Archive for August, 2009

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Too Tired to Write…Must…Post…Blog!

August 30, 2009

It’s late, but I’ve got way too many things going on right now to not be posting about them.  So this entry may not be the most polished, but, for posterity’s sake, here’s a quick update:

One of the biggest worries I had about moving was church.  I’ve attended the same church at home since I was three years old, so I was really worried about trying to find and get plugged in to a new church in 5 months.  When I arrived in Orlando, I did a little online research, downloaded some podcasts, and today I finally attended one of the churches in person.  I went to Celebrate Church, and I really liked it.  The atmosphere was laid back and the preaching and worship were very good.  Overall, I definitely liked it.  My only concern is that it may be a little too big to really get plugged into in 5 months, but I’m sure I’ll get some great teaching there.  Plus, they have several a group that meets on Saturday nights, so that gives me four chances each week to get to church.  Hopefully at least one of those times will work for me each week.  I may continue to look around, but I think Celebrate is going to be my home while I’m here.  I  really, really liked it.

The news at work is less positive: I’m only scheduled to work 32 hours this week, almost the minimum.  Even worse, we got our schedules for the week of September 6th, and I’ve only got 24 hours that week.  I talked to one of the people in charge of the schedule though, and she said she would get me signed up for the other required 6 hours.  *sigh*.  I’m definitely going to try to pick up some shifts off the Hub over the next couple of weeks.

After a straight seven days of work, I finally have two days off!  Woohoo!  Tomorrow, I have to take my iPod into the Apple store because the stupid thing won’t charge. I’m sure they’ll tell me the battery needs to be replaced, which is going to cost $70.  It’s cheaper than a new iPod, but still very frustrating.  I’ll pay it, though–I need my technology! After I’m done there, I have a couple more errands to run, and then Emily and I are hanging out either tomorrow evening or Tuesday.  Other than that, I have no plans.  A free weekend: Oh, the possibilities!

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Costumes and Laundry

August 29, 2009

Every Paycheck Comes on Thursday.  Every Person Comes Out Tired.  These are both things that Cast Members like to say EPCOT stands for.  But there’s one more that, unfortunately, is also true for all Cast Members at all four parks: Evil Polyester Costumes of Torture.  My two costumes are no exception. 

My costume for registers.  We've named the animals on the pockets: on the left is Hippo Dan and on the right is Ernie the Elephant.

My costume for registers. We've named the animals on the pockets: on the right is Hippo Dan and on the left is Ernie the Elephant.

My costume for floorstock.  We call this the Mud costume.

My costume for floorstock. We call this the Mud costume. Also, I have no idea why my one leg looks so HUGE in this picture! It's a trick of perspective, I swear!

Actually, out of the two costumes, I have to admit that the rainbow circus tent is actually the one I prefer.  It looks a little feminine, and it’s way more comfortable.  Even though I have to wear panty hose with it, I can get by with knee-highs and they’re actually not too bad.  The shorts on the Mud costume have really uncomfortable elastic in the waistband.  And as much as I complain, there are lots of people whose costumes are way worse than mine both comfort-wise and look-wise, so I guess I got off pretty easy.

To get our costumes, we have to go all the way over to the costuming department.  Unfortunately, Animal Kingdom is the only park where the costume building is way far away from all the other cast areas.  We’re allowed to have five costumes at a time, and we can either drop them off and pick up new ones and let costuming wash them, or we can wash them ourselves and keep the same five costumes.  Since my schedule’s been crazy between Floorstock and Register, I’ve been having to go each week to get different costumes, anyway.  So I just dropped mine off to be washed.  I may just continue doing that, because the laundry facility at the apartment is definitely not a place I want to spend more time than necessary.

They do make it convenient for us, at least.  Especially for our apartment, since the laundry facility is just the next building over from ours.  And its quick and easy to get laundry cards out of the machine in the laundry room, provided you have a $5 bill handy.  You pay $5 for the card, it has $3 on it when you get it back, and then you can add money onto the same card until your program is over.  When your program is over, you can even return your card and get your $2 back.  The only real downside is that each was is $1 and each dry is $1.  And if you do it the way I do it costs even more.  Because I like to add time to complete strangers’ laundry loads. 

