Greetings, Fellow WOE Friends,
It's Finally Friday! And with that, I have added another part to the WOE Short Story - Welcome to the Neighborhood. As expected, Part 2 is now revealing the escalated tensions between two homes next to each other. Click on the picture below to take you there.
Monday, I will reveal a brand new short story!
Today, I am including my first blog interview. It's with Amy, who works for the World of Entopia. I believe you'll enjoy hearing how she came to be who she is now. Happy reading!
My first blog interview is with Amy. I met with her a few months back at the WOE Complex, and we had lunch together at the MoonEatery, in The Dark Room.
As I did in the WOE Story I wrote, my interviews follow more of a quick story one tells of themselves, rather than a back and forth question and answer session, which tends to look more like a script for a movie.
“Amy, it’s nice to meet you, and I’m looking forward to hearing how you got to where you’re at now. Please tell me what brought you to dedicate your life to the safety of others.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Peter. I’m actually a big fan of yours, so this is fantastic!
When I was nineteen years old, and a student at Berkley, studying mechanical engineering, my close friends and I decided to enjoy an early summer Saturday at a theme park in California (we will exclude the name). We wanted to have some fun and blow off some steam as finals were over and the summer was in full swing.
We had a great time riding the roller coasters, laughing and screaming, and just enjoying being together. We watched a few shows, took a lot of Instagram pictures to share and bonded.
As evening approached, my friend April suggested we try riding this 400-foot swing ride. None of us had ever ridden it before and for a good reason. That ride had a known history of breaking down and stranding passengers. It was also well known that it had failed multiple safety inspections and had to be closed more than once to address them.
I want to stress that this theme park is owned by a larger company that also has other parks around the country. So, they are not like a mom and pop amusement park that can be cash strapped to fix anything because they are barely making enough to keep the rides going.
I wasn’t a fan of the idea at all. But typical peer pressure from April and my other friend Kate pushed me into making the decision to ride it at sunset and see the picturesque California landscape.
As we waited in line, my heart started to pound harder and harder in anticipation. I’ve never been a fan of heights and certainly not a fan of knowing I could get stuck up there at 400-feet.
It was our turn to ride, and we boarded. I sat next to April and Kate sat behind us. The giant swing started to lift and swing clockwise, in a circular motion slowly. My gut was telling me what a mistake I made, while my friends kept commenting on how cool it was and the views did start to look better and better as we climbed higher.
By the time we reached the top, we were traveling about 25 MPH, and it was scary when I looked down. But I kept praying and trying to just enjoy the views. I figured it would all be over in a few minutes.
As we started to descend, I began to feel that relief that as we got closer to the ground, the safer I would be. Then, the swinging started to slow, and we stopped descending. I started freaking out and started yelling, “I knew it! I knew it was going to happen!’ The swinging came to a complete stop. We were only about 30-feet from the top, which meant we were still about 370-feet above the ground.
Here we are, just sitting in a swing in the air, and I was thinking, I hope they get this fixed soon because my pounding heart and anxiety are only getting worse by the second.
April and Kate kept trying to assure me that we would be moving soon and to calm down. There was no announcement made from the staff about what was going on and how long we would be there.
Seconds quickly turned into minutes, and with no announcement made by the park and the winds moving us around being so high, I started to cry uncontrollably.
A few riders thought it was great being up so high and see all the views. But as the sun went down, the views mostly disappeared, and the breeze became chilly.
Thirty minutes went by and still no word on how much longer we would be up there. I couldn’t believe I was stupid enough to get on this ride and how stupid the park was for allowing it to operate knowing it had problems?
I tried taking out my phone to call my dad because I was so scared, but my hands were trembling so bad due to fright, I was afraid I would drop it, so I put it back in my back pocket.
My friends were scared too but didn’t want to say much because they knew it would upset me more.
An hour went by, and then we started to see flashing lights approach the ride. We knew the park employees had given up and called the fire department. Ten minutes after they arrived, a news chopper arrived and circled us for a while. Now we were on TV but still had no word from the staff below.
We then heard someone call up to us on a loudspeaker saying they were the fire department and would be trying to get us down.
I was so nervous and scared, I peed my pants. I was petrified and now embarrassed! We started to feel the ride jerk a little and move, but then stop. It was if they were trying to restart the ride and it kept failing. This went on for a while and each time, we had hope it would work. Unfortunately, each time it stopped, it made us swing in the air more, and the fear of falling started all over again.
