The worst people you meet in a theme park
Written by Derek Potter
As park fans, it's only natural to talk about likes and dislikes. Theme Park Insider and sites like it are full of countless discussions and debates about rides, management, companies, service, and horror stories. For all our talk about how parks design their atmosphere, there isn't a lot of talk about how the people inside affect that atmosphere. The truth is that parks only have a certain amount of control over their environment. They can design it in a way that encourages happiness and facilitates fun and they can staff it with the best employees in the world. They cannot however, always control the behavior and/or attitude of the customers. At any given moment, the ambience is subject to change by the behavior of a single person or a group of people. In other words, it only takes one to irritate many and ruin the illusion. Since it is assumed that we are all here to have fun and enjoy a little escape from reality, we all should be bound by the laws of decency, common sense, and regard for one another to act like good theme park citizens and not annoy the bejeezus out of each other in public. Of course not everyone follows the rules.
With that in mind, I present a greatest hits compilation of theme park pet peeves and the perpetrators behind them. This list was compiled through public observation, personal experience, and a little Q/A with some of Theme Park Insider's finest. Some are bigger transgressions than others, but all actions on this list are guaranteed to generate contempt or worse from at least twelve other people.
The Line Cutter — Have you ever been standing in a two-hour slow moving line in the hot sun and seen somebody - or worse a handful of people with stupid little smiles on their faces - jump in line a little farther ahead, out of your reach and range of voice? Do you ever wish you had a hand grenade in your pocket for these occasions...ok maybe a little harsh, but sometimes it's the little things that bother me the most. The young ones might get a free pass. It's the ones who know better…the college age children, wannabe gangsters, mouthy teenagers, and 30-year-old adolescents that need loaded into a cannon and shot out into the parking lot…park ejection in the most literal sense. If you are a line cutter over the age of 12, congratulations…nobody likes you.
The Seat Nazi — Park employees probably shouldn't be on this list, but until park management learns that assigned seating policies are just lame, these poor ride ops will be on the list. To give credit, many are gracious and polite, trying to shed their status as "the man" as they order grown adults around like children in order to save five minutes of average hourly wait time. The guy's just doing his job, but as a paying customer, is it that unreasonable to let me sit wherever I want on the new roller coaster that I traveled three hours to ride? I'll answer that…it is not.
Wannabe Baller — This is the guy (and it's always a guy) who wins the basketball and dribbles it around the park for the rest of the day. The problem is that he can't dribble without losing the ball and sending it rolling or bouncing into a crowd of people. Amazing that he can somehow pull two free throws out of his rear end to win the prize, but can't make it 5 steps without booting the ball. Especially obnoxious are the ones who think they are Kevin Durant and try to crossover and spin around some old lady walking towards them (yes I've seen it happen more than once). Dude, you can't play, and if you can…we don't care.
The Backpacker — Question…what exactly does one need in there to walk around for a few hours and ride some rides? What resides in these fully stuffed backpacks with three water bottles clipped to the back - packs that literally double the size of the person carrying them? Despite packing everything else needed for a weeklong excursion, they always seem to forget the bottle of self-awareness. You know…the bottle that says not to stop suddenly in the middle of the walkway, reminds them that there is someone behind them in the queue, or that people don't really like being body checked by a massive bag of nothing in particular when you turn around. This isn't the Alps or the jungles of Vietnam, and unless you are a professional photographer or a parent of pre-toilet-trained children, you need only a few things on this mission, most of which can fit in your pocket. Free your minds, your backs, and our personal space.
The Soggy Bottom Boys — Don't you just love when you're next in line for the ride, and the person that gets out of your future seat looks like they just jumped in the lake? Inevitably, you walk upon a wet seat, something expected on a water ride…not so much on a dry ride. I'm fine with a seat freshly splashed by a wave or some other form of water cannon. I am not fine with a coaster seat containing somebody's 30 minute old warm, smelly, swamp-assy water sloshing around in the car. Who knows what's in that cocktail. I can only imagine what goes through the mind of the germaphobes in line. For the love of God, fellow man, public safety, and my pants…dry yourself off.
