It’s Wednesday evening and I’m at the Meadowlands State Fair next to Giants Stadium. Its “cheap night” and the thirty-dollar unlimited ride pass had been slashed to eighteen bucks. As a result the place is mobbed. But I don’t mind.

When I came here last year I was astounded to see how well behaved everyone was. Despite the size and socio-economic diversity of the crowd, not a single person started trouble, at least while I was there. There was no cutting in line, no fights and little if any cursing. People were just there to spend time with their kids, ride the rides and stuff themselves with fat soaked cardiac numbing greasy treats. The fair made me proud to be a New Jerseyite. And this year, as my girlfriend and I weave through the crowds, the same civil behavior seems to be holding fast.

“Isn’t this great?” I say to my girlfriend. “Everyone is nice. No pushing. No shoving.”

“Just compare and contrast this to events in New York,” she says. “I’ve seen people duke it out over a picnic spot at a Central Park concert.”

“Remember when Pacino did Merchant of Venice?” I say. “Some people were so arrogant that they paid people to wait for them to get them free tickets. Entitlement gone haywire.”

“And the pushing and shoving to get into a restaurant or a club.”

“Or jockeying for seats at Whole Foods. Guy yelled at me once there.”

“Manhattan has that kind of energy,” my girlfriend says. “Makes it the greatest city in the world, but also a tough place to live.”

Then I wave my hands. “No mas. I don’t want to talk about people behaving badly. I’m having a nice zen moment here. Let’s just enjoy the fair.”

After eating some zeppole, my girlfriend and I head over to the Space Coaster. It’s my favorite ride in the place. Designed to hit you with negative gees from every direction, it’s a stomach churner. Maybe I should have passed on the zeppole.

Since the Space Coaster is so awesome, the line to get on it is long. That’s okay. That will give my stomach a chance to settle. But then, as we wait on line, someone just has to go and fuck up my zen.

A girl in her late teens slips into the queue and joins her boyfriend near the entrance to the ride. I know what’s happening. The boy was holding a place for her so she could ride another ride and hop on this one without waiting. But the ride operator immediately sees this and tells her she has to wait on line like everybody else.

“But my boyfriend is here,” she whines.

“Don’t care,” the carny says. “Get on the back of the line.”

Then the boyfriend starts getting into it with the carny. He doesn’t yell, but he acts indignant and gesticulates wildly. As he does so I notice his girlfriend watching him with a spoiled brat pout.

“Rules the rules, man,” the carny says.

“That’s not fair,” the boyfriend, says, his voice rising.

“Hey man,” says a bystander. “Be cool bro.”


“Not worth it brother.”

Then a loud voice booms, “What the hell is going on here?” Turning to the source of the noise, I see a fat man in a white polo shirt standing near the edge of the line. I don’t know who he is, but I know what he is. Years of waiting tables taught me to recognize arrogant, entitled assholes instantly.

“Why won’t you let them on the ride?” the man yells

“The guy can go on the ride,” the carny says. “Girl’s got to go to the back.”

“What the fuck?” the man says loudly. “Her boyfriend was holding her place in line.”

“Don’t work that way, mister.”

“What the hell is your problem?” the man yells back. Now the carny is pissed.

“This is my ride!” he says. “I’m in charge here! Girl has to go to the back of the line. No exceptions.”

“What the fuck do you mean ‘I’m in charge?’” The man says. “What the hell are you in charge of?”

My blood boils. Judging from the watch on his hand, I figure fat guy is wealthy. He probably isn’t used to hearing no, especially from a guy he obviously thinks is his social inferior. As my breathing quickens, posttraumatic flashbacks from my restaurant days spark though my brain. But, to my satisfaction, the girl and her paramour walk out of the line.

“Asshole!” the man yells. “Look what you did.”

“Watch you mouth,” someone in the crowd says.

“Yeah, there are children here!” another voice calls out.

