Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Need for Speed...way.


What can I tell you about working at Speedway? (Other than that I now smell like car. All the frickin' time?)

For one, it's been interesting because it's so very different from anything I've done before. I'm sort of a collector of odd jobs (someday, my resumee is going to be a true thing of beauty!), so this one fits in well. It suits me just because it is so NOT me. It's not something I would have ever picked, it's not something I have a natural talent for or instinctual draw to. Despite countless days at MK before moving here, I'd never even *ridden* the Speedway until I worked there.

And yet, amazingly, I don't hate it.

I was going to go pro/con list, but instead I think I'll mix things up and go all chronological on you. Ooooh, ahhhh.

Frst of all, my schedule is insane. As someone who has worked basically from 3-11 for the better part of the past decade, having a mercurial schedule is hard to adjust to. One day I will work 8am-6pm, the next it will be 3pm-1am. I'll have a 6hr day followed by a 13hr one. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and when you throw in the weird times (5:15 one day, 5:30 the next), I never have any idea when I work. I carry a little moleskine notebook with a list of my schedule times, but I still have to consult it constantly.

But back to the whole day in the life thing, I've discovered that life works best if I leave my house an hour before the time I'm supposed to start work. Actually, trial and error has led me to find that about 53 minutes is the ideal amount of time, but I'm usually happy to be in the right ballpark. It's only 20 minutes from my house to work, semi-technically. In fact, it's only 10 minutes from Casa Crystal to Magic Kingdom gates. It's just that once I get through
those gates, I have to drive past a few resorts, hit the backstage area, turn towards
cast parking, *find* a parking spot (Has taken upwards of 5 mins before), walk from there to the bus stop, wait for bus, take bus to tunnels, walk to my staircase of choice, go upstairs to park, walk to Speedway, and hopefully clock in around 15 mins before start of shift.

Thus, leaving an hour ahead of time. Longer if I need to stop at costuming for new clothes/dropping off old laundry, because THAT can eat up 20 minutes before you can
blink.

Most days, I enjoy the drive. I make a habit of waving hello to Spaceship Earth, which I pass early on. I still find it novel that I drive past Epcot every day. My other favorite "landmark" of sorts is the spot I call "Boats, trains, and automobilles"- near the contemporary, I pass first under the monorail track, and then under the nifty disney-created water overpass. It's like a bridge where one highway would usually run above another, but instead of another road going above me, it's water- a system developed to let boats cross from seven seas lagoon into bay lake.



Bad cameraphone pic of the aforementioned transportation sensation. Except that you can't really see the water overpass.

I also enjoy just listening to music to get myself in the right mood for work. (Until
I got some CDs from home, I listened to the Finding Nemo Musical soundtrack almost
exclusively, because it was one of only two CDs I had. Most mornings I'd do the intro, Big Blue World, Just Keep Swimming, Fish are Friends, and Go With The Flow.)

When it comes to the actual work, the funny thing is that rather than liking certain positions in the rotation and hating others, as I would expect, whether I like or dislike each one depends on the day. Greeter is a great example, and one that I don't have to expain the technicalities of to use. Generally, it's the sort of thing I like- talking to guests, answering questions, etc. Occasionally, though, I've found myself wishing I was anywhere else. New Year's Eve comes to mind, because someone had the bright idea of handing out the hats and noisemakers 6 full hours before midnight. Yes, noisemakers. 70,000+ people in the park, with noisemakers.

Add that to answering eight thousand times in an hour that no, we do not have fastpass, and yes, the wait really is an hour, and I was *really* ready to be elsewhere.

Usually, though, talking to the guests is one of the things I really like. I like when I have long enough to find out how their day is going, what they've done that they've loved, where they're from, etc. I love how excited the kids are. I used to be a firm believer that MK should tear out Speedway, because dude, you could fit at least 3 awesome new attractions in that amount of room. But seeing how excited little kids get, and knowing that there really are some who want to ride over and over have (somewhat) altered my opinion.

Being a huge language and culture nerd, I also love that I get to talk to people from almost everywhere. I think that my record (so far) is speaking 8 languages in one day. True, I'm really, REALLY bad in almost every language I know, but sometimes just a few words or phrases can really change the level on which you connect with someone. My one word of Russian (spasiba) totally lit up a little girl's face a few days ago. I've loved getting to dust off languages I never have a chance to use and actually put them to use! Not to mention picking up bits and pieces I didn't know. (I can now say "no bumping!" in Spanish- woo!)

