I’ve been a subscriber to The Sun Magazine for several years.  They print honest, moving, socially relevant pieces you won’t find anywhere else.  And it’s ad-free!  One of my goals was to appear in their Reader’s Write column and at long last, I have succeeded.  My short story on WEIGHT was one of about 20 chosen for publication in the March 2019 issue:


I worked at an amusement park one summer in college, helping people on and off a small rollercoaster.  The ride’s safety equipment consisted of a seatbelt and a bar that snapped down over riders’ laps.

With heavier riders, securing the safety bar was a challenge; even the loosest setting pressed uncomfortably into their thighs.  Really large people simply couldn’t ride and no matter how tactfully I broke the news, it caused a scene.  Some would plead with me to keep trying; others would yell obscenities or threaten to have me fired.

I had only thirty seconds to get one group of riders out and the next buckled in, so I was always on the lookout for large people.  If a patron had trouble navigating the turnstile due to size, the worker stationed there announced “Code 88” over the PA system, followed by the color of the patron’s shirt.

One busy afternoon, a Code 88 Brown alerted me to an obese man on the platform.  Although I’d warned him about the tight fit, he stuffed himself into the narrow seat and egged us on as two, then three of us, struggled to lock the bar.  When it clicked into place, the man howled in pain, but there was no time to investigate:  a full train was waiting to pull up and unload.

The operator hit the button and the brake released.  While that poor man continued to wail, we pushed the train out of the station, then high-fived each other for a job well done.  When Mr. Code 88 Brown returned at the end of his ride, he was still screaming.  Our efforts to secure that safety bar had broken his leg.

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18 thoughts on “CODE 88 BROWN

    • Just Joan March 17, 2019 / 8:39 am

      I don’t know if he sued, but the policy was changed as a result of the incident. If you couldn’t lock the bar by yourself, the person couldn’t ride, end of story. The guy howling in pain sounds bad but it wasn’t all that unusual. And we had to keep things moving. There was room in the station for only two trains. The third (and fourth and fifth, on really busy days) were out on the track. The track brakes would stop them all automatically to avoid a collision, but there was no remote way to get them going again. The people who got stuck were terrified. The maintenance men had to come, climb up a creaky ladder, manually disengage the brake, and push the train free. We all got our butts chewed. If we’d had a crystal ball, we’d have ousted the guy and dealt with the consequences. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. murisopsis March 17, 2019 / 10:39 pm

    Wow. That is a horrific story. I’m glad you finally got published (high five)! Still, a broken leg is quite painful and I feel for the guy. Glad the policy was changed…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan March 18, 2019 / 2:43 pm

      Thanks, Muri. A story has to be quite unusual or painfully honest to make the cut in The Sun. I still feel bad for that guy, and sorry for our unwitting actions. On busy days, we loaded and unloaded over 3,000 riders per hour. There we were, high-fiving our teamwork while that man rattled around in his seat screaming his head off for the whole ride. When he got back, we realized he was really hurt and called for the mini-ambulette to take him to First Aid, but we didn’t find out the sobering truth–that we’d broken his leg–until the next morning. Yikes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 18, 2019 / 3:04 pm

      Indeed, Snoozin, and it wasn’t the only wild story that season. Wild turkeys roamed the area. Normally we left them alone, and they left us alone, but one day a big fella decided to fly up and perch on the track. We figured he would feel it shaking as the train rounded the bend and fly away, but he stood his ground. At the last second, his wings snapped open and he took off. The turkey was fine, but his extended wing thwacked the front-seat riders squarely in the face. They were fine too, just stunned, but we had to fill out an incident report (which is probably still hanging up in the Park Operations office). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • snoozing on the sofa March 19, 2019 / 9:28 am

        Oh my gosh. What a death trap! I think the turkey story has The New Yorker written all over it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 22, 2019 / 3:06 pm

      Thanks, KE. We forced those bars down so many times, never thinking something like that could happen. Never a dull moment. You’d be surprised what all gets shaken loose and ends up in the crack behind the seat–keys, bills and/or change, arcade tokens, sunglasses, jewelry, pills, pens, small souvenirs like shot glasses and snow globes, tampons, even a joint once or twice. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LTodd March 25, 2019 / 12:57 am

    Congratulations on the publication. Great story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. circumstance227 March 27, 2019 / 4:59 pm

    My image of you has just been shattered, 42! I’m going to be more respectful from now on. How does it feel to be able to say “I broke a man’s leg once”? And PS: Congrats on the publication!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 27, 2019 / 7:37 pm

      Forgive us, 227, for we knew not what we’d done. For the record, I can’t break a leg singlehandedly; it took three of us girls pushing as hard as we could. It makes me feel kind of queasy to admit it. The SUN is my favorite magazine and it has long been a goal of mine to get published there. 🙂


  4. judyrutrider March 28, 2019 / 12:34 am

    I’ve always said, don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, but it appears you can get published without embellishment. You go girl!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan March 30, 2019 / 4:08 pm

      Thanks, Judy. This is (unfortunately) 100% true. The piece I submitted was longer and quite embellished. The Sun edits heavily to make room for as many pieces as possible. Writers get to approve or disapprove the edited version. I thought they did a lovely job, deftly trimming away half of the words without losing the essence of the story. 🙂


  5. Alison April 18, 2019 / 10:27 am

    Oh my gosh. What in the world happened next? That’s the craziest thing I ever heard. Congrats for getting published!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan April 18, 2019 / 1:23 pm

      When Mr Code 88 Brown got back, we realized he was really hurt and called for the mini-ambulette to take him to First Aid, and they presumably sent him to a hospital in town. We didn’t find out we had broken his leg until the next morning, at an impromptu meeting with a high-level supervisor where we were told we could no longer help each other lock the safety bars. The safety bar incident was the SECOND-craziest thing that happened that summer–see my comment to Snoozin on the Sofa. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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