Bryan W. Conway
September 2021: Foreign Intrigue in Sandusky, Ohio! 🕵️♀️
One fascinating aspect of the world-class amusement park located in Sandusky, Ohio, is how the company approaches hiring seasonal labor. Since the park is only open from late spring through fall each year, they have the challenge of finding and retaining enough temporary people to keep the park operating.
One resource is students from local high schools and colleges who are on summer break. Beyond their youthful appearance, they are easy to spot because they wear nametags that list either their city of residence or college.
Another source is international students. Pre-Covid, the park recruited from all over the world, from Croatia to Columbia and from Poland to Peru. This comprised a significant portion of their workforce, as many as 1,600 per season, or 20-25%. I enjoyed reading their nametags, which listed their home countries.
This component of their workforce has intrigued me on several levels. What is the vetting process for selecting employees? How does the company effectively integrate them with the native workforce? How do they assign jobs? How does one worker get assigned to pick up garbage while another seats guests in a roller coaster? Luck of the draw? An aptitude test? Bribery? Because there is a world of difference between performing those two tasks for ten plus hours a day all summer long!
I am also curious how the foreign workers perceive the experience. For many, perhaps it is their first visit to America. They get shipped to a tourist city to work at an amusement park, which is definitely not characteristic of the environment found throughout most of America.
The atmosphere in the park is loud, colorful, sometimes tacky, and usually entails a lot of eating and drinking. Many unflattering American stereotypes are flaunted throughout the long, hot, sticky days in the summer. Do they assume that the culture found in the amusement park represents the country as a whole? If so, that is a little troubling!
It would be intriguing to interview some of these international workers and solicit their impressions of their experience. Perhaps this could be a future book!
When contriving the plot of Sandusky Burning, I decided to leverage my intrigue with these international park workers and transform a group of them into villains! Like many of my adaptations of the Sandusky area, I took the benign and warped it into the dark and dangerous!
What if a crime syndicate sank its hooks into the amusement park’s recruiting process and pulled in a crew of hardened criminals? Hungrier and more desperate than the native workforce, these international criminals could be used to further the criminal enterprise operating in the area.
I decided to utilize foreign workers from a former Soviet bloc country. Hungarians were my first choice (I have Hungarian ancestry), but felt that they were already well documented in the film The Usual Suspects and were in danger of becoming a trope.
I eventually settled on Romanians. For the record, I don’t believe that they have greater criminal tendencies than other countries, but the criminals had to come from somewhere, and so Romania it was!
The Romanians, especially Viktor and Alexander, played pivotal roles in the novel. They were cold and ruthless men preying upon the tourists who were not prepared for the criminal talent they imported from Bucharest. They were weaponized to scale up the local crime lord’s operations in Sandusky, and they certainly delivered on their potential!
I think that their presence in Sandusky Burning added a compelling flavor to a story that otherwise mostly revolved around locals. I am making progress on drafting the sequel and can reveal that the Romanians will continue to have a profound effect on the happenings at the Sandusky Shores campground!