Let me also tell you about my newfound appreciation for powerade. Those of you who spend much time with me know that I'm a water-drinking kind of girl. It used to be water & frappuccino, but since I've mostly cut caffeine, it's pretty much all water. Sure, I like the occasional really great cup of tea, or scurvy-preventing juice, but 99% of the time, I just want water. I have no need of sports drink type beverages in my life, thank you. Their multisylabic ingredients and neon colors make me a little sick.

But let me share a secret: If you work at Speedway, you may find that lemon-lime powerade tastes like freedom.

Just behind the wall that separates the guest area of the ride from where the cars are stored are water and powerade dispensers. I mostly stuck with the water at first, but after my first really hot day, I found that the powerade actually made me feel a lot better, and managed to drink it with a minimum of hate. However, I've now developed a semi-Pavlovian attraction to it, because if I'm drinking it, it means I'm either on break, or have ducked behind the wall for a water break. (And it's amazing just how refreshing 30 seconds and a cup of liquid can be sometimes!) That faux lemony-lime taste means that at least for the moment, things are good.
One of my favorite positions involves standing out on track and watching the cars, keeping an eye out for any trouble. I like it because it's a quiet break, usually, but mostly because it makes for great people watching. I feel like an exhaust fume-scented Margaret Mead, making anthropological observations. I have narrowed the majority of the riders down into the following categories:

The Driving Lesson: These parents are taking this whole driving thing as an opportunity to teach junior how to drive. They're pointing out upcoming curves, giving advice on which way to turn, and taking the whole thing quite seriously.

Kickin' Back: These kids crack me up. They are laid back, arm straight out to the top of the wheel, and look like they should be wearing a backwards baseball cap. They are the mini versions of those "cool" high school kids that cruise around town blasting their music.

Morning Commute: These kids look like they should have Starbucks in one hand and a
Bluetooth earpiece on their head. They look exactly like they're on their way to work. It's a little uncanny.

WOOHOO!: I love these guys. LOVE. They have no cares about being cool, they are just having fun. They wave at me, giggle, and don't care if their car is running into the guide rail every three seconds. They're driving, and to them, that is *awesome*.

Cheeeeeeeeese!: These people are the main reason I have a real desire for one of those Nerf guns that shoots foam balls. They spend the entire ride turned around taking pictures of the people in the car behind them. Now, if anyone is a photo nerd, it's me. I go nowhere without a camera, and on an average weeklong vacation, I take upwards of 3000 pics. So when *I* am telling you to give the photos a rest, it's time to put down the camera, stop holding up traffic, and just do the ride, man.

I know there are more categories, but those are the only ones I can remember right now! Take a minute next time you're in Tomorrowland to see how many of the archetypes you can spot!

Before I end, I should probably mention how very sexy I am at work. I have hit some whole new level of awesome, I think. My skin is icky from sunscreen that promises me I won't get cancer or wrinkles from being in the sun 8+ hours. My hair is still rebelling against Florida water, so add frizzy hair. I am wearing polyester pants that NEVER fit right. My shirt somehow manages to make even *me* look flat-chested. I have the best tan lines EVER, from the great v-shaped neckline, and the ever flattering tan lines associated with the knee-length shorts/socks and steel-toed boots combo. My makeup all melted off three hours ago. I am very, very pretty. And I smell strongly of car exhaust.

And yet, there are these moments. Moments when I remember where I am, why I'm here,
and what it all means. Moments that make all of the less-than-great times worth it. I had one just tonight, when the park had just closed, and the fireworks were going off, and we were putting cars away for the night. I realized "I am getting paid to drive go-karts and watch fireworks. My life does not suck." Every time a kid gives me a high-five, or a little girl blushes and gets shy when I call her Princess, every kid who gets super excited about a Mickey sticker, every adult who still "gets" the magic... every moment that I can stop, take a breath, and drink it in- those are the moments that make it all worth it, make it all special, make it all magic.

1 comment:

Laura M said...

Hi Crystal - I'm coming over from the DIS boards to read your Disney Adventure and that last paragraph teared me up. How true is that? That's what working at Disney is all about.