“This guy’s in charge of what?” the man says with an arrogant smirk on his face. “Give me a break.” It’s time for me to do something.

I look at the man and when our eyes meet I blast him with my thousand-yard stare, causing the man to flinch and look away. But when he looks back I’m still staring at him, channeling an image of what he’d look like in the zeppole fryer into his soul. The man’s face turns red and he walks away. Maybe he’s ashamed. I hope so.

“Must be from Manhattan,” my girlfriend says.

“Could be,” I say. “But when I was at the Bistro I dealt with people like him three times a day.” My girlfriend shudders.

Before you accuse me of class warfare, I have always maintained that money does not make people jerks. Poor people are jerks too. Being an asshole is equal opportunity. But in commercial settings wealthy jerks always feel entitled to what they want, when they want it. And they’ll step on people to get it. Think of the people paying others to wait for them on line. That’s the difference. Fat Guy will put his daughter into therapy if he doesn’t change his ways.

Luckily for me, the Space Coaster expunges my angry feelings and replaces them with little boy glee. I’ve always loved rides. The scarier the better. Besides, it’s fun to listen to your girlfriend scream like a banshee. And for the rest of the night, peace reigns at the fair.

At closing time, stuffed full and happy, my girlfriend and I head for the exit. But we have to take a leak and walk over to the restroom. There are two bathroom attendants outside the entrances with a tip jar in front of them.

“You have a dollar?” I ask my girlfriend.


I fish a bill out of my pocket. “You’ll need this.”

“Oh yes, mighty guru.”

I go inside and, just as I let my urine start to flow, the guy next to me says, “I can’t believe these people want a tip. What? I have to pay to pee? This place has taken enough money out of me.”

“A huge part of their income is tips,” I say. “Sometimes all of it.”




After I do the shake and wash my hands I head out the door. To my delight the guy I spoke to drops a dollar into the attendant’s basket. I drop in a dollar too.

“Thank you, sir,” the attendant says. “You have a nice evening.”

“You too, sir.”

As I walk to my car I have a big smile on my face. Another convert. And, despite jerks like that fat guy, the folks in New Jersey are still basically good. Maybe people can learn a lesson from us.

40 thoughts on “Fairground”

  1. Big E says:

    Another one of your better posts – great expression of emotion, IMHO… The kinda stuff that kept me here and reading, from the beginning.

    Keep up the great writing!

  2. George says:

    Glad most of the fair went well. Nice to see the frequency of posts is on the rise.
    Although I tend to disagree that paying someone else to snag you free tickets is entitlement gone haywire. If they are paying for it, then it’s not a sense of entitlement, it’s that they are WILLING to pay for a scarce good, perhaps unable to wait in line themselves, they can still see the show. That’s why we have prices on things to begin with – to allocate resources.

  3. Peter says:

    I’m desperate to learn your thousand yard stare technique. I’m in the restaurant business myself and it feels like this could be a very useful skill from time to time.

  4. Amanda Sowards says:

    Changing minds… on pee at a time…. (Feel free to use that on your business card.) 🙂

  5. Kim says:

    I’ve always said that I want to teach my son that there is one race you can always be prejudice against: assholes. They come in all colours, genders, creeds, religious preferences. I just hope he has the cajones you displayed. Well done, Steve. You da man.

  6. savannah says:

    well done, sugar! xox

  7. nicole says:

    I agree w/ Peter. I want to learn this waiter stare so I can do it to all of the a-holes I meet.

  8. Melanie says:

    I don’t understand the problem with the guy holding a place for his girlfriend in line. Maybe she wasn’t riding another ride, but had to use the restroom (girls don’t have to “take a leak!”). Is it an East Coast thing that you can’t hold places? I live near Disneyland, and used to work there, and the practice is commonplace.

