Sunday, August 28, 2011

Honor and Amusement Parks, Part 2

The other half of this amusement park detour.

One of Busch Gardens's mistakes, in my opinion, is selling beer in the park. Not just at a few sit down restaurants but at carts thoughout the park. Of course, the park is owned by a beer company, so it's not going to stop selling beer anytime soon, especially when the cheapest, crappiest beer is sold at $6 per.

Here's the problem with so much beer in the park. Yak. Barf. Puke. To make matters worse, there are several locations in the park that sell unlimited smorgasbord's o' food. So, over filled stomachs plus beer plus thrill rides equals yak. In all my years going to Hershey I've never had a ride shut down for people barfing on it. Twice in one day we had that at Busch Gardens. Well, Alpengeist shut down altogether for the clean up, which entailed having all the people who had been loaded onto the ride get off so it could be cleaned and run empty, then those people loaded back on. Apollo's Chariot just had to sit extra time in the loading area while the staff got to clean the mess.

I love beer. I just don't love it when people are returning it.

Then there's the carny attractions. Like most parks, Busch Gardens and Hershey have games of chance that can be played for extra money and can result in winning a prize. It's all the same games, stacked in favor of the house like all gambling. I haven't paid attention to the cost of the games at Hershey over the years because I never play them, but after my son played at Busch Gardens at $5 a try (so he could win a stuffed Picachu), my wife noticed that Hershey's games are $1 or $2 a try. No Picachu, mind you, but the same sorts of stuffed junk. At least my son won on his first try at Busch Gardens. Must have been beginner's luck. I let him have two more attempts on another day, so he could win another Pokemon critter, but he crapped out. His sister spent $15 on a henna tattoo, so they each got their share of wasted money.

Then there's the honor part. I went to law school in Virginia. Washington and Lee U is quite proud of its honor code. Apparently that doesnt extend to corporate run amusement parks in the Old Dominion. Every other park I've been to, and most notably Hershey, makes no big deal of visitors leaving their things in the exit area of the ride. In fact, Hershey has designated drop zones on the exit side of rides so you can leave your backpack, hat, water, or whatever else you don't want to take along on a roller coaster or other high paced ride.

Hershey also has chairs set up around the water park parts of its attractions, which people use to stow there towels, shoes and whatever else whiel they're using the water attractions. Water Country USA, also owned by Busch, is the same way. Both have lockers available if you want to pay for that to store your stuff, but it's not necessary.

Busch Gardens doesn't do that. There's no leaving your stuff at the exit to the ride. Unless you have someone who's not riding, you must leave your stuff in a locker. This makes it almost useless to have brought anything into the park. We bring bottles of water when we go to the parks, in part because there's no sense in paying for bottled water at the park and in part because the water foutain water tastes awful. Even the hotel water was better. We have an insulated pack that we use for about six bottles, which I carry. At Busch Gardens this would mean renting a locker to stow the water, then having to go all the way back to that locker any time we want to get a drink. As I mentioned before, the rides are very spread out, so unless you want to do a lot of unnecessary doubling back, you're going to be renting lockers at every section of the park whenever your entire group wants to ride the same ride.

We got around it mostly because my wife and I dislike different rides. She doesn't like coasters with too much twisting, turning or looping. I don't like rides that go in circles. When she wanted to ride, I didn't, and vice versa. The only time it came up was for Apollo's Chariot. Fortunately, the crowds were small because of the overwhelming heat. We took turns not riding, giving the kids the opportunity to ride twice.

Still, it's the principle of the thing that bothers me. What difference does it make to Busch Gardens if people leave their stuff at the ride exits? There's plenty of space. If patrons want to take the risk of someone stealing stuff, it's on the patrons.

In fact, I believe amusement parks represent one of the great bastions of honor systems in the country. People leave large numbers of unattended possessions with the understanding that no one is to move their stuff. And it works. The stuff stays put. It's one of those things that I like to recall when others are screaming aoubt the decline of society. Society works quite well, actually, if thousands of strangers are trusting one another without a word being spoken about it but the result is fullfilment of the trust. And that's in the great evil Northeast, not a part of the Real Amurica.

Busch Gardens left me with the feeling that it was out for every last buck it could get out of me. I expect usurious prices for marginal food. I don't expect an effort to force me to spend even more money to put down my stuff that I don't want to take on a ride. At least the kids had a good time. Well, so did I if I wasn't thing about the gun in my back.


  1. Please help me by reading my appeal on my profile

  2. Um, does he want to appeal for a roller coaster ride?