Attraction operator who has a crazier summer job?

Life isn’t easy. From groceries to tuition fees, everything is getting more expensive. The solution? Work for your money!

Derian Wesselink (23) is studying to earn a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Groningen. This summers she works as an attraction operator.

How did you end up in this job?

‘The amusement park where I work is close to where my parents live. When I was 15, I had a paper round, but this seemed much more fun. When a friend went to apply, I went along and they hired me. Now I have been working there for about eight years and I come back every summer. I work about five to six days every week from 10 AM to 5 PM. Long days, but I need the salary to pay for my studies.’

Do you remember your very first days at work?

‘At first I only had to work with the attractions for children. In principle, not much can go wrong at these. But they are children, aren’t they? So you always have to pay attention. In time you learn more and more. Eventually you are allowed to operate the largest attractions, such as the roller coaster and the wild water ride. Funnily enough, I really hate amusement parks: I am afraid of heights and hate waiting. You won’t see me in one of those.’

What is the best thing about working in an amusement park?

‘I have worked in a supermarket and at a caterer’s, but as much as in an amusement park you won’t learn anywhere else. Every day there are about three thousand visitors. These make sure you get involved in a lot of different situations. Visitors can be happy and cheerful, but also scared or dissatisfied, or in a panic, for that matter. And you are the one responsible for all of that. It generates a lot of adrenaline. You never know what’s going to happen. Every day I’m at a different attraction. If you get to operate a fun attraction, you have a great day. Sometimes you get fed up when you have to handle a stupid attraction.’

And what might that be?

‘Some attractions are quite dangerous, for example the roller coaster. We have strict length rules, so regularly you have to disappoint children who are just too small. There are also rides where you have to check the braces of every single occupant every single round, so you keep going back and forth.’

What is the least fun about your work?

‘Some people enter the park grumpy as hell. When their children are crying, for instance. These parents are tired before their day out has even started. Then I really think: man, this is an amusement park, not a place to be grumpy.
‘I also happen to be one of the few staff members who can handle vomit. So when kids have to throw up because they are sick, which happens more often than you think, I get to clean it up. Really great.’

Would you recommend this work to others?

‘Definitely! Many people think it’s mind-numbing to stand at an attraction seven hours a day, but it’s really not like you only have to press the button and do nothing else. You have to pay close attention to what is going on, because it does concern people’s safety. Attractions are never dangerous in themselves, but children do put themselves in danger by acting crazy, or sticking an arm or a leg out of the attraction. Of course you don’t want that.’