For the majority of what I like to refer to as my adulthood, my preoccupation with roller coasters has manifested itself not only in visiting amusement parks, but in working at them, as well.
It started at Disneyland, with an experience that I can only describe as a disaster. Part of it was probably my fault: It was only my second job, and frankly, I really didn’t know how to be a good employee, yet. But they certainly didn’t help matters. They put me in a completely different job than the one they trained me for, and then blamed me for their disorganization.
My experience at Knott’s Berry Farm was much better. I was given the job that I wanted, trained properly for it, and unlike at Disneyland, I finally felt that, “wow, I’m working at an amusement park” feeling. Unfortunately, I eventually had to quit it, in order to do something that paid a bit better.
I tried a few other jobs. The extra money was nice, but--just being jobs--they weren’t much fun.
So when the opportunity to move to Ohio for the summer to work at Cedar Point presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I’d never even been to the park before when I started working there, but I’d heard lots of good things about it. And while working there was mostly fun (in a completely insane sort of way), it turned out to not really be my kind of park.
I did some software tech support for a short time after that, which sucked. And then Orlando, where I worked at Universal’s Island of Adventure for four years, followed by a brief stint at SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove. Both operations impressed me a lot, in different ways. But it’s Islands of Adventure that remains the most fun I ever got paid for.
My friend, Seth (whom I’ve actually worked with at two different parks now), once asked me, “Do you still want to be doing this when you’re 40?”
I said, “Yes.”
When I came to Pigeon Forge, I wanted to work at Dollywood. But finances were again an issue. Working at an amusement park for the money is like trying to break into Hollywood by sleeping with the writer. I tried my hand at hotels instead, and was pretty good at it. I also didn’t completely hate it, which was nice. And as Misty and I prepare to move back to Orlando next year, it looks like I probably won’t ever get the chance to add Dollywood to my resume.
I’m not yet sure what sort of job I’m going to get in Orlando. But there are lots of amusement parks there.
And, by then, I’ll be 40.