Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Workin' For a Mouse, Part 2

When I left off in my last post, I had just found out I would be working attractions in Tomorrowland. (This was December 2007, by the way, I forgot to mention we are going WAY back for this story!)

I have to admit I was kind of disappointed, as that has never been my favorite land. I had to stop for a while to think about what attractions are even IN Tomorrowland, but finally figured that hey, it's Disney, I'll take it! It wasn't until weeks later, after Traditions, during my first MK orientation that I found out I'd be working at the Tomorrowland Speedway. If you are an obsessive planner type, as I know a lot of us are, the NOT KNOWING can freak you out! As a Disney newbie, you have to be pretty willing to take the hand that is dealt to you, and run with it!

Tomorrowland Speedway, originally uploaded by tripodjw.

My Tomorrowland shirt, that I only wore for the two days of Tomorrowland orientation, next to my Speedway costume.

Tomorrowland Speedway is a gig I would have NEVER in a zillion years picked for myself, and that is exactly why I ended up liking it. I know NOTHING about cars, so learning how to get those things to START in the morning, and what to do when they stalled was a WHOLE other world. My breakroom was in a garage, for goodness sake! I walked around with a rag in my pocket, and came home every night smelling like exhaust fumes. (In case you are wondering, you become totally immune to the smell pretty quickly!)

Parts of working Speedway were FUN. The very best part would be working nights, putting the cars away as the park closed and Wishes was going off overhead. I remember thinking "Hee! I get paid to drive go-karts and watch fireworks!" Despite some hard parts (Learning how to take a car that isn't running well off the track takes some time before you can do it with ANY kind of confidence!), it is a fairly simple job. The majority of my day was spent walking back and forth between three cars, checking seat belts, and telling people "no bumping!" Swap that out with some time spent working as greeter, or grouper (a love it or hate it spot!) or out on the "bridge", a spot where you can see most of the track and watch for any problems, and you pretty much have the day. And for the most part, it really isn't rocket science. It was a nice break to have a job that didn't involve counting money, where you didn't really have to do much but show up. Sure, it was possible to make mistakes, but for the most part, I could happily point to rows for people to park in with a smile, and let my mind be a million miles away. In general, it went by FAST, because you were doing something different every 30 min or so.

Of course, with any job, there are also downsides. Spending the entire day outside in Florida, on a car track that amplifies the heat BIGTIME, inhaling fumes, and walking around all day is EXHAUSTING. I remember nights when I would barely make it up the stairs to my apartment, and JUST get inside the door before laying down right there on the living room floor, unable to go any farther for a good 10 minutes or so. Also, the hours were CRAZY. I was starting in mid December, just before the crazy rush of the holidays, when park hours are CRAZY. Because Magic Kingdom has such LONG hours that time of year, you may very well work 6am-3pm one day, and 6pm-3am the next day. I do recall that over Christmas Eve and Christmas, I worked a total of 31 hours in two days. WHEW! The weird schedule was hard to get used to, since I'd spent the past 6 years working 3-11pm for the most part. The crazyness of the schedule also makes any kind of plans REALLY hard to make! Schedules come out on Tuesday nights for the following week, so if I want to plan something for more than a week from now, it would be almost impossible since I wouldn't know if I was working AM or PM or in the middle of the day. Obviously seniority gets you better choice of hours, but being a new hire, you never know what you might get!

Do know, though, that if you are going to be working outside, you are going to get funny, funny tan lines. I think most attractions people can spot their own kind, even if they have never met them, by the tan lines. Back when I took bellydance classes, we once temporarily worked out of a studio that had carpeted floors. After a particularly spinny kind of class, we joked that we would all be able to identify each other, even at 90 years old, by our matching rugburns on our feet. It's that kind of thing. So picture this: at the Speedway, you wear a shirt with short sleeves and a v-neck, shorts (when it is hot) that go to about your knees, and steel-toed boots. It is Florida. The pavement is magnifying the sun. You end up looking REALLY FUNNY naked.

