Monday, June 30, 2014

So You Wanna Be A Foreman?

In my journal, I write down a few notes for things I need to watch during my foreman-training stint:
  • Make sure backroom boxes have numbers showing on the front when they're stacked
  • Cost Of Stand = number of prizes given out X prize cost for each prize
  • Percap = stand revenue / attendance
  • Stand Status - that sheet that tells you the number of prize stock for each stand and the description of it
  • Pick-ups - Cash Control will call, and you group bills into $100 units for pick-up
  • Call in absences and tardies
I can work on the little tasks, but personnel -- assigning people to stands, getting them on break, and getting people off -- is still that grating albatross. The usual headaches in Britannia consist of trying to accommodate stand requests, switches, rotating people out of Fishin' Hole, pulling people to get off work or on break. I have "Jackie" (name changed) as my trainer, and for a rare stretch I'm glad to have somebody who commands authority in my corner, even though she rubs more than half the section the wrong way.

A storm moves in and I'm pulling people to help get tarps up over some of the stands exposed to the elements until Jackie tells me not to do so until it actually starts raining. The logic of that escapes me when we hate the smell of soaked plush prizes. In the meantime, it's back to doing inventory, meaning counting every loose prize bracelet at Fishin' Hole. Is it 130 or 230? I forget. I'll get my best number and put it down, along with the count of the plush bears. Those bears. Those bad news bears that are probably going to get soaked with the storm moving in, the ones I have to set in a separate pile to count them properly. Only one actually gets soaked after I accidentally drop it in the pond water. In all, the Brit forepeople count six stands very night, and I got two of them.

At the end of my shift, I'm filling out a foreperson till sheet while two other forepeople count it. I have tried to sell as much change to lighten the load I have to drag back or count. The till is over by $18, but that's not out of line for a $3000+ bank worth of change.

Jackie grills me on the light switches after all my peasant brothers and sisters sign out for the night and meander home. As we walk through the blackness, the threatening downpour lingering all day finally falls from the sky, soaking my bag of cash and the rest of me all the way down to my underwear. Another rainy night in St. Louis, and it feels like it's raining all over the world.

Rinse and repeat: I fill out another comment form at the end of my shift, praising my trainer and cursing the lack of a personnel management section in the foreperson's manual. And somehow, through all this, I have a growing sense of control over my aspiring position.

The saga continues through the rest of the week as I journey to work Old Chicago and the Ninja games sections. Getting people to volunteer for stands consistently proves frustrating and fruitless. Stands need stocking. Areas need vacuuming. A regular worker with a nasty sense of humor tries to feel my behind. And then some wise guys decide to filch my personnel sheet -- along with two of the foreperson till boxes. The latter is a set-up, plotted by the other managers to make sure I lock up the cabinet when I'm away.

Arcades need change, and it's mainly a job of moving money from one locked box to another and keeping the change machines clean, stocked and happy. The remote-controlled boats need battery changes, and guess who gets to do it?

One week after journeying into the rabbit hole of upper management, it's all over, and I'm glad. In my final comment sheet to the superiors, I write, "So many people think they can do the job better -- will they still say that after they've learned the basics?"

I have 2001 percent more respect for my bosses now, even the irritating ones. I know my place, and I don't think I'm promotion material. I'm right. When promotions are announced later in the season, I'm not on the list, and I don't mind. I figure it's for the personnel grind and a few other things -- like the favoritism among managers. I gather I really should've started dating a forewoman if I wanted a promotion that badly.

* * *

The place is so much different now. I think about it, and I think back to a passage in Nicholas Pileggi's Casino as he describes Las Vegas after the feds ran the mob out. For one thing, the place is now called Six Flags St. Louis -- no more "Mid-America." Time Warner sold the entire chain to another company years after I left. Since then, they've gone through executive drama and bankruptcy. And when it came time to rebuild the lands of coasters and cotton candy, the suits weren't worried about finding enough flags to represent the regions of America where they settled.

I take a look around Britannia on Google Street View. Gone is the quaintness of Skilchester Village, as the sign used to say outside. Now glaring signs pollute what was a polite Tudor look, practically begging you to play something.

View Larger Map

After three years in Games, I would transfer into Six Flags' in-house TV system, which showed cartoons and commercials to people waiting in line for rides. I would get to spend much of my day in an air-conditioned studio, alone, changing tapes and monitoring levels. I would run into my Games cohorts every so often... and think about what mischief they were up to...

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