Sunday, June 29, 2014

Have You Never Been Yellow?

Once a season, the Six Flags Over Mid-America Games department gives regular workers a chance to audition for a shot at becoming assistant forepeople. It's called the "Yellow Tag" program. You apply for the job, get to try it out for a week, and if you don't blow it -- or if you happen to be dating one of the forepeople -- you'll usually move up.

On July 1, 1991, I fill out the paperwork, including the section on what I would do to improve things. I suggest:

  • Improve morale and relationships with forepeople
  • Post earnings per stand in the Britannia section
  • Minimalize change/stock headaches
  • Shoot for a more equitable distribution of stands to personnel

Three days later, on the 4th of July, I see my name on the list of 17 Yellow Tag trainees and set off my own fireworks.

"YEAAAAHHHH!" I explode.

A supervisor on the backroom phone and a foreperson at the desk skip a heartbeat.

"That really says something," an assistant foreman friend says later on.

"I guess it does," I grin back.

The day before I officially start training, I get a crack at the basics: "Chris, would you like to be a foreman for a couple of hours?"

The section bosses had a meeting to attend, and they needed somebody to cover their duties. All I had to do was sell change to stands and keep them stocked with prizes. It sounds simple, and it is. I just have grab some change rolls from the backroom cabinet. It doesn't matter how many I take out, just as the cash equivalent comes back in. All the stands have stock. We're golden.

Then comes Monday.

We start at 9am, one hour before the park opens, and at least half an hour before the regular stand workers shuffle in. Lori, my trainer, shows me where to get the keys and the A&R (absentee and replacement) logs. I learn where all the light switches are in Britannia, and we turn everything on. We check prize stock deliveries against yellow sheets.

Now we get wet and dirty. I fill up the Fishin' Hole game with fresh water and follow that by dragging the stock to the back.

"Make sure you don't drag stock in front of the guests," she reminds me. I'd already violated that rule last week.

Now I have to deal with the change machines. Open it up and pull the hoppers forward. Unlock the bar in front of them. Fill them up nice and even and straighten them out. Open the bottom with the lever, reach underneath and hold the bottom button while pressing each of the three hopper buttons in turn, letting the change spill up and cycle through the works. Lock it all back up. If it goes down, open it up and press the white button to make it reset.

Next comes a lesson in personnel management. Write everybody's name down as they arrive in the backroom, and then start getting people into stands. Here's the fun part: everybody wants something you can't give them. Lori is there to help kickstart me in the right direction through everybodys ego and morning crabiness. I put people down in the time/cost sheets -- our equivalent of timecards.

It's back to the back to straighten out stock and break down empty boxes. I learn how to stock the crane game. I have to call in "breakdowns" once an hour to Maintenance -- the number of games or parts of games that aren't working, even if they haven't been working all day, or all week.

When Day shift comes in about an hour later, I nearly go crazy trying to get breaks straight and people in stands. Only so many people -- 5 to 6 -- can go on break at once. The rest you have to work into the stands. Lori has to guide me as I figure out how to move people around. Certain stands have limits, which I write down to remember:

  • Ring-A-Thing: 2
  • Skee-Ball: 2 (one person behind the redemptions counter, the other walking a beat looking for problems)
  • Spot Pitch: 2
  • Highland Hoops: 2
  • Wacky Wire: 3
  • Putt-Putt (aka St. Andrew's Green): 2
  • Horse Race (aka Churchill Downs): 2
  • Bedrock Bedlam: 2
  • Queen's Dairy: 3
  • Golden Grail: 3
  • Fishin' Hole: 4!

Night shift personnel turns into another mess, as I try to figure out who's going on break while trying to handle specific stand requests. When the smoke clears, I think I've really loused things up, but my only damage is one extra person in Queen's Dairy and Golden Grail, with one short in Ring-A-Thing. It doesn't take much to fix, and finally I get to sell change -- the part of the job I'm used to seeing and thinking I can easily master.

Lori runs down some other things with me on her list that we don't have a chance to get to in depth: "last calls" for stock and how to order more prizes. We do a till audit on an underling -- he's $1 over. I go another round with the personnel, with better results.

All through the day, my keys get passed around. People grab them to open the lock bags containing their till money they bring up from Cash Control and not give them back. Lori's words bounce through my head: "Never leave your keys unattended." For my sake, some other forepeople were around to make sure I got them.

At 3:00, my shift is over, but my head is spinning. I have to fill out a comment form on this first day. I praise Lori and her being there to back me up. I wish I'd gotten the foreman manual yesterday instead of halfway through my shift today. Personnel is a drag. This job is harder than it looks...

I sum it all up in my mind, and I consider I did pretty well. I know I can smooth out the rough spots with more time... tomorrow.


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