop-de-loop which may or may not have caused the dismemberment of several test dummies. But, you know, kids are resilient! Anyway, now it’s Mountain Creek, okay? That doesn’t even remotely rhyme with anything accident-related.
With only warm, fuzzy feelings in our hearts, we entered the park to discover that the “best ride” was shut down due to a freak tornado touchdown the day before. Okay, setback. But hey! What are you gonna do, right? Right. We were still pretty excited to try our first ride, a semi-enclosed slide in which people go down in pairs on inflated tubes. Okay, it was a little crowded and children were everywhere, but we were in good spirits, ready to be relieved of the schvitz we’d worked up waiting in line in the hot sun, and when we were done we were ready for more! We trudged up a hill to another promising slide and were told that the “easiest way” to get to the bottom to pick up the requisite rafts was to take a nearby water slide down. Sounds fun! Ha ha, water slides as transportation. Ha ha.
Forty-five minutes later, we were still waiting. We watched powerlessly as entire families seemed to expand before our very eyes in front of us in the line. People talked of bailing. But we couldn’t bail now, we’d already invested so much time! Giving up would be the ultimate waste. So we waited. And waited. And watched as a child got cold feet, decided to try again, got cold feet again, and then stood there contemplating her decision. Adorable. Just adorable. Move it or lose it, kid, what do you think this is? Grown-ups have places to be.
Halfway down the slide, my body stopped moving. I wiggled. I wriggled. I shimmied with increasing panic. Finally, I sat up in the enclosed tube and began to frantically push myself and scoot down until I regained momentum. Fun!
Time for lunch. We chose to wait in an endless snack line rather than the super-endless burger shack line. When we finally got to the front, our 15-year-old cashier asked us how much she ought to charge for a sandwich to which we’d made an amendment, since it probably wasn’t worth the full list price anymore. Then we had to wait 15-minutes for a new batch of pretzels to materialize from the bowels of Mountain Creek. Our moods had darkened considerably.
It had been roughly four hours and we’d been on three rides. After we ate, we decided to cut our losses and take a relaxing dip in the wave pool before calling it a day. We waded past hordes of young kids (which I dubbed “pee pee city”) to the deeper end, where we stood in freezing cold water surrounded by splashing teenagers and a few oddly amorous adult couples. Leaves and non-specific dirty swirled around our shivering bodies. We waited. And we waited. No wave. Is there going to be a wave? Oh yeah, said a nearby teen. There’s going to be a wave.
“We’re all going to get Legionnaires disease,” I commented.
Do we leave? We’ve been here for at least ten minutes. It has to be soon. If we leave now, we’ll definitely miss it by a hair.
Oh look, there’s a clump of hair.
More time passes. Finally, we make the decision to exit the wave pool, never having experienced a single wave beyond those created by the group of kids playing water tag around our group. As we collect our things, someone in our party hears that some moron accidentally hit the emergency stop, so there’s no telling when the wave system will be back up and running. God. Damn it.
We changed our clothes and the birthday girl bought herself some well-deserved sour power straws, which are still as delicious as they were twenty years ago. We drove home damp, tired, sun-kissed, and content from a long day of fun and play. Then I took a steaming hot shower and scrubbed my skin until it was raw.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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