My wife is not a big fan of my fashion sense (or lack, thereof). In fact, she’s long noted the fact that I “dress like I’m 15” (her words), and with few exceptions – such as when I’m attending a red carpet premiere in Los Angeles), her thoughts are very accurate. I’ve adopted what I often note as my “uniform” – much like late Apple CEO (and nemesis of PC guys like myself) Steve Jobs was once known for wearing the same thing every day (black turtle neck, jeans, tennis shoes), I’m usually wearing a t-shirt, cargo shorts (generally camo), skate shoes and a chain wallet. For the latter item, I’ve been wearing a Boba Fett edition that I purchased at Spencer’s last year, and for the sake of styling, there’s actually three chains on it right now – the “stock” chain that came with it, one from a Walmart chain wallet, and a longer one from Hot Topic. Indeed, I do dress like I’m 15 – despite being closer to three times that. “Chain wallets are stupid,” scoffs my wife on frequent occasion, and while I do like the way they look – I truly wear them for another, more important reason: to avoid being pickpocketed at all the theme parks and event locations that we constantly visit with The Rock Daughters™. Today I ran into someone else that had a problem with my Boba Fett chain wallet, and that was security at one of our most frequently-visited spots: Six Flags Great America, right here in Lake County, Illinois. What happened at the gate is a prime lesson in why consistency is so important in any job (especially service industries), and an important reminder that sometimes “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” that can make all the difference in the world.
If you’ve browsed my social profiles, you may have seen some of the pictures that I frequently post from Six Flags Great America, located in Gurnee, IL. The folks from Six Flags have seen them as well, often commenting on them or re-tweeting them, and in the past I’ve attended press events like the announcement ceremony for this year’s Justice League: Battle for Metropolis 4D ride.
One common thread on every visit is that I have always worn a wallet chain – every single time. In fact, I the very chains I wore to the park today have been worn to the park on every single visit that my family has made to the park over the past two seasons – sometimes several times a week. I wore them to the Justice League event as well, without a mention. Each time, I do the exact same thing at the gate, removing my wallet, phone, olloclip and glasses, placing them in a bin to be passed through the metal detector. Not once was there an issue before today, where a security officer named Cynthia decided to give me a “Really?!! Aww, no that ain’t coming in here!” before I could even pass through the metal detector. My wife and daughters went in before me just fine, and were already far ahead waiting for our season passes to be scanned before they even realized that I’d been detained. I explained to Cynthia that I’ve worn this same ensemble to the park on many occasions, sometimes several times a week. “But I’m not here several times a week,” she said, looking up at me with a smug grin that just struck me as being really odd and unusually confrontational. She offered me one option: return to my car. Not “take off and discard” (which I’ve seen at some concert venues over the years), not “put it in your pocket,” just “go back to your car with it.” On a hot day when we parked in the farthest corner of the lot, I was pretty disappointed, and based on principal alone, I told my wife and kids to just go on ahead without me – I’d go sit in the car.
Thing is, today wasn’t even a true park visit (the girls had just been there all day on Friday), but meant to be a quick stop so that we could check out The Adler Planetarium’s #AdlerSpaceExperience Truck, which was making a stop in Gurnee today (I previewed that here), so I wouldn’t have been waiting too long… but I really didn’t like how I was being spoken to. So I asked for a supervisor, which I hate doing, because after some past-life experiences working in service areas, I never want to be “the angry customer” – but I wanted to know why, after so many visits, I was now a problem? I understand safety (getting caught on things), and could see them making the “weapon” argument (albeit a real stretch with this), but after two supervisors – a man whose name I missed, and a girl named Amanda, no one could give me a reason aside from “it’s in our park policy book.” So I asked to see the book. Amanda said she get it for me, later returning and saying “I said I would look at the policy book, not bring it,” so I asked if perhaps there was any signage in which wallet chains were listed as being banned from the park? Of course not. The reason I couldn’t see the policy book, or even be directed to the “park policies” or FAQ page of the Six Flags Great America website is very simple: there’s nothing there stating that wallet chains are prohibited. Not as of this writing, anyway – though I could see them adding it down the line. In fact, I was only able to locate one (1) Six Flags theme park that openly prohibits “wallet chains,” and that’s Six Flags America in Baltimore/Washington, D.C. – but their policies vary on several points. Now, this is where it gets interesting…
Directly behind us, a young man was stopped along with his dad for the very same reason – wallet chain. The dad pointed to me with “that guy has one,” and I explained that I was awaiting the infamous “policy book” on this. Soon, a third supervisor stepped in and looked at this guy’s chain and said “Would you mind tucking it in?” or something to that effect, and let them enter. That’s when I said, “so he gets in and I don’t? I can guarantee you that the shortest chain on my wallet is not longer than his single chain,” even going as far as to say that I’d remove (and throw away at my cost) the two longer chains. That’s when a supervisor named Brian said the sensible thing: “Would you mind putting that in one of your snap pockets while you’re in here?” ABSOLUTELY. Again, it’s not what I was being asked – but how it was being said with a lot of aggression and snippy tone for no reason. Brian noted that he views it as being “a loose articles issue,” and I totally get that, also noting that on long days with lots of guests and high heat, the staff can get stressed, and again – I totally understand and appreciate that. Still, the situation – primarily Cynthia’s anger and Amanda’s attitude really left enough of an impression on me that I’m spitting out 1,600+ words about it hours after the fact. If it was a simple issue where it was posted at the gate that chains were no longer allowed (I expect it will be in the future), there would’ve been no question on my end – I would’ve taken it back to our car. And, if that rule is in place and not posted, at least be consistent about enforcing it. It’s obvious that inconsistency must be happening regularly – and I witnessed it first hand with the folks getting stopped and released behind me.
Maybe I really do have some terrible fashion sense when it comes to my styling and accessories, but what I can tell you is that these three chains have been attached to the same wallet since early 2015. They have traveled thousands of miles with me, have passed inspection, and have entered Disneyland Park in Los Angeles, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Disney World, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios near Orlando. They have passed through security and entered Major League Baseball stadiums across the country, twice in the past week alone – first at Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field for the Detroit Tigers vs Chicago White Sox, and again in Anaheim for the Boston Red Sox vs. the Los Angeles Angels. They’ve made it through security at The United Center for both the Bulls and Blackhawks, and at Allstate Arena for many events. They have passed through security and the scrutiny of the TSA at countless airports on dozens of occasions, and not once have I been told to discard them, take them away, or that I would not be allowed entry or passage with them on my person. Not until today at Six Flags Great America, a place that ranks among our daughters’ most cherished spots to visit.
What is a bigger concern for me now is that say… Cynthia and the first two supervisors at the park were right? If I’ve made it through security and past dozens of security staffers and passed countless ride operators without question in the past… what else is slipping through the gates that shouldn’t be? I’d be concerned about a lot of things beyond an unfashionable dad and his little wallet chains (which I won’t be bringing back to the park).