  9. Ali H. says:

    I worked in a deli for 13 years, what you is definitely true. I got some jerks from poor families, but only the wealthy customers I had who were jerks acted like they were more entitled. Wanting to be taking care of first before the people who came before them, taking up more time when they don’t need to, asking for discounts when nobody else gets it, etc. I once had a rich guy ask me to take away an item that a customer had because there was no more of it on the shelf, I said no and he was upset. You just have to stand your ground with these people. They have to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them because they are rich, they are going to face disappointment like the rest of us.

  10. Bob Dobbs says:

    Thanks for the frequent posts. Very enjoyable, and appreciated.

    I’m a West Coaster as Melanie apparently is. Holding a place in line for one, two, even three people is not uncommon here. You don’t particularly love the idea when it happens in front of you, but nobody says anything. Maybe we’re just too passive out here in California.

    On the other hand, it’s not a real big problem, either. It’s not like everybody does it, usually just a couple of people in every line. Do they just take a hard line on the issue at the Fairgrounds, or can place-holding get out of control on the East Coast?

  11. Yusif Nurizade says:

    I wonder if you underestimate the effectiveness of your thousand yard stare…

  12. Yusif Nurizade says:


  13. Jimmy Rogers says:

    Interesting story as always. I was a bit confused about two things though.

    Why would one have “seats” at Whole Foods? Also, what fairgrounds has attendants in the bathrooms? Is this a NJ thing?

  14. joe says:

    Winning hearts and minds all over the world. At least over some parts of Jersey.

  15. Fred says:

    I seem to remember from a book I read many years ago that the rest room attendants at carnivals were actually employees that were known as “Doniker Men” and women. A Doniker is the carny name for a rest room. The signs always referred to the Doniker Man as Sammy Green or Doniker Sam

  16. Anonymous says:

    could have done w/out the bathroom details. Wouldn’t it suffice to say- you spent $2 for the attendant? IDK, but I think the line thing is NOT the issue….it was the feeling of being cheated or in the case of the “carny” being challenged. Entitlement abounds as do a-holes….the sad part is that at one time or another we are ALL act like entitled assholes. Accept it and then change it!

  17. elizabeth says:

    Thanks for leaving so many posts! I’m so used to having to wait for months between each amusing story 🙂
    It annoys me too when arrogance overcomes a good day, but I’m glad you used your 100-yard-stare for good!
    Keep it up with the posts! It makes my day!

  18. rob says:

    Was the restroom open to the public, or just the people who had bought tickets?

    If it’s a free event or a public restroom I’m happy to pay to use the facilities in the hope they will be clean and well maintained.
    But if I’m paying $10+ to get into an event that cost should cover the basic facilities within the event.

    It seems nuts that the rides were included in the price but the bathroom cost a $.

  19. Layla says:

    Nice post. A very enjoyable read.

  20. Margaret Harrison says:

    I’ve missed the thousand yard stare, and I’m picturing your new comic book
    superhero: instead of Superman beating up the bad guys, The Waiter rights all wrongs with the stare…..they could sure use you on Capitol Hill in the debt ceiling negotiations!

  21. lafemmeroar says:

    Fat guy is what I call a M.I.L.K. (Man I’d Like to Kick).

  22. Brice says:

    Question about bathroom attendants. In Montana, I’ve never seen such a person. What service do they offer?

  23. reg says:

    Waiter – can you please post your thousand yard stare. After hearing about it for so many years I want to see what it looks like – thanks.

  24. Venus Flytrap Inc. says:

    One of my favorite posts of yours. Agree with reg, wouldn’t mind seeing the thousand yard stare.

  25. xKitchen Staff says:

    Why would someone want to piss-off the operater of a dangerous ride? You’re literally putting your life in their hands. Not the wisest move.

