Saturday, February 02, 2019

The fantastic day I didn't have at Wet n Wild

So this week I went to Wet n Wild, Sydney's only water park, expecting and hoping to have one of the best days of my life.

I did not.

I've been wanting to go to Wet n Wild for years, ever since it first opened in Sydney. I love water slides. I don't understand how other people don't love water slides. If it were up to me, there would be water slides in every suburb, just massive towers along main roads as though they were a service station or Officeworks. But there aren't. So I had to go to Wet n Wild. 

But whilst I happily do most things alone (it's that or stay home with my collection of talking potatoes), going to theme parks alone is one thing that's beyond me. It just seemed too sad. I needed someone to go with. Unfortunately none of my friends wanted to going to a water park with me. My friends generally are the kind of people only inclined to go places that are indoors, semi dark, and air conditioned. You should see their faces when I ask them to go bush walking! And if you do see their faces tell me, because we communicate exclusively through messenger apps; I haven't seen any of their faces in years. I wonder what they look like now?

But if my friends don't want to go, that's okay. I can make my own people to do stuff with me. Unfortunately the person I made, like all new people, started out rather small and with no control over his bodily functions, and I had to wait several years for him to get big enough to go on water slides with me (my attempts to speed the process up by giving him cake met with unverifiable results due to sample size). Finally this year, he was big enough. And he certainly seemed keen. He likes water, and I even took him to some smaller but still substantial water slides at Manly to make sure he could handle it without getting freaked out. No problems. We had a kid who was good to go to Wet n Wild.

There was also the matter of being able to afford it, which I couldn't for years, but now that I'm working I can Do Stuff. So tickets were purchased. Hey G, remember all the times I told you I was busy with uni work? It was all for you, so I can afford to take you to places like Wet n Wild. (And does your father take you to theme parks? No, he does not. If you think marriage is a constant battle for moral superiority, try getting divorced. It's a blood sport between you and the person you once gave your whole heart and life to and now don't want to share a word with. But that's another story). 

So I planned our trip. Rather than being located in an area designed to attract tourists, Wet n Wild Sydney is in the far western suburbs of Sydney, not far from the site of Sydney's now defunct and much lamented other major theme park, Australia's Wonderland (and I bet you didn't know that the song is about me. My body is a wonderland - in the 1990s everyone wanted to get in but now it's an abandoned wasteland). Incidentally, the final CEO of Australia's Wonderland, Stephen Galbraith, blamed the closure of the park on: the September 11 attacks, the 2002 Bali bombings, the collapse of HIH Insurance, the SARS virus, the bird flu virus, "consistent losses" on the Asian financial crisis, the collapse of Ansett Australia, the Iraq War and the 2003 bushfires and he might as well have kept going with a list like that and added political correctness, Y2K preparations, rodent infestation, ennui, pickles on Big Macs and ring around the collar. Anyway the point is, Wet n Wild is in the middle of nowhere.

Generally in NSW, there are buses. The might only come once every two hours, they might be over crowded and require you to transfer to get from your house to the city 3km away, but generally if there are more than a handful of buildings somewhere, eventually a bus will get there. And I'm the public transport whisperer. I can master routes, time tables, networks, lines and ticketing faster than you can say why bother just use an app. But despite my extensive research, there was no bus going to Wet n Wild. I seem to remember their website once promised a shuttle bus to a major nearby train station, but no longer. The best they can suggest now if arriving by public transport is to get an Uber or taxi from the train station. So that's what we did. I hate approaching taxi drivers and asking if they'll take me where I want to go. It makes me feel like...well anyway, I just don't like it. It didn't get any better as we settled into the first cab off the rank and G said to me "you sounded so strange when you asked for the taxi." Thanks kid. I brought you into this world and I can take you out.

Like any sensible person, I purchased our tickets in advance and had them on my phone's screen ready to scan as we went in. No queuing with the plebs for us, we're VIPs. Except after the (long) queue to get your bags checked by security, we couldn't get in the normal way because...my phone (a Galaxy S9+ for those of you playing at home) was too big to fit in their scanner. We had to walk over to the ticket office, queue again, have our electronic tickets verified manually, then take the wrist bands we'd been given and get back in the first queue once more. Okay, settle down, we told ourselves and each other. We got off to an irritating start but this was still going to be a fantastic day! 

Oh. Two of the four water slide towers are closed today. Half of the major slides are out of action. Well...okay. We can deal.

After changing and lathering our 50 and 100% Irish skin respectively in SPF 50+, we needed a locker. I knew the lockers would cost money to use, everything does in a place like this and I'd made my peace with that. But arriving at a bank of lockers, there were no instructions, no automatic machines or indications how one might pay. G was hot, had already been through a long train trip and a lot of queuing and wanted to hit the water. And I couldn't find a staff member to assist (this was to become a theme throughout the day). Finally I saw, at great distance, one of the apparently five teenagers who worked in the park. She directed me to a kiosk at great distance, where for the moderate sum of twelve fucking dollars who do these bastards think they are I was granted a day's right to use of a locker.

The first locker I tried didn't work. I could put our stuff in it but couldn't get the door to stay shut, fulfilling the "er" part of its brief but not the "lock" part. When I managed, after another lengthy expedition, to locate another staff member to see if I was doing it right or what, they determined that all the lockers in that bank were broken and lead us to another distant corner of the park to find a working locker.

