Published: October 11, 2011 at 3:40 AM
It was late in the spring of 2002; height of the super-patriotic-pro-military fervor of post 9/11. I was a young Marine who decided to take some leave just before my first deployment in order to take advantage of the freebie tickets for military personnel that the Universal Resort was running at the time. IoA was fairly new and I wanted to check out this crazy Spiderman ride that I had seen on TV. The free military tickets extended to one or two guests (can't remember exactly) so I brought my pal Eric along with me.
We arrived at the front gate of Universal Studios, tickets-in-hand, about 30 minutes prior to opening. I like to get places early - a byproduct of my former military lifestyle. When we arrived, I could sense it would be a great day from the mild weather and particularly the lack of any real, sizable crowd stacking up at the still-closed turnstiles. With my McDonalds coffee in hand, Eric and I started chatting up the turnstile attendant. As the minutes passed by and the conversation grew more and more comfortable with this staff member, we began sharing random, benign anecdotes to pass the remaining minutes until opening. I causally leaned against one of the turnstile assembly boxes.
The turnstiles back then were not the high-tech, CIA-biometric-start-trek things they have there now. They were simple chrome metal boxes, wired to take an electrical count of each time the turnstile bar went 'click' and nothing more. I leaned more body weight into the metal box as the staff member told us about the new IoA and how grand it was... I was rather excited. SO excited, in fact, that while leaning against the turnstile assembly, a casually slapped another adjacent assembly in a slightly forced display of excitement...
Immediately it felt like I stuck my finger in an electrical outlet. Alternating current shot up my arm like a damned bullet train. I howled like some animal off of wild kingdom. This elicited confused and somewhat frightening stares from all cast members and the few guests within earshot. I figured an explanation was in order.
"Dude!" I told him, "I'm pretty sure there is a short in here somewhere!" At first he seemed rather skeptical as he simply swatted his hand quickly at the apparently offending machine and received what appeared to be no shock whatsoever. "Are you SURE?" He asked? I replied "No no... touch BOTH of these at the same time."
He did, and he leaped back in surprise. "Jesus, I gotta call someone!" he said in a rather quiet, 'just-between-me-and-you' voice. I told him to do whatever he had to do and gave my word that I would not allow anyone near them until he rounded up the appropriate superior, which frankly only took him a minute or two.
What followed was a rather humorous bureaucratic display of supervisor, head supervisor, head HEAD supervisor, ad nauseam approach the turnstile, question the veracity of the electrocution claim, be told by the previous-tier employee "touch both", them touching both, and getting the crap shocked out of them. Finally a high-up-enough decision maker decided that the entire string of turnstiles in that area would be shut down for the day so that maintenance could work on solving the problem.
Afterwards, Eric and myself were escorted to a disguised side-room in the amusement park facade by two well-dressed gentlemen who wanted to speak with us about the incident and acted quite concerned for my safety. In retrospect, I clearly realize that this was lawsuit damage control of the highest caliber... but seriously, what was I gonna cry about? I wasn't injured, nothing serious happened... frankly it was rather funny. I simply told the gentlemen it was a non-issue and I was only glad that it happened to me and not a small child or an elderly person with a pacemaker. They nervously agreed, asked once more if I was fine, and set Eric and I loose in the park.
...only now I realize, I DEFINITELY should have tried for a lifetime pass. Oh well. :-)