In a way, the word dive applies to both the park and my story. The park was a little…shall we say…ghetto--but really only because it was a small-time operation. We had pretty rigorous safety standards and I can proudly say that all the stands I worked in ALWAYS passed the state food inspection. OK, well, we may have bribed the inspector with pizza and water ice but we passed and that was all that mattered.
Aside from rides and food stands, the park had entertainment. We had three clowns, an unicyclist, a costumed character and shows. One of the clowns was kind of a bitch, one was always drunk and one…well…let’s just say that I am glad I never did go on that date with him (and let me just take this moment to say that yes, I did work as a clown once and yes, it is as bad as you suspected). The costume for the character was heavy and smelly and there was only one guy tall enough to wear the happy parrot suit. Seriously, it was a happy parrot suit.
Now, the shows…ah, the shows. Well, I think there was a magic show that featured some animals but one night the Lindenwold ALF broke into the park and threw the magicians sound system into the lake. I didn’t even know that the magic show had animals until then so I don’t know what happened. Maybe the bunny refused to come out of the hat? No idea.
But for my money (which was about $3.34 an hour at the time) the best show was the dive show. There was a large (but not huge) tank erected on the side of the lake and Lucky’s Dive Show Extravaganza (or something like that) came to the park. There were three divers, Lucky and son who were more than a little…how do I put this politely? Um…their necks were more than pink? Get my drift? And an Ivy League diving instructor who, not surprisingly, pretty much kept to himself.
Also, not surprisingly, I had a terrible crush on the Ivy-League diving instructor. To be honest, I don’t remember all that much about his looks but he was polite and quiet and didn’t hang with the rabble, which made him all the more appealing. Everyday he would come to the pizza stand and order a small soda. Everyday he would hand me a dollar bill to pay for the soda and everyday I would hand him four quarters in change. He would always look at the change and start to protest but I would just shake my head and shoo him away. This is how a sixteen year old flirts with an Ivy-league diving instructor. Once a week he would have a slice of pizza but that was about the extent of our relationship…as far as he knew. The girls in the pizza stand new better.
I never saw the dive show from the audience’s point of view but since it was near the pizza stand, I could hear the narration. About three quarters of the way through there was some sort of hillbilly shotgun wedding scenario (go figure) and a shot would go off. That was my cue. I would drop whatever it was I was doing; waiting on a customer, making a pizza, scooping a water ice, washing dishes, didn’t matter, and another counter girl would, quite seamlessly, step into my place. I would dash across the pizza stand to the window nearest the carousel and from there I could see him. He would be at the top of the high dive. I don’t know how high it was technically but let’s just say it was about a million feet. He would stand up there in nothing but his trunks, cross himself and then make the most beautiful, graceful, perfect dive into the tiny pool. I would wait until the announcer said, “PERFECT DIVE!” and then I would go back to work. Every day. Twice a day. All summer.
I didn’t moon over the diver. I loved him just fine from afar and he was far too old for me anyway but I was steadfast in my vigil. I was always in place for his dive and I always waited for the “PERFECT DIVE!” to make sure he was all right. He always was.
Towards the end of the summer, on a very busy day, he came by the stand for his daily seventy-five cent soda with the dollar-in-change chaser. The lines were long and everyone was bustling around but of course, the pizza girls made sure I waited on the diver. He leaned through the employee service window for his soda and as I handed it to him he said “You’re gonna get in trouble if you stop work everyday to watch me dive.”