We grabbed a couple of photos - just as well we did it then, cause this was just about the last time I'd smile that day - stowed the last of our belongings, and set off to have fun.

Having theoretical fun. Also I apologise for misleading anyone about my legs; they are patently not "okay". 

But now I was blind. Understandably, you can't wear sunglasses on the water slides, and with no one to look after my prescription glasses whilst we went sliding, I left them in the locker. But the melanin my ancestry has given me is suitable only for drinking somewhere cold and drizzly, and on this very sunny day, I literally couldn't see. My eyeballs still feel burnt 3 days later. My advice if you have expensive sunglasses and this post is making you think "hey, a day at Wet n Wild sounds neat!" is to buy a cheap pair or two you don't mind losing to carry with you on the day. Meanwhile G began to sneeze. He inherited from his father the propensity to phototonically sneeze photogenically sneeze that thing broken people do when they sneeze when it's sunny.

We managed to find ourselves in the queue for a water slide. And find ourselves we certainly had time to do, as given it was the last day of the holidays and half the slides were closed, the queue for this one was well over an hour. Running along side the normal queue was the express line, where people who paid 150% of the admission fee for the privilege could zip right to the front of the queue, so at least you could occupy yourself during the wait time feeling resentful and wishing bad things would happen to the express pass people. Back in the long queue I was sure we were being overtaken. Finally we reached the top of the queue for the Double BowlsEye. This was what we'd been waiting for! I tapped my band to indicate we wanted an action photo of us on the slide. We climbed on the raft. I was seated in the backwards position and missed the whole experience cause I couldn't see where we were going.

Bu now it was time for lunch. In the early days of the park, Wet n Wild notoriously didn't let you bring your own food, but even as a 14 year old on rare family outings and with my bar set very low, I knew the best chefs are rarely falling over each other to work their magic in amusement park kitchens. Luckily now you can bring your own, so we had a little picnic that turned out to be the best part of the day - Wet n Wild I will say does at least supply deck chairs under shade umbrellas for free, once you've paid the costs of entry which includes the costs of all those slides closed today.

When I tried to put our stuff back in our locker after lunch, it wouldn't lock shut. Another hike to find a staff member, who moved us to locker number 3.

It was now getting on for early afternoon. Time for another water slide. This queue was even worse. And it was hot, and exhausting, and G began to cry, not because he's a whiny spoiled kid - he isn't - but he was dehydrated and tired and overwhelmed and he wanted to go home, but out of a stupid sunk cost fallacy I convinced him we should continue queuing for what turned out to be another excessive period of time so we could spend another what felt like 8 seconds on a slide. Then I made sure we sat down and I got plenty of water in him and bought him an ice cream. One of the luridly coloured frozen confection treats known as a golden gaytime, which in a minor but predictable disappointment promised to be an ice cream sandwich on the poster, but was a regular old ice cream on a stick when served. His nose and eyes were now running uncontrollably - turns out the earlier sneezing wasn't just the sun, but a heretofore unrealised allergy to chlorine.

In search of some more sedate fun without an hours long queue, we went to the Dinosaur lagoon, which invites you to relax as you float in a soft tube around the half kilometre lazy river. Sounded like just what we needed. Alas, acquiring the tubes meant tackling the odd tube handover system where you needed to stand at the end of the river, taking tubes from the people who'd just completed the course. People who, in many cases, wanted to go around again or hadn't managed to get a tube in the first place. This put me and G at a distinct disadvantage against the family groups who were able to acquire the scarce tubes by forming human chains, tackling the course finishers and half drowning them until they handed their tubes over. We waited so long for the tubes we almost gave up, but I was determined to wrest some fun from the day, and we resorted to pathetic begging (Wet n Wild was resembling sex in more unpleasant ways than one). But it occurred to me, as we stood in waist deep water, surrounded by reeds, reaching our arms out to wet strangers saying "tuuuuubes....tuuuubes?" that this was about as relaxing and fun as the zombie apocalypse it felt like we were trying to survive.

I convinced G to give the water slides one last try. As we joined a queue, he said "Mummy, I think I'm going to be sick" and promptly was, lavishly all over the path, golden on the way in and golden on the way out. (So much for the control over bodily functions). As I desperately tried to flag down a staff member, G remarked "I guess it's not a myth that you shouldn't swim after ice cream". The first squeaky voiced teen staff member I managed to find didn't have a radio. The teen with a radio I did manage to find another few dozen metres further on didn't know how to contact the cleaners. I left them to it to attend to my son and once he was stabilised and cleaned we went home. On the way out I scanned my smart band to get the photo of us on the first water slide. It wasn't us.

Back home the zip on my bag got stuck and I had to cut the lining in order to extract the smelly wet swimwear contained within. I can't sew it back up, cause I can't sew. I was terribly sunburnt, despite all the cream. I don't think I've been really sunburnt for a decade, a decade I've managed to be an Irish person in Australia with Vitamin D deficiency. Anyway, I'd forgotten how much sunburn fucking hurts.

I spent five years and...I won't tell you how much money, but including Ubers, locker and my perfectly nice tote bag, on top of the tickets, it was a lot, to go to Wet n Wild, and I got to try out more lockers than I did water slides. And given I've vowed to never go again, unless some future paramour wants to drive us to the door, pack a gourmet picnic and pay for express passes, that was my total experience at Wet n Wild. It was a purportedly fun experience that I didn't even get to experience once.