Is it me or does Oaks Park, the country’s oldest amusement park, employ the creepiest ride-operators in the whole carni business? One would think they’re experts by now. Not so. A police-officer-friend of a friend once warned that it attracts a lot of pedophiles. In spite of this, I take the kids, and always keep them within arm’s reach. The first worker to give me pause was at the Frog Hopper. He was a pear-shaped twenty-something man in overalls with a dirty blonde mop-top. For balance sake, he tried to separate my girls, but he did so silently, reaching for Z without explanation. They were both too horrified to speak up. When I protested from the sidelines he released Z and plucked some other child with his giant hands, lifting her to a new seat without a sound. Freak. A few rides later I spotted a disturbed young man smoking a cigarette on a bench. His icy blue eyes shifted this way and that. It looked as if he’d up and left his house in the middle of working on his car, an old nova on cinder-blocks in the front yard. I wouldn’t have noticed this man had it not been for how loudly he spat across the walking path as we passed. I hoped he was merely there to make a quick drug transaction and would soon be on his way. But when my girls skipped toward the motorcycle ride he let out an exasperated sigh and returned to his post. The girls whirled round and round, beeping and waving, but I could look only to the disturbed young man and wonder who could have hired this boy? He’d be perfectly cast in the role of a serial killer. An hour later I was in a deep debate with myself over whether or not the employees were deserving of my intense scrutiny or if perhaps I was actually bored and my imagination was at play. It was a relief to find nothing remarkable about the car-ride operator. She may have wanted for a little cosmetic dentistry, and maybe a hair brush, but that benefits most of us. When she began chatting I thought, finally someone who enjoys working here. But then she leaned down, much too close to Z’s face, and croaked, “You can’t come in! Haaahaaahaa!” And if that weren’t funny enough, she paused long enough to utterly confuse the girls. I informed them it was a joke. They didn’t get it. None of us did. As the kids went round and round, she persisted with her monologue no matter how many steps backward I took. Her three-year-old niece gets spanked with the belt regularly, her sister should know better since their mother beat them all their lives, she hopes the niece will grow up to retaliate against her sister, she’d like to have kids one day but works at Oaks Park in the meantime as a form of birth control, on the weekends she’s a nanny.
I don’t look for these people. They find me.
That’s all I’ve got.