Top Thrill Economy


There I stood in line, shielding my face as raindrops battered me into a soggy, dripping mess. I continued to wait there for half an hour, watching the strong proving themselves to be better than the weak, and watching those who stayed compared to those who left.

What could possibly possess me to wait this long in the rain, all the while dooming myself to an afternoon of soggy Converse and uncomfortable shorts?

Roller coasters. Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster, to be precise. I made it about 20 feet from the overhang where people boarded the ride when it started to rain. I decided to stick it out. Others didn’t.

Why did so many people walk out of line when they were guaranteed to get on as soon as the rain stopped? Alternatively, why did I decide to wait in the pouring rain, knowing perfectly well it would make me miserable?

Cedar Point is an economy in miniature. Park-goers must constantly make choices on alternative ways to use their limited resources.

They have a limited resource: time. They have a goal: gain as much enjoyment as possible in the time they have at the park. They have a choice: Their resource of time has alternative uses in order to achieve that goal.

People have different amusement park techniques. Some, like myself, run straight to the back of the park as soon as the gates open in order to beat the crowds that are likely gathered near the front. I personally go on to strategize based on time of day, weather conditions, ride length, and ride popularity. Other people opt for skipping meals in order to maximize their riding time and give themselves a better chance of getting on everything. Still others feel that fast passes are worth their exorbitant cost, since they grant a jumpstart on most lines.

The point is, people are always making choices at Cedar Point based on what they value most. Even if someone’s choices don’t make sense to us, rational reasons drive them to make those choices. People aren’t stupid. They will always choose the things that they believe will most benefit them.

As with the economy at large, Cedar Point functions best when it is uninterrupted by excessive rules and regulations. Imagine what would happen if, in the name of equal enjoyment for everyone, Cedar Point decided to make some new rules. Perhaps they decide that a patron should not be allowed to ride a rollercoaster twice until they have ridden all 18 roller coasters, so as to make sure no one monopolizes a certain ride. What happens to someone who is deathly afraid of Millennium Force and the Top Thrill Dragster, but loves all the less intense coasters? That person could have happily re-ridden the smaller coasters before this new rule, but now the park forces them to either leave the park disappointed or go on the rides they would otherwise avoid. Those who choose to stay end up riding something that doesn’t bring them maximum enjoyment, and they make the lines longer for those who truly care about the thrill rides. No one wins in that situation.

Left to their own devices, people will make better choices to ensure their happiness than those who attempt to make everyone happy through regulations. As I said before: People aren’t stupid. They have the ability to make decisions to provide for their well-being, and even if they make a poor choice, they have the ability to learn from their mistakes.

These were the underlying principles at play while I stood in line for the Top Thrill Dragster. All of these choices made by so many park patrons combined to make Cedar Point run as it should. Everyone may not be completely happy all about their time at the park (weather conditions, long lines, expensive food), but they have the authority to decide for themselves how to have the best day possible.

To me, waiting in line to ride the Top Thrill Dragster was a wise choice. The thrill of being shot forward at 120 miles per hour with nothing but a lap bar to hold me in place more than makes up for sloshing around in my shoes for a while.

Besides, all that power, speed and wind combine to make a pretty good blow-dryer.

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