There is a waterslide park not too terribly far from my house. It’s a profanely unhygienic place that charges you sickening amounts of money for the very seasonal privilege of contracting a staph infection from their brightly colored inner-tubes. The prodigious entry fee also affords you access to a plethora of other areas where the various tasks of parting with huge wads money, exercising your immune system, and testing your fortitude (both physical and mental) are transformed into a methodical, almost scientific process. Take the family to a water park one time and you’ll never bitch about the lawn damage caused by a Slip 'N Slide again.
Summer is officially upon us – well, those of us in the northern hemisphere, anyway – and that means that we will soon be seeing the frenetic, seizure-inducing television ads for this local waterslide park of which I speak. This is a serious problem when you have young children. The practiced parent comes to loathe the water park commercials every bit as much as political ads and previews for the next episode of JAG. We hate the water park commercials because once the little urchins see the shiny inflatable swim-toys, colorful rides, and faux nautical scenery, the only way to stop the relentless pleading and badgering that ensues without giving in to their demands is to kill them.
I am fortunate and infinitely thankful that both my kids are finally at an age where they have better things to do than stand in line on damp cement with a thousand strangers who may or may not have recently wet themselves just to enjoy thirteen seconds of sloshing down a slope of running bleach-water. But for those who have kids at the age where taking them to a water park is going to be better than the grisly alternative, I have the following bits of hard-collected knowledge to pass along, if you care to read on.
1. Get Yourself Swim Trunks with Deep Pockets
Look, a day at the waterslides is going to cost you. Prepare for this by avoiding the movie theater and eating only ramen for a few weeks. This strategy has the dual effect of both saving money and making you capable of actually appreciating a water park chilidog. And believe me, when you wait a half-hour for the opportunity to pay seven dollars for a hotdog with congealed Sloppy Joe sauce slathered on it, the last thing you want to do is lose your appetite. It’s complicated, I know. Just trust me on this. Take a lot of money, and in order to maximize it, be very hungry.
2. A Locker is Not a Safe
You may be tempted to rent a locker so you don’t have to carry your towel, sunscreen and car keys with you everywhere you go. And that’s fine, as long as you’re able to stop there. Do not, under any circumstances, become convinced that leaving your massive cash reserves in a water park locker is an intelligent, viable option. It is not. One look at the key itself should be your first clue. Any thinking person will note there’s nothing that key can do that couldn’t also be accomplished using a 3/8” standard screwdriver. Well, I guess the screwdriver would be harder to hide up inside a body cavity for smuggling purposes, but then, who the hell smuggles 3/8” standard screwdrivers?
Do not worry about getting your money wet. When you decide that corn chips covered in vulcanized American cheese are starting to sound good, go ahead and slap your sopping sawbuck on the counter with confidence. If anyone gives you a hard time over its dampness, just wait until they pick it up and then smile and coolly reply, “Yeah, sorry about that. I stood up after taking a dump and all my money fell in the toilet.” If they instinctively drop the bill in disgust, then you can safely assume they’re so slow they probably don’t even realize they work in a water park. Take your paper tray of “Neptune’s Nachos” and walk away because, at that point, it’s really not worth waiting for the fifty cents change.
Now, obviously, if you’re wearing a swimsuit without pockets, you may find carrying your money around problematic. That brings us too…
3. Invest in a Pair of Water-Socks
The reasons for covering your feet at a public water park are numerous, but if you want to enjoy the better rides and slides, you can’t have shoes with laces or hard soles on them. I’m not sure why this is and every time I ask a water park official about it, all they ever say is, “Because laces and hard soles are fruity and stupid.” I don’t think that’s a very reasonable answer, but maybe that’s why I never built a massive water park empire.
Anyway, besides making a great place to keep your money when you are pocketless, water socks also protect the bottoms of your feet from that stabby texturing they put in the walkways to keep hyperactive children and drunken people from slipping. And if the pointy pavement isn’t assaulting your feet, then neither are the legions of malicious and aggressive microbes that typically abound wherever large groups of wet, half-naked humans congregate.
Water socks also hide your hideous toenail fungus.
4. Suggest the River Rapids or Wave Pool
The most important thing to keep in mind is that children possess nearly limitless energy. If you want to get out of that wretched place before sundown, you’ll need to take an active roll in wearing them out. Allowing them to spend most of their time standing in lines for rides that last no time at all is going to get you nowhere fast. It is advantageous to do your best to steer them toward longer rides that require a bit more physical exertion.
Generally, any ride that requires an inner tube will suit this purpose, as these will be the rides that offer the participant an active roll in increasing the fun factor by thrashing about like a lunatic and paddling to beat hell. The giant wave pool is also a good choice because constant movement is absolutely necessary at all times in order to stay afloat and once they're in the middle of that undulating mass of bodies and water, it’s practically impossible for them to get back out. When they do finally make it back to “shore”, offer them some chilidogs and nachos, then suggest they take a nice soak in the jacuzzi. With the right combination of suggestions perfectly timed, you can get them to drain their batteries long before you start thinking you should’ve gone with the filicide option.