Fun With Guessing Weights
Imagine the summer of 1964. I was 17, working at my first job at the Excelsior Amusement Park, right on the shore of Lake Minnetonka outside of Minneapolis. The salary was a whopping $.69 an hour.
The only job benefit was that I could go on the rides for free, and I rode the roller coaster enough times to attain boredom with it. I am still not a fan today, as you cannot steer! A motorcycle is much better. Anyway, it was the ancient type, and was ancient itself, with spindly white supports reaching high in the sky. It looked rickety because…it was. It was safe as long as you stayed in the car and had the safety bar locked down. Every few years someone would manage to fall out, and die. That happened once while I worked there but the boy “only” suffered several broken bones.
My first gig was to work at a long shed with many games you passed as you walked in. Most of the games looked easy but were not. The ring toss seemed pretty simple, but the spikes were close together and deceptively thick, making a score less likely. We were all stunned one day when a defensive lineman for the Vikings (Carl Eller?) showed up with arms so long he could merely reach out and drop the rings where he wanted. I think they changed the rules after that episode.
One of my colleagues was older, and had the most amazing ability to engage pretty girls in conversation. Since this was not in my limited skill set, I paid close attention. He had a variety of lines, and his favorite was “Wait – haven’t we had trouble with you before?” I have no idea why that worked, but it did. Sadly, his skills did not transfer to me.
After a bit I was “promoted” to the bottle toss, where I worked alone. Here the idea was to throw the three balls you were given at a table with a pyramid of wooden bottles. If you got all the bottles to roll off the table you won. The trick was that the bottles all had lead shafts inserted from the bottom, so they were heavier than they looked. If you hit the base of the bottles you might succeed, but most people threw as hard as possible and screwed up their aim. Picking up the bottles and retrieving the balls was hard work, and added frustration came from most of the customers asking how much it cost, while standing under several large $.25 signs.
Trouble arose one hot and sticky night when a large and drunken crowd gathered, and decided it would be more fun to throw the balls at…me. Once I figured out to not give the balls back they dispersed, and I think that was the only time in my life I ever actually yelled at a boss (Not to be confused with the many times a boss yelled at me). I read her the riot act. She had sat across the way smoking a cigarette and watching, choosing to do nothing. I threatened to quit if she ever let that happen again, surely the definition of an empty threat. Instead of firing me, I was moved to the guess your weight game.
I loved this! This was also a $.25 investment for the customer, and I think it was a loss leader, even though the prizes were not much – small stuffed animals and such. The scales were honest, and it was not rigged in any way, and the bosses did not care if I won or not.
But I did care. I soon got pretty good at this, and could “win” about 80% of the time if I wanted to. A lot of people thought their child would be difficult, but that was not the case. I had to get within minus or plus 3 pounds – a 6-pound range. For a 60 pound child that is a margin of 10%. Much harder were women, especially “full figured” women. A “foundation garment” can hide 20 or 30 pounds. Men rarely chose to be weighed, and I do not know why women did. I recall a sailor who appeared to have had a few beers and sported the appearance of someone who could dismantle me with his bare hands. His girlfriend was well-padded, and I underestimated her weight by about 50 pounds, which delighted them both. I may have been good at this, but I was not stupid.
Fast forward 13 years to 1977. I am now the president of the Lake Washington Education Association, at that time the 4th largest teacher union in the state (now the 3rd largest). This was a full-time release position, so instead of classes I had an office and three support staff. The acting superintendent was a fine man that was well-respected and admired by the public and the teachers, which is probably why the school board shocked everyone and hired someone else. This led to a bizarre situation where many of the teachers wanted to mount a wildcat strike and I had to talk them out of it, aided by the pleas of the departing superintendent to let it go.
Anyway, one of his many fine ideas was that the union head and the superintendent should have lunch once a month to keep in touch. I looked forward to these as a fine opportunity to use the expense account I rarely touched. I always had prime rib, a baked potato, and two glasses of rose, which made me mentally useless for the rest of the day, but the conversations were very useful and important in the grand scheme of things.
At one such lunch we were chatting about the jobs we had in high school and college. He had a beautiful voice, and made money singing for many years. I had done a lot of odd things, and as I was telling him the secrets of guessing weights the attractive waitress overheard me and asked me to guess her weight. She walked back and forth and spun around, and I guessed her weight perfectly. To the pound! She was astonished by this, and soon all the other waitresses came over for their turns. Imagine if a local reporter was in the restaurant, or imagine this happening today. Here you have the superintendent and the union president drinking alcohol in the middle of the day while a bevy of attractive women sashay back and forth in front of them and everyone is laughing.
I hope I left a good tip.
Copyright 2018 David Preston