David Cook: Coolidge Park Carousel Is Off The Track - And Response (7)

Saturday, June 27, 2009
David Cook
David Cook

We have two little children, and for the last five years, have delighted in seeing their delight every time we ride the Coolidge Park Carousel.

It is a gem, a treasure of Chattanooga. Spinning next to the beautiful green space that is Coolidge Park, the Carousel is an attraction unlike any other found in cities across the US. Featured in magazines far and wide, the carousel has a spirit, a soul, found in the smiles and laughter of the countless children that have ridden the hand-crafted, hand-carved wooden carousel animals, danced to the historic carousel music and grown fuller as parents and grandparents ride alongside, acting like children themselves.

It contains a dose of magic that is so hard to find in our world today, and that is why it is so frustrating, so wearisome why one of the integral parts of the Carousel Experience has been replaced.

To open this spring and summer season – at the height of tourism – the powers that be in our city have replaced the ticket booth with an automated, ATM-like machine. Until this point, many fine and friendly parks employees have run the ticket booth, taking money in exchange for a ticket. There are many small yet important benefits from this: children learn how to trade money for a ticket to ride. They learn how to interact with adults. The parks employees are faithful in their conversation and smiles, and I remember countless times they have helped my children and others find a seat on just the right animal, waved as we circled by, and said goodbye as we left.

And most importantly, it was a source of income for these employees. A job, in the midst of this sinking ship of economy.

Now, things are different. If you want to ride the carousel, no longer do you pay your pocket change to a smiling face, but have to endure the tedious, non-human interaction that makes us far too many of our moments today: the debit card and the machine. The ticket booth is now closed, and to purchase a ticket, carousel riders must navigate a computer. Swiping a debit card. Pressing confusing buttons. In the dozen times we’ve ridden the carousel this spring, each and every time the ATM encounter has been bumbled. Debit cards are not accepted. Dollar bills are too crumpled. The line grows long, and parents become frustrated. What used to exist as a pleasing 30 second interaction is now a five minute ordeal where parents are angry and sometimes curse and leave.

One of the park employees told me, “One Saturday a few weekends ago, when it was beautiful outside and tons of folks wanted to ride, we had half the normal size crowd all day long. Parents kept leaving because they were so frustrated with this machine. We lost half our business, and it keeps happening again and again. And it also means one of us will lose our job.’’

Something happens when a dependable interaction between humans is replaced with a machine. Something is lost when the job that a human can do is replaced with a machine. Money, for one thing, is lost, as evident in the hundreds of carousel riders who forgo the spinning wheel out of frustration. But more than that: something in us enjoys other humans, and the spirit of the carousel is about what it means to be human.

An ATM ticket machine does not belong there.

“I wish everybody that came in here would call 311 (the city service telephone number) and voice their frustration,’’ another employee said. “It might fix this, and it might save a job.’’

The last time we were there, the machine malfunctioned. For me, and for others. Each time, the rescue came from a parks employee. It was the kindness of the employee that transformed the situation, keeping parents in line to navigate the ATM ticket machine. Bottom line budgets are important, keeping the carousel open is extremely important, but when the experience becomes automated, when it loses its dignity and human spirit, it is the beginning of the end.

Call 311 today. Keep the spirit of the carousel alive. Help keep someone’s job alive as well.

David Cook

* * *

Quit your job. Offer your free services at the Coolidge Park carousel. Sell tickets, talk to all the lovely people (good chance to propagandize), and “do it for the children”, as that’s a surefire winning phrase always good for a touch of the city government.

Fix the machines (who in city government is responsible for that fiasco?

David, I’m so happy you have two children. Perhaps they can grow up to be free of your pie-in-the-sky socialism that you so readily promote.

Turn the carousel over to private enterprise (David, look up private enterprise in a real dictionary, not the dictionary of Fidel, Chavez, and the other two-bit socialist scumbags you so admire).

Stephen Greenfield

* * *

Could it be that there is no one willing to work for the wages offered?

Each job has a value ... a value based upon what customers are willing to pay for a product or service minus the expense of operation, cost of labor, a portion set aside for maintenance and upkeep of the equipment, a profit for the owners, amortization of the original equipment cost over its usable life, and an amount set aside for the equipment's eventual replacement. It's reasonable for a product or service provided by government not to have that profit deal included, but all of the other cost factors must be considered when setting a price for tickets.

How much does power cost to run that puppy? According to Ugly's Electrical References a 10 horsepower electric motor, probably a bit small for this application, consumes 7.46 kilowatts of power when running under full load. Ignoring starting and stopping currents, and necessary control power, how much does that cost? How much do the lights bulbs cost to operate? There are a bunch of them. La musica? Surely we don't have a carousel with no music.

What's the cost of normal wear and tear of the equipment? Those light bulbs have a limited life. How much does it cost to replace the bearings that wear out with time.

How much vandalism must be paid for from operating funds?

What's the cost of insurance in the event someone falls and barks a knee, then the city gets sued for damages as well as pain and suffering? How about when someone is injured more seriously, even if it's due to their own behavior?

All of these costs must be extended to the building as well.

To be sure, it would be nice to have some of those things we had as children but in order to do so we also must have costs in line with what they were then. Our modern society is extremely litigious. A recent survey of human resources managers found that many people, especially young people, are flabbergasted at being required to work a whole eight hour day. Some of us refuse to work on weekends, then complain we cannot find a job. Many believe their labor is worth more than it really is. We want high wages without being willing to develop the skills necessary to demand same. Yada, yada, yada ...

However, for "government" to subsidize the operation of entertainment facilities does nothing but force those who do not use them to pay for someone else's good times. Dang! That's like me being forced to pick up the tab for someone else's mortgage, someone who's irresponsible and buys more than they can afford.

