Bill Murray and the Ferris Wheel

Early last month, I was vacationing in Ocean City, New Jersey with some friends of mine. Six of us split a three-bedroom duplex about four blocks from the beach, where we’d spend the bulk of each day. The weather that week was especially hot, but we all enjoyed taking off work for a week and spending some time with friends. On a few occasions, we did some gambling in the casinos of nearby Atlantic City and also did a fair amount of drinking at a number of bars and restaurants scattered throughout the “South Jersey Shore”.

One night, after one of the best seafood dinners I’ve ever had in New Jersey, we decided to head to the Ocean City Boardwalk. After browsing a few stores, most of which sell the same exact mix of hermit crabs, iron-on transfer tee shirts, and beer bongs; we bought a disposable camera to take pictures from the large Ferris wheel nearby. After waiting a few minutes in line, we found ourselves in a small steel compartment 140 feet above the earth. We took the obligatory photos of each other and the view, which, no doubt, would eventually end up on Facebook.

As the wheel again began to spin, lowering our car to about mid-way on the downswing, I heard a scream. I quickly turned to see my friend Denise, who had been holding the disposable camera outside the steel safety bars us in order to get a better shot of the people below, nervously looking up at the passengers above.

“Someone threw up on me!” she yelled, dropping the camera which, after a moment, shattered into a hundred pieces on the asphalt far below us. “Aww… what the fuck!?” I yelled as I peered upwards. Then I turned my attention to Denise who wasn’t too badly hit, but nevertheless still very annoyed with what happened.

After another minute or so, we were back on the ground and explaining what had happened to the ride operator. “Don’t worry, we’re going to handle this once we get them off the ride” the young man said not quite authoritatively as he pulled a lever. A moment later, the next car appeared on the platform. Anger started to well up inside me as the car’s gate was opened and a drunk, disheveled man wearing a sleeveless Tasmanian Devil tee shirt, cut-off jeans, and flip flops slowly got up to exit the ride. “You son of a bitch…” I began and then quickly trailed off as I looked at the man, recognizing him from somewhere.

“You’re Bill Murray!” I said, quite surprised. “Sorry about that” he said as he handed me a half-empty take out container of what appeared to be really low-quality New England clam chowder. “I spilled a bit of my dinner,” he calmly explained as he offered Denise the beach towel he was carrying. “I guess I can forgive you” she said, wiping the thick, soupy residue from her arms. “In a way, I’m just glad it wasn’t vomit. I don’t think I could handle getting thrown up on by the groundskeeper from Caddyshack.”

We all shared a hearty laugh together as we exited the ride platform. Once on the ground, the actor paused for a moment and slowly started to shake his head. Then he looked at us, looked us each in the eye, and, in a very matter-of-fact sort of way, said “It’s a shame no one will ever believe you.”

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