My grandmother was Irish, and you can generally tell by my freckles and reddish hair (Although that is mostly from the bottle.) I have NEVER been able to tan- I burn, and then it fades away and leaves more freckles. I have always assumed that the only way I would ever be tan is if one day, my freckles all just merged into one big one, leaving me a medium brown color.

Would you like to know what I looked like shortly after starting work at the Speedway?

This was from the first few weeks when I still wore pants instead of shorts, so my arms were MUCH darker...

Yeeeah. I never even knew SPF 90 EXISTED before this, but now I was slathering myself in it daily, and STILL looked like this. And this was from working in DECEMBER and JANUARY.

I only ended up working at the Speedway for about two months, since I switched to font desk as soon as a position became available mid February. I was SO thankful for the timing, because I had actually just gotten sick from the heat for the first time a few days before I found out about my transfer. Let me point that out... I got sick from the heat... in FEBRUARY. There is NO WAY I ever would have survived out there in July. Or anytime when it rains a lot, because let me tell you how much fun it is to work at an outdoor attraction that DOES NOT close just because it starts raining. I remember one day that I got so annoyed with my squishy socks that I peeled them off, grabbed rags from the garage, and stuck THOSE in my shoes instead of socks, because hey, at least they were dry.

I really think that I might enjoy working attractions again, as long as it was an INDOOR one, or even one with very limited outside time. Working in the parks is fun, it isn't a very stressful gig, and the time goes quickly. I would probably especially enjoy if I was cross-trained at several different attractions, so I wouldn't be doing the same thing every day, since I like variety.

I actually caught a conversation on the radio last month about Speedway, where one person was arguing that it was a total waste of space and should be torn out to make way for something cooler, and the other was talking about how much kids loved it, since they get to drive. I can tell you I have been, and still kinda am, on BOTH sides of that debate. Before I ever worked there, I thought the Speedway was the biggest waste of space EVER. I mean, it takes up a pretty good chunk of the Magic Kingdom. You could easily fit at LEAST two new attractions in that spot if you did remove it.

Speedway track on the left, Space Mountain on the right. Yay for Mapquest!

Although they were just starting to introduce hybrid cars just before I left, the basic technology of the ride is pretty old. Even though we drove the cars on a daily basis, most of us couldn't make it around the track without bumping the guide rail a dozen times. The basic layout makes it hard to steer, and definitly NOT a smooth ride, even with a good driver, so imagine when you stick your 6-year old behind the wheel. So yeah, there are a LOT of negatives. But in the time I did work there, I also got to see it through kids eyes. I was amazed at opening how many kids wanted to run there first thing in the morning, before anything else. How many kids wanted to do it OVER AND OVER again, despite long waits. How much most of them enjoyed it.

I especially remember a family that had a son with special needs. It's pretty much impossible for me to guess how old he was, but I would say maybe 10? I could be really, really off, though. They came through our wheelchair line, and as his parents were helping him transfer out of the chair and into the car, his mom told me that it was their last morning, and this was the one thing he really wanted to do again. After seeing how much work it was for them to get him in and out of the chair, and how EXCITED he was at the end of his ride, I offered the parents to let him just stay on and keep going around as much as he wanted, which they totally jumped at. It made filling the cars for my line a little more complicated, but it really wasn't that big of a deal. I think he ended up riding 4 times, before finally calling it quits. When he was finally ready to stop, I had one of the souvenier drivers licenses we handed out sometimes ready for him, which made him REALLY excited. He couldn't really talk, but made very happy "Eee!! EEE!!" noises, and showed everyone around him.

So yeah, sometimes I look at that big chunk of land with the outdated cars and think of all the really cool rides that could go there. But sometimes I think of times like that, and I'm not sure I'm ready to let them take it away just yet.

1 comment:

V said...

LOL! I was fooled, totally thought you were referring to "today". LOL but Those tan lines are RIDICULOUS! Sounds like a true adventure though.