Sir Isaac Newton stated in his 3rd law of motion that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As in physics, this can easily apply to all areas of life. When wages go up, prices go up. When costs go up, prices must either be raised or service and quality decrease. Everything can be plugged into an equation ... to a point. Wages can certainly increase all across the employment spectrum, but who's willing to pay 15 bucks for a McBurger so the person flipping them on the grill can earn 20 bucks an hour? Why do we, tax paying citizens, need to ensure someone with no more skills than those required to flip burgers earn wages adequate to support a family of four? It's bad enough I pay 45 bucks for the same carton of butts I used to buy for just over a dollar, but I also pay for my own vices with cash I've earned without any assistance from Bo or Richard or any of the others.

We want to simplify our complaints, but we don't want to delve into the root cause of the problem.

It's kind of like squirting poisons on our flowers to kill the bugs that eat them, then complaining because the honey bees are dieing. Oops.

Royce E. Burrage, Jr.

* * *

Well, let's see. North Korea is threatening to nuke Hawaii, Iran could blow up at any moment, the U.S. is running a $3 trillion deficit and 78 million baby boomers are heading for retirement. And yet, with all this, a writer to the Chattanoogan is worried about the carousel going to automated ticket machines rather than real people?

Why don't we replace the ATM machines with real tellers, go back to gas attendants pumping gas for us and even elevator operators instead of pushing the buttons ourselves? Just think of all the "high" paying jobs this would create in our local economy.

Oh, but then the "children" would not learn how to trade money for a ticket to ride. I would suggest to the writer that after his kids finish riding the carousel that there are many vendors in the immediate vicinity who would be happy to teach them how to trade money for a good or service.

Luke Jones
North Chattanooga

* * *

Wow! I wish we could get everyone as fired up about the big things wrong in the world as they appear to be in this opinion about the carousel and the responses to it.

Why doesn't someone ask the city why they closed the ticket booth and put an automated ticket machine in its place? Forget all the electrical power equations and economic theory in the responses.

Just ask the city if the revenue from the carousel covered the expenses of operation with the employee. If it didn't, you can ask what the ride price would have to be with the employee to break even and see if enough people are willing to pay that price. If not, the carousel is either out of business or it will have to be subsidized by the taxpayers. And everyone will line up on one side or the other of that question.

Tom Cook (no relation to David)
Signal Mountain

* * *

Gas attendants pumping gas? I would love for that to happen. I keep thinking of a documentary I recently saw about North Korea. Adults and children both trying to escape. Armed men were shooting at them. Killing them and leaving their bodies for the vultures.

America is a land of luxury. We have been blessed. Our homeless have tents and food kitchens. The dead are picked up off the streets but no one seems to be willing to work that darn carousel?

Tammy Greene

* * *

I do not personally know David Cook, but if he were my son, I would be very proud of him. Yes, he is a dreamer who is able to imagine a better world. He is a poet able to express himself in a moving and captivating way. He is an intelligent and capable young man who is courageous enough to expose the truth. I am not sure why Mr. Cook even attempts to send articles to Chattanooga.com when the responses are always hostile. Then again, most of what is written in the opinion section of Chattanooga.com is sarcastic, inflammatory, and critical of people such as David.

To David I would say, keep up the good work. You are in very good company considering that many derogatory articles are directed at President Obama. Interestingly, both President Obama and David Cook are able to see something many people are too blind or too angry to recognize, a world of hope and promise.

I fully expect to read several responses telling me why I am wrong in coming to the defense of David’s article. Please take that time and offer to volunteer somewhere in your neighborhood.

Cecilia Lewis

* * *

So, why don't we just do away with those automated garbage trucks the city uses and hire two more garbage men per truck? That would help boost employment in the city. You know, it is just so impersonal these days. The truck swings by and picks up my garbage with an automatic arm. No nice garbage man to wave to. Yeah, lets increase property taxes to pay for that. I'll be more than happy to pay higher taxes so our government can be as bloated as possible.

Robin Masters

* * *

Does Mr. Cook live in the city and pay city taxes? I must agree that an automated ticket system that does not work is unacceptable. The equipment vendor should be held accountable if it is not functioning properly. If not, then the city officials in charge should be held accountable for a lack of oversight.

However, to suggest that the city intentionally waste money hiring employees that are not needed is crazy. Yes, times are tough. People are losing jobs. Keep in mind that any money wasted by the city comes from the taxpayers. We are all hurting. I can't pay any more taxes right now. The city needs to do all it can to maximize efficiency.

I guess Mr. Cook would have us all paying $500,000 for an inferior car that is hand made so it would save jobs. Forget about using advanced robotic technology that is cheaper, more efficient, and precise in its welds, placements, and riviting.

Jerry Yates

* * *

While I am often fascinated with the cyber neo-John Birch Society rally that inevitably follows Mr. Cook's articles, piling on verbal woodshed screeds, hurling the same schoolyard insults and defamation heard from oxy-contin fueled talk-radio blowhards, it is probably worth considering just where these arguments for job expendability would likely halt.

My guess would be at the moment any of the above reactionary collective would: a. learn of elimination of police officers patrolling their neighborhood, b. find that a live voice is unavailable to address a malfunctioning wireless phone during an important business trip, or c. notice human resource consultants wondering around their cubicle. Should they find themselves updating their resumé as a result of the last of these three scenarios, it would certainly assign a new perspective to being unable to pay more taxes.

Before we get too caught up in socialist-scum agendas and half-million dollar Marx-mobiles, let's bear in mind that Mr. Cook's observation was simply that the line was long, the machine was malfunctioning, and that much fewer people were riding as parents were turning away. This is a particularly compelling argument when one realizes that it only takes a very few angry parents moving on to the next kid attraction in the area to offset the cost of keeping that attendant in the booth.

Paul Jackson

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