After about three hours of not doing too much, we felt ourselves starting to descend slowly. We cheered and were ever so happy to be going down. Apparently, they were hand cranking us down. After all, there was no way the fire department could reach us with their ladders.
It was a very slow process and each time we inched closer to the ground, we shook a little. But we were happy to be heading down.
After four hours, we were finally on the ground. Guests who stayed to watch all cheered, as did we. I was so relieved and just wanted to go home.
The staff gave each one of us a bottle of water, a free t-shirt, and apologized. No free tickets, no explanation was given.
We all went home, and I showered and went to bed. The next day, I read where the theme park spokesperson said, ‘Guests safety is our number one priority. The ride’s safety system was triggered, and the ride came to a safe stop. The safety system worked as it was designed.'
I thought to myself, why did the safety system have to be activated in the first place? Why wasn’t there any communication to us? Why did this keep happening and they not do anything about it?
It was at this point, I decided to use my degree in mechanical engineering to help companies keep rides safe and the riders from being stranded or hurt.
But the sad part is, Peter, I had a rough time trying to convince owners and city and state officials, that safety was not anyone’s top priority except the guests. Profit was! In fact, a month after the incident I was a part of, that theme park took down that ride and shipped it to one of their other parks and renamed it. They didn’t fix it, just moved it someplace that others living there didn’t know much about. To them, it was just a new ride.
I bounced around for a while and had many different jobs because my passion for safety was not in line with ‘for profit’ company goals. The state agency had little manpower and little initiative to really push for tougher standards. The industry likes to patrol itself.
I have a very simple philosophy; don’t operate a ride or attraction that you can’t get to your guests and get them off in a timely manner, like within minutes. I’ve seen other incidents where people were stuck for hours on roller coasters and had to rely on the fire department to get them down.
Years back, a haunted house caught fire, and many guests were burned alive! I became more of an outspoken advocate of safety, rather than an employee someone wanted to hire.
My last job fired me because I couldn’t keep quiet about a new roller coaster they were planning. I would beg them to let me devise a motorized train that could pull a stalled roller coaster train back to its station. I thought it was a great idea! They didn’t, and I was let go.
Two months went by, and I had no money and no place to live. I moved back in with my parents. At 32, I was living back with my parents!
One sunny morning, I was at a local coffee shop drinking a coffee and contemplating my life and what I should do next when a female customer asked about the newspaper I was reading. ‘Another tragic incident at a theme park?’ She said to me. That was the headline and story I was reading about.
‘Yes, unfortunately.’ I replied.
We talked for a few minutes about all the incidents and then she asked me to tell her more about what I personally experienced. She sat down next to me, and I told her what happened, just like I’m telling you.
When I finished, she said to me, ‘Amy, the World of Entopia is being built, and we are looking for people who could use a career helping others and enjoying what they do in doing so.'
I told her I haven’t heard of the WOE but would be very interested. She took my information and gave me her business card. As she walked out, I looked at her card, and it said, Julie E., World of Entopia Employee Scout.
A week later, I was contacted by Julie and flown to the under-construction WOE. I was introduced to Steven C., the creator of WOE. I’ll never forget how he introduced himself to me. He said, ‘Hello Amy, it’s finally nice to meet you in person. We are building the greatest theme park and entertainment complex in the world, and I believe you can help us make it that way!’
Peter, my heart sank. From then on, I have been here developing safety into every ride, attraction, and show we have. I work in the Systems Engineering Department and LOVE everything I do.
After all these years, we have never had an incident that has harmed anyone. Each ride, attraction, and show has multiple safety features, and we even have a Ride Control Center that watches and tracks every ride and attraction here. We have a Rapid Response Team that is always on the standby, just in case. We have paramedics, doctors, and nurses stationed in three different locations around the Complex.
The World of Entopia never says safety is their top priority. For their top priority is to deliver the best experience they can to their employees and guests. Safety is implied.
Peter, this happened twelve years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. But today, I am the Chief Safety Inspector for the World of Entopia, and I live on the property with my husband and two sons.
Thank you for letting me share my story!”
“Thanks, Amy! You have made the WOE far safer by being here."
To learn more about the World of Entopia, read my journal story World of Entopia, The Story at https://www.worldofentopia.com/woe-story.html
Thanks for reading! Until next time,