Great Adventures in Short Pants

The youth of today have another vice that is particularly annoying for an old man like myself — line-jumping. Sure, we knocked over mailboxes and were rude in public for no reason, but, by golly, when we stood in line, we we’re perfect little solders. Maybe not, but the sheer boldness of the line-jumpers surprised me on my latest foray to Great Adventure, a theme park in New Jersey. The standard was for a group of four or so, already deep into the line, to invite another group of supposed friends up to their position. This is just wrong. Allow me to rationalize. Most of the rides at Great Adventure are set up for four people or two sets of two people. So if three people are saving a space on line for a single person, well, that would have been a seat that would end up empty anyway. Therefore, I’m not against the volunteer who gets refreshments for the rest of his party from rejoining his friends. Far from it, we need more of that type of good-ol’ American idealism in today’s kids. But four or more shouting for several others to join them in the middle of the line? Not in my country. And they were not the worst, because they had some, albeit wrong, justification for line-jumping. No, the worst were the girls who pretended not to be doing anything wrong. Let me explain. When we first got into the park, my friends and I headed to the Great American Scream Machine, because it is so clearly visible from the parking lot as one enters the park. This ride is an old-school roller-coaster where people sit two by two in each car. It’s fun but a bit rough on the neck if one is not relaxed. The line was pretty short, and we were close to riding the coaster when I noticed a pair of teenage girls, 17 years-old or so, asking a single male rider if they could get on together on that particular turn, instead of waiting for the next ride. The man reluctantly agreed, because he was riding with his wife and daughter, who were sitting in the same car. Why did he give up the seat for these two? Because they were not unattractive teenage females. So now the guy was going to ride the next coaster by himself with a couple of strangers. Sucker, I thought to myself, and it was a bit of witty conversation with the others in my party for a short length of time. After the Scream Machine, I was eager to get to Medusa, which is a tremendously fun coaster for those keeping track. The line for this ride was apparently short for most of the day until we got onto it, for it was spilling outside the corrals that are set up to keep people in line, literally. Normally, the corrals are set up maze like to allow for the maximum density of people-herding in the smallest amount of space, but, as noted, the line hadn’t been long enough to justify people walking through an empty, but curvy, labyrinth to get to the ride. Until, that is, we showed up. Then an aged security guard was chaining rows together to get the proper line-flow going. He was right behind us, yelling at various youths who were taking advantage of the chaotic line order to get ahead of a few dozen people. One pair of advantage-takers were the teenaged girls from the Scream Machine. They were about to cut ahead of my party. “Whoa, whoa,” I said to them. I do actually talk like this. “Hey, you’re not going to do to us what you did to that poor guy before.” The two looked incredulous. “What are you talking about?” the curly-haired one said. She turned out to be the only one who would deign to talk back to me. “Back at the Scream Machine. We saw how you got that guy to give up his seat,” I continued. I was not to be swayed by their looks of innocence. The spokesman for the two denied involvement in my conspiracy theory. And they tried to move in in front of us anyway, despite my protestations. “Naw, naw, naw,” I said, waving my arms and shaking my head. I moved in front of the two to prevent them access to the line ahead of me. “You’re just going to have to go back to the end of the line.” I crossed my arms, leaned against the railing, and gave them my smuggest look. “Your fly is open,” said the curly-haired girl. There was just the slightest pause, before I shot back, “That’s okay.” Then I turned and faced the front of the line. I had won the battle, but at what cost? Several minutes later, I confirmed and corrected the altitudinal error of the zipper on my shorts, as surreptitiously as possible. And, of course, the two girls were within sight of my party for almost the entire day, but we never had another confrontation. And others continued to cut the lines. Damned kids.

A toast to birthdays past and present

Last year, my 30th birthday fell on a Saturday. This was great planning on my parents’ part. My mom threw a party for me on a boat that slowly circled a bit of water around Long Beach. I was deliriously ecstatic, because fifty of my family and friends came aboard, many of whom I hadn’t seen in some time, and such occasions, with everyone together, are far and few between. It was exhausting, but I had a wonderful time, and I believe so did everyone else. My thanks to them for attending, be it a year later. I love you all. This year, in contrast, I had a wonderfully relaxed birthday. Sunday was spent with a small group of friends, and was made particularly special by the efforts of Katherine and her folks. They have been very, very kind to me, in so many ways, and my birthday was no exception. Katherine, you are warm and generous, and your family is constantly surprising me by their own warmth and generosity. So here is a note of my gratitude. Thank you for making me feel so welcome. Thank you for being so kind.


Thirteen years ago this month, I graduated from high school. It should have been June, but I made a couple of mistakes and had to take two courses over in summer school. This seemed like a huge problem at the time, but it really didn’t affect my life negatively in anyway. And, since the classes were a lot simpler and shorter during summer school, my grade point average improved. The four weeks of summer school were actually a pleasure compared to the nightmare of high school, but then I guess everything was a pleasure when compared to nightmare of high school. Still and all, my English teacher for that short time, Mr. Watson, truly was an inspiration to me. The class consisted of reading four books, one per week, with discussions, watching the film adaptations, and finally a short test. This was a breeze to me, and I got to read, and see, Equus, Butterflies Are Free, Deliverance, and Being There. The latter two remain favorite books of mine, and, since I was kind of stuck in a sci-fi rut back then, nothing like I ever read before, especially in class. I didn’t really belong in summer school. Mr. Watson knew this, and even told me as much. Most kids there were struggling through his program. The lack of education that they were given has continued to bother me and my bleeding-heart to no end. They weren’t necessarily slow, but they sure were ignored. I, on the other hand, was just a slacking, intelligent, middle-class white kid who had too many absences to pass two classes. The shock of possibly not graduating had forced me to pay attention to my future for a bit, and I seized the opportunity to get something out of my punishment. So I talked to Mr. Watson. We discussed the books while others were reading silently. I would finish each book before Tuesday just so I could chat with Mr. Watson. He was funny, an iconoclast, startlingly bright, and, dare I believe, aching for someone else to talk to during the three-hour classes. I swore to visit Mr. Watson again the next year to thank him. But life passes, and, thirteen years later, I don’t think I could even recognize the man if he were next to me. I’ve yet to seize any other opportunity that life throws my way, and I’m still a slacking, intelligent, middle-class white kid. At the least, however, I want to thank the man and let the world know that I still remember him fondly, for just the few weeks that we got to know each other.