Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yes, It's One More Action Park Story

I know I said we were done with these stories, but one more came in that was so good it just has to be read. From someone who wishes to remain anonymous:
I also went to Action Park when I was younger, probably half a dozen times. Loved it, and it was always the highlight of the summer. It seemed like we'd either do Action Park or Great Adventure each year, and while I hugely enjoyed Great Adventure, I'd always vote for Action Park.

I have a particular fond memory of Surf Hill, which was a multi-lane water slide where you'd grab a mat and dive head first down the slide. At the end of the slide was a little pool of water to stop you, but if you were going fast enough you would blast through the water and continue beyond, where the end of the slide sloped up sharply to a roughly ten foot vertical wall that was there to make damn sure you stopped. My friend Leroy, who was a good 250 pounds, could build up a really good head of steam and render the initial water hazard inconsequential, and would actually begin to ascend the wall before his momentum finally halted and he slid back down.

At the end of the slide and above the wall was a walkway where you could watch folks riding the slide, and if you leaned over the guard rail you could actually touch the top few inches of the wall. Seeing how far he was getting, we thought "hey, I wonder if Leroy can actually fly OFF the top of the wall and land on the walkway, or maybe we can grab him as he reaches the top and yank him over the rail?" It eventually dawned on us that pursuing either of these ideas was likely to end badly. So we settled for trying to grab his mat. For a good half an hour, Leroy determinedly rode Surf Hill over and over to try to get up the wall as high as possible, while we would try to grab the mat out from under him at his apex, sometimes coming within inches of doing so. He finally had that one perfect run where he built up so much momentum that the end of his mat (along with his head and shoulders) cleared the top of the wall before he dropped back down, with me ripping the mat away from him at his peak. It was absolutely brilliant. No park employee even seemed to notice, and certainly no one tried to stop us.

I remember a friend briefly dislocating his knee on one of the high speed water tunnel rides, I believe it was called The Cannonball, with his knee popping out on one turn and popping back in on the next. As you can imagine, he chose never to go on that particular ride again.

I had my own incident in the Tidal Wave Pool, which I've only recently learned had earned the nickname "The Grave Pool". I won't go so far as to say I nearly drowned, but let's say I very nearly began the process of drowning.

With this being my first (and as you may guess, only) time in the pool, I foolishly swam out to the middle of the deep end, only vaguely aware that nearly everyone else around me was floating on one of the boogie boards available at the pool. And then the waves started, they were far more significant than I was expecting, and it was quickly obvious I needed to get the hell out of there. Since I was in water over my head and in trouble, my instinct was to reach water where I could stand, as quickly as possible, so I began swimming towards the shallow end, rather than swim sideways to the ladders. But this was a mistake. The waves just kept pulling me back and I was essentially swimming in place. I wasn't a competent swimmer, and soon I was exhausted, and no closer to safety. I was beginning to have trouble keeping my head above water, I didn't know when the waves would stop, and I wasn't sure what to do next. Then I locked eyes with a lifeguard at the far end of the pool who was watching me intently, and I realized he was considering coming in after me. The overwhelming desire to avoid the embarrassment of having to be rescued gave me a second wind, at least a mental one. Silently willing the lifeguard to let me get out on my own and fueled by nothing more than the sheer determination to avoid being the center of a spectacle, I swam as hard as I could to one of the side ladders, still being knocked around by the waves but now moving perpendicular and at least getting somewhere. After another minute that seemed more like an hour, I dragged myself up the ladder and lay completely exhausted at the edge of the pull, barely able to move for several minutes, and feeling like every muscle in my body was utterly done. I have honestly never, ever felt as utterly drained as I did after getting the hell out of that pool. Such is the nature of youth though that after my brief recuperation period, I brushed myself off and went about enjoying the rest of my day at the park, dismissing the experience as if nothing had happened.

At least until later that summer when I read that a boy a few years younger than myself had gone under, and was pulled out too late. He had drowned exactly one week after my visit.

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