Sunday, April 1, 2012

The watch

1976, Edmonton Klondike days.
 We're carnies working the Zipper and the Enterprise for Conklin shows. Every day is 11 or 12 hours long but Saturday- closing day, starts early, we're packing the scenery away before opening in preparation for the teardown and move to Regina where the show has to be up and running Monday morning. This promises to be a hard slog as the drive alone is 500 miles.

 11 pm can't come quick enough and right on the dot the boss comes running by, "Shut 'er down!" The buckets are quickly emptied of customers and the rides and joints start to come down quickly, everyone running as the last of the baffled fairgoers are caught in the change. 11:10 there's that dusty pre-rain smell and then skies open and it teems down complete with thunder and lightning, it pours for hours, we carry on regardless. Now we're dismantling, lifting, carrying and running in ankle deep water, any dropped tool or pin is lost. After 4 hours of that, the ride is down, packed away and a bunch of us are crowded up against the radiator of the giant diesel in the generator trailer, blow drying ourselves while we're being deafened. The Enterprise, a large ferris wheel variant takes longer. The sun comes up, we jump in the van and drive all day on empty roads across flat sunburnt Saskatchewan where everyone is in church, everything is closed and gas is hard to find.

By dark we're at the fairgrounds in Regina hanging around in small groups, greeting people as we find each other, waiting for the rides and games to arrive. Trucks are trickling in, the layout crew directing them to their appointed spots marked in white paint on the ground. Finally there's the Zipper, it's placed and we start to unpack.  But then we're waiting for power, the generator trailers haven't arrived but cables are rolled out and connected at the receiving end. We're napping under the trailer, first sleep we've had in 40 hours. Finally power! the scenery lights start to come on around the lot, the hydraulic pumps will work and we get set up, more or less ready to go by opening time, but other rides are still trickling in and some of the big rides take hours more to set up. The opening is delayed but by noon The Carnival- all music, lights and excitement- is in town! We run the rides without much enthusiasm till 11pm when we gratefully obey the order to shut 'er down! After a social beer or two we collapse from exhaustion and fall asleep. Next day it's business as usual.

It is a miracle of organization and logistics... and awful lot of work by the crew, most of whom are working for minimum wage... but it's what ya do.

 Partway through the week in the slow part of the day, a couple of the customer service reps come through with cardboard boxes on a handcart. As a token of gratitude from management for a job well done, a brutal weekend above and beyond the call of duty...
Everyone gets a watch!

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