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Melted Sneakers

When I was seventeen years old, I got a summer job at Six Flags in Arlington. My previous work in a children’s indoor amusement park made me a shoo-in for the ride department.

My first assignment was El Sombrero (we lovingly called it El Hat). Working this ride meant you also had to work Casa Magnetica, a ‘tilted house’ that made even grown adults believe in magic. Both were the worst adult rides to work in the park.

At the time, El Hat stood in the Mexico section, one of the flags flown over Texas. Under the grueling summer sun, I walked that corrugated metal platform for 6 hours a day. My black tennis shoes melted to slick in a few months, and I had to purchase new ones.

This ride was all about balance. If you had all kids on one side and all adults on the other, the hat would struggle to climb the upwards circle and dive super-fast on the way down. On those days, you hoped a supervisor wasn’t in the area. Fun times.

Casa Magnetica was built thirty years before I had my first shift. A spiel full of dad jokes had to be memorized. People stumbled into the tilted house, and everyone either giggled or wanted to barf. Cement ‘oranges’ rolled up the table, and the broom (which had a weight on the bottom, wink wink) stood on its own. At least ten people a day gave me their theory of how the house worked, everything from magnets to magical potions. I never ruined the fun of it all, but here’s a hint: it was built on a hill.

The line was always painfully long. Groups of thirty could move through the house, and the tour would last ten minutes with a good show. In a rush, three minutes was the norm. Shade and electric fans were the only saving grace for that ride. Ex-employees dragged their spouses through the ride to peek behind the wall for their name etched among the many.

My first year on those sister rides was tough, but I met wonderful friends, earned a little spending money, and got in free to the park. What more could a young lady want?