Parental Malpractice — As a parent of three young kids, I hereby claim complete and full license to say the following. What is it with parents yelling and screaming at their kids in the middle of the kiddieland walkway? Isn't this supposed to be a fun family time…a time to let off some steam and have fun with your kids? Which part of that fun involves exploding in the middle of a captive audience, making your sleep deprived, sugar overloaded six-year-old cry and throw a fit, casting legions of awkward vibes upon the immediate vicinity and making our well behaved children and everyone else around uncomfortable and/or annoyed? Of course they are tired, hot, and thirsty…they've walked a few miles today and it's 90 outside. Of course they don't want to go home...what kid ever wants to leave the park and go home? And maybe, just maybe, that six-year-old is crying because they scared of the 300ft/90mph coaster with six loops and the mega-wedgie slide. They aren't brats, they are kids, and kids learn behavior from their parents…that's you, remember?
Fashion Fail — Anyone who has had a look at People of Walmart knows exactly what I'm talking about. Look, I'm all for self confidence and things, and people have the freedom to express themselves and wear what they like in this great country, but why…why…why? There are many questions one can ask, such as…What makes a guy wear a t-shirt in the kid's area that looks like a Mountain Dew logo, but says "mount and do me" or …Is there something in the air that makes undergarments disappear and clothing shrink to three sizes too small? Should butt cracks have to buy a ticket of their own? After all, there are so many hanging out in the park. Did the red-light district close for the day and all the hookers came to the park? All very valid questions, considering some of the mighty interesting visuals we see on the midway. You know, the ones that go way beyond the realm of mere self-expression and fall into the category of either "Good Lord, my eyes!" or "What the hell was that?" And at the water park……I'll just stop now. It seems that in most public places people choose to dress normally, but for some reason the amusement park and Walmart seem to grant some sort of invisible license for people to wear things that let's be honest… nobody wants to see. There ought to be a website…
The Stapler aka Man's Worst Nightmare — Ride safety is really important to this passionate ride op, and there are smashed nuts rolling around in the coaster car to prove it. These airtime-killing masters of vasectomy use the lap bar as a lethal weapon, crushing legs and the family jewels in their relentless pursuit to make us a permanent part of the seat. What's bad is that they seem to work at the coasters with the most airtime, and even worse and more puzzling…some of them are guys themselves. Can they not sympathize? Maybe they need a shot to the pills as a friendly reminder. Ride op 101: Airtime is intentionally designed and the lap bar is a restraint, not a torture device.
General Douchebaggery — This is behavior that may be a little more ambiguous, but everyone watching is thinking exactly the same thing (see title). It could be any number of things like wearing shoes with the skates built in and weaving through crowds or wearing saggy pants and walking very slowly down the middle of the path…holding up the 25 people directly behind them. Line smokers fall into this category, and also those who can't seem to locate one of the 5,000 trash cans in the park. Employees aren't exempt here. A few are found in the food stands, serving ancient fries and smashed burgers with a smirk. Others inexplicably reside in guest services. Yes dude, a customer asked you a question. Put your phone down and do your job.
Spoiledus Braticus — First-world problems really are the end of the world aren't they…at least to these people. This category is reserved specifically for adults who behave like children when they are mildly inconvenienced or unsatisfied with their situation. Normal human beings would take this in stride and maintain some dignity, but not here. There is a subtle art to complaining and getting what you want, and these people are about as subtle as a linebacker, and they give street demonstrations too, usually followed by a security escort. Yelling about closed rides, yelling about rigged games, yelling about lines, yelling because the ATM machine is down and they have to walk to another one to withdraw $200. Many of us have witnessed such meltdowns…like throwing a fit because the computer controlled lockers won't open. This guy had to wait 15 minutes (gasp) for I.T. to come, and the whole time he was literally yelling at the ride manager, loudly demanding that his entire 6 person party be reimbursed for their day (tickets, food, gifts, everything). His reasoning…They were late for a dinner reservation. After 10 minutes or so, some of the people in the crowd, all waiting patiently for I.T. just the same, began to grow tired of this middle-aged child, and one almost fed him his teeth for dinner. I personally was hoping that the security office had handed out tasers to the guards that morning. Unfortunately they didn't.
And there you have it. I wish I could say that you won't see hear or otherwise fall victim to one of these party fouls, but if you visit enough places it's inevitable. Best to just take it in stride and tell a story someday…perhaps in the comments below. The floor is open for additions to the list, tales of woe, or just plain ranting.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.
Previous article: Vote of the week: What weather will keep you from the parks?
Stories from a Theme Park Insider
What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)
Theme Park Insider Guidebooks
Top U.S. Theme Parks
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Other Top International Parks
Readers' Top Themed Rides
Top Roller Coasters
Top Theme Park Shows
Features, News and Advice
2014 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr.
2013 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2012 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2011 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2010 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2009 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2008 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2007 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2006 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2005 Blog PostsDec.
2004-2005Staff column archive