During a few summers during college, I worked at a carousel in Long Beach as a part-time job. It was a fun job as I worked with a few friends, things were pretty lax, and there were plenty of perks. The carousel was in a tourist-oriented shopping area called Shoreline Village that was near but not quite in the downtown part of Long Beach. As a result of this fluke of geography, we had more than our share of, um, interesting characters who frequented Shoreline Village and, by consequence, the carousel. The most memorable:

The Fortune Seeker
Like any good carousel should, we had one of those quarter-operated old-fashioned fortune-telling machines, the kind with a mannequin in a glass box that spits out a card with your fortune, your lucky numbers, and the exhortation to "deposit another quarter to learn more!". Every once in a while, maybe every three or four weeks, a woman in her 50s or so, looking like the stereotypical gypsy with scarves, bangles, and slightly grungy clothes, would come in and put about five or ten dollars worth of quarters in to the machine. Each card that came out she would study in depth then eagerly put in another quarter for the next card. What was most odd about this was that there were only maybe seven or eight different cards, so she must have been getting repeats every time she came in. Never stopped her from coming back, though.

the 300 Year Old Woman
This one only came in once, asking for money to take the bus up to LA to visit her husband who was in prison for killing his wife, "Just like O.J." Go ahead, read that sentence again. Over the course of fifteen or twenty minutes she was passed around from one carousel worker to another ("Erik, could you perhaps help this woman?"). When my friend Mike and I were talking to her, she claimed the be over 300 years old. The secret to her youth, she said, was using sperm as facial cream. When she was finally refused money from the cash box, she started screaming in her French accent, "You are all garbage! You are feces! You are human trash!" and stormed out.

The Sea Captain
This one wasn't so much crazy as he was a sad loser. He spent most of his weekends walking around Shoreline Village in his captain's hat, light tan pants, and dark blue jacket looking just like the Sea Captain from the Simpsons, minus the pipe and beard. He would ask people if they wanted their picture taken with "a genuine captain," something the tourists seemed to say Yes to quite a lot. Eventually he got in trouble with my boss for sneaking on the carousel with the excuse that he should get free rides because he brought us customers.

Psychic Sunburn Lady
My favorite.

With each hand, extend your index finger and pinkie. Now put them up to the sides of your head, kind of like the hand sign for "telephone". Raise your eyebrows, bare your teeth, and chomp your jaw up and down while saying, "Ar ar ar ar ar!" This is the accepted sign for Psychic Sunburn Lady.

A family came in to the carousel saying that a strange woman was following them and could we do anything about it? We had indeed seen this woman around throughout the day- in her early 20s, short red hair, sun burnt. She seemed like she'd be fairly attractive if she didn't have that furtive air of insanity. So she was indeed following the family and came in to the carousel shortly after they did. My friend Mike, the classic Nice Guy, started to chat with her. She kept spitting on a towel and rubbing on her face, presumably because of her sunburn. But apparently this was no ordinary sunburn. She told him, "When people think bad thoughts about me I can feel it on my sunburn." Eventually she was escorted out. We never saw her again.

I do wonder what they're all doing now.

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