  26. Kempeth says:

    It’s not like the ride has individual ejection seats. So what’s the operator going to do to you on the ride? Derail the whole train just to get to one jerk? No, but you might have your fair visit cut short by a romantic walk to the gates with Bud from security…

  27. Alex says:

    Is no one concerned about the carney being an asshole? You want to talk about class warfare, why is he being rude to a girl meeting her boyfriend in line? How is the fat man, who is trying to (albeit rudely) sticking up for those two kids an asshole? So vocalizing opposition for a carney being stupid makes you an asshole. How is the fat man entitled? Is he entitle to wait longer because he wants a kid to be able to ride? This makes him wait longer. Maybe I am missing something but he fat man (aside from the bad language) seems to be the hero in this.
    Aside from tipping bathroom attendants. That’s just good manners.

  28. SaraJeanQueen says:

    Maybe you’re the one who’s acting entitled. How do you know she was on another ride? In fact I doubt it.. when you’re at a fair with your boyfriend, you don’t split up to tackle all the rides, you do them together. I bet she was in the bathroom or buying something.
    The ride operator was being a dick. You all humiliated this poor young couple just so you could be one spot closer in line? Ridiculous!
    Oh and the “Yeah, there are children here!” line? Fiction. Puh-lease.

  29. JJ says:

    I agree with SaraJeanQueen. How do you know all of the story?

  30. Bob in VA says:

    “Manhattan has that kind of energy,” my girlfriend says. “Makes it the greatest city in the world, but also a tough place to live.”

    Wanna know WHY the folks in NYC are always so grumpy? The light at the end of their tunnel…is New Jersey!

  31. eric says:

    I agree that rudeness, arrogance and bad behavior has no dollar tag, but I disagree that it is only the wealthy that feel and express entitlement. A sense of entitlement lives on both sides of the track. I don’t have a real problem with one part of a couple holding a spot for the other half, but if the guy in charge says it’s a no go, then they should listen and the guy speaking up really had place challenging the carny.

    Not too sure about the bathroom attendants? What exactly do they do? Are they the folks that keep the place clean? If so, I have been a janitor before and never saw any tips. Are we to tip the janitor that cleans the restrooms at the restaurant , the movie theater, etc? I think this is going a bit too far.


  32. S says:

    All I can say is if you use the 1000 yard stare on a pissed off person you better be ready to back it up.

  33. South County Girl says:

    That guy was a complete jerk and wasn’t even involved with the situation.

    And quite frankly, if the boy was a real gentleman he would have asked if his girlfriend could have his place in line and he’d wait off to the side for her to ride.

    And if she liked him, she’d tell him it was okay and that they would just ride something else…

  34. Anonymous says:

    If u were giving ur patrons your “100 yard stare” or whatever u called it when u were a waiter I’m sure you weren’t making many bills on time. Just saying.

    1. guru says:

      Oh but I did, anonymous. I made bank consistently.

  35. D. West says:

    I do not understand why you think the young man did wrong, standing in line, expecting that he and his girlfriend would ride together. It’s not as if the next person in line was going to cozy up with the boy. I am not familiar with this ride, but they were together. And the carny sounds like one of those little Napoleons: “I’ve got the power here, in my little dominion!”

  36. TJ says:

    I am a server and I wont tip bathroom attendants.

    I despise tip jars in any form.Except on an open bar at a social event. I will always tip shuttle bus drivers and hotel luggage people a dollar per bag.

    I expect no less then 15% on my tables and feel uncomfortable of tips of over 20%.. (call me crazy)I will gladly take them.

    We just started putting the tip calculator on the bottom of our checks. I have NEVER liked this practice. As over long term HURTS your tips. People who KNOW how to tip will feel insulted and people who DON’T STILL tip what they want to begin with.

  37. Pingback: Waiter Rant » Blog Archive » You Must Be This Young to Ride This Ride
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  39. Dianne West says:

    Could the ride guy be a bigger dick? The boy was in line. His girl was probably going potty or whatever. They were together. Oh yeah, I guess this was a case of “I have no real power in the world, but in this venue, I can ruin your day.” Sad, and pathetic.

  40. Dianne West says:

    My guy and I, we tend to tip 25 percent. But if the service, or the food sucks, we vote with our feet. We walk away, and never come back.

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