How to avoid “Comet Jail.”

It seemed like, for the past few weeks, the fates have stymied my plans.

Eventually, I told the fates to go kick rocks.

I shall explain.

I’ve had an idea to get a three-dimensional photo of riding a roller coaster. But in doing so, I risked many factors. First off, I would need a very small, unobtrusive camera – something that could be shoved into a hoodie pocket and stay out of sight until the ride started. Oh yeah, and photography on roller coasters is essentially verboten – getting caught with a camera while the ride is in operation is a wonderful way to get your ass tossed out of most amusement parks.

So I settled on using my tiny four-lensed NIMSLO camera.

And I drove up to The Great Escape in the Adirondacks, with the plan to smuggle the camera onto the greatest roller coaster of all time, The Comet.

Okay. I’m here at the Great Escape. And …

I can’t get in the park.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the park is operating on a reduced attendance, due to COVID-19 restrictions? And that I needed to acquire a reservation online BEFORE I arrived at the park?


Okay, plan for next week.

It’s another Sunday. This time I have my ticket and my reservation. I pull up. I’ve packed the NIMSLO into the front pocket of my green hoodie. It’s 75 degrees and sunny, and I’m rocking a thick green hoodie. Yeah, that doesn’t look suspicious at all. </sarcasm>

Okay. I’m in the park. A quick rub on the nose of Porcellino, the bronze pig statue in which you drop your loose change and you receive good luck. Done. A quick trip on the Sky Ride, just to test whether or not I could get the camera out of my hoodie in time to shoot. Okay. I can do this.

All right, let’s head over to the Comet. The Comet is on the far end of the park, you have to go past the Alpine Bobsled and the Raging River and the waterpark (I think it used to be Noah’s Sprayground, but it got re-branded or something). But as I approached the access path to the Comet, two Great Escape security guards stopped me.

“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t go there.”

“Why not? I want to ride the Comet.”

“The Comet’s not working. It failed inspection this morning. We have to close down that section of the park until it is fixed.”

Wow. I think those fates told me to kick my own rocks.

All right, maybe I can photograph something else. It wouldn’t be the Comet, but it would at least be something. How about the Alpine Bobsled – nope, it’s not working today. Well, there’s always the Raging River – nope, water rides don’t open until June. I could go to Ghost Town and – nope, most of Ghost Town is boarded up so that a new ride can be installed. All right, all right, I’ll ride the Great Escape Train around the park and – nope, the train’s not running. Swan boats? Nope.

I swear, by the ghost of Charley Wood, this stinks.

Eventually, however, the access area to the Comet opened. Okay.

Normally, the Comet operates two coaster trains, the red one loads while the blue one goes over the roller coaster route, and vice versa. This time, however, the Comet was operating only with the blue coaster train, and due to COVID restrictions, patrons could only sit in alternating rows.

My plan was to sit in the front row and photograph whatever I could.

“Hey, mister.”

I looked around.

“Would you be willing to switch seats so that my daughters can ride near my part of the coaster with me?”

Sure, I guess. I’m amenable to things.

I sat down in the coaster seat. The seat belt snapped around my waist. The lap belt was locked into place. I moved the pocket on the hoodie up and over the lap belt, so I could have easy access to the NIMSLO.

Don’t take the camera out yet, Chuck. All it takes is one eagle-eyed security guard to spot you, and you get tossed off the Comet and dragged over to Comet Jail. Yes, Comet Jail. There’s a jail cell in Ghost Town, they’d probably put you in that, and you’d have to wait until the ghost of Wild Windy Bill McKay comes back to life to commute your sentence.

And I have a feeling that if I did try to make that one phone call from Comet Jail, this is probably the response I’d get. “Hi, I’m in Comet Jail and I could use someone to help bail me out … hello? Hello?”

Then the train moved forward. I waited until the carriage locked onto the lifting chains. Out came the NIMSLO. I wrapped the camera strap around my wrist – if this thing goes flying out of my hand, there’s no way I’ll ever see it again.

And what do you know. That switching of carriage seats actually gave me a fortuitous shooting angle. I’ve got the patrons in front of me, in perfect spatial distance to provide depth of field. Bang. Film advance. Bang. Film advance. Bang. Film advance.

Then the carriage went over the first hump. And I couldn’t take any more pictures, I was holding on for dear life. I mean, this is the Comet, remember? The greatest wooden roller coaster in existence today? With speeds faster than thought?

The Comet made its loops around the track and returned. I quickly shoved the camera back into my hoodie. Made it. I got at least three photos, I’m sure of it. And since I photographed it in such an angle that all I saw were the backs of heads, I didn’t have to worry about hunting down these people and getting signed model releases. And since they were backs of heads, there were no signs of face masks anywhere.

Had to wait until the film was developed … and …

Here it is.

Ain’t these amazing photos?

Yeah, these photos.

What do you mean, you can’t see anything?

Well, guess what. Apparently either the NIMSLO finally figured out it was a toy camera and gave up, or I ran into the bad luck of using expired film and it finally bit me in the rectum.

Yeah. No pics. All that work and no pics. UGH.

Well, that idea went completely in the shitter.

Oh well. I guess although I didn’t end up in “Comet Jail” …

That’s where my images landed.

Better luck next time, I guess.