What happened is this:  I had put in three loads to wash, and then moved those three loads over to dry.  I’m going through, quickly inserting my card and adding time to each of my drying loads.  Then I realize that, rather than starting one of my loads, I’ve accidentally stuck my card in the wrong machine, and I’ve paid to put an extra hour on someone else’s laundry.  I never did find out whose laundry it was…hope I didn’t shrink anything!

I finlly shelled out the money for another important component of my costume yesterday.  I have some black ballet flats that were okay with both of my costumes, but they have no support, and by the second day my feet were really beginning to hurt.  So I finally got around to buying some new shoes.  It’s hard to buy shoes for my role, because I really need solid black tennis shoes for Stock and solid black dress shoes for Register.  I, however, am a poor college student, so I was really hoping to find another pair of shoes that could go with both costumes.  I finally settled on a pair of Croc ballet flats.  I’ve had a pair before, and I loved them: all the comfort of regular Crocs without the marshmallow feet syndrome.  And plus, I bought them at the Croc outlet and got to use my Disney Discount, so they only ended up being $14!  Great deal, right?  Wrong!  These shoes absolutely killed my feet.  It was a good thing that I brought my old shoes, because I ended up taking my 15 minute break just so I could go back and change my shoes.  I think I’ll keep wearing my Crocs a little bit every day, and try to break them in.  I’m sure they would be great shoes if only they weren’t rubbing all the skin off my feet!

I also bought the topper to my entire costume today:  a Disney watch.  I’ve been wanting to get a watch, because, of course, we’re not allowed to have our phones onstage, and when you’re not behind a register it’s hard to keep track of the time.  So I bought this watch that I’ve been eyeing since I first arrived:

 DSC03019

Everybody say, “Ooh!”.  Now everybody say, “Aah!”  At least one part of my costume is adorable.  🙂

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I’ve Earned My Ears

August 24, 2009

I’m no longer “Earning My Ears”: today was my last day of training, and my first day of working in the regular rotation on Discovery Island.  This morning we were trained in the Baby Care Station and finished up our assessment tests, and then after lunch we got our official assignments for the first time. 

Assignments are given out when you clock in to the computer backstage.  When you clock-in, it prints out a piece of paper that tells you where to go next, and who you’ll be “bumping out”.  For example, it might say “Bethany – Register 1, Store A.”  So I would go to Register 1 in Store A.  It would also say, “Mary – Register 1, Store B”.  This means that when I got to Store A, Mary would be working the register I was supposed to be working.  I would give Mary this sheet of paper, and she would go to Store B like it said.  I would then take over in Store A.  Make sense to you?  It’s not as hard as it sounds.

After our training was over, I signed onto the computer for my assignment.  First place it puts me is the “Tree of Life Cart”.  This is one of the little outdoor carts that sells merchandise, which meant that, for my very first assignment, I was working all by myself!  Aah!  I panicked a little bit, but I actually had a great time.  I didn’t sell much merchandise; I spent most of my time answering questions and giving directions.  All of the guest interaction was very nice.  I then worked the register at Disney Outfitters, and the “Tigger Porch”.  The Tigger Porch is an area right outside of the doors of Outfitters, that mostly sells the “Tigger, is that you?” shirts, towels, and bags.  Hence, the “Tigger” porch. 

Tigger, is that you?

I finally got up the courage to use my newly aquired Spanish skills, limited though they are.  We had some guests who spoke only Spanish, and while a Spanish-speaking Cast Member answered questions for the husband, I worked up the courage to try out my language skills on the wife.  “Como esta usted?” I asked.  Her face lit up and she said, “Ahh! Habla espanol!”  I told her I only spoke a little bit, and then she asked me something about my shoes.  I didn’t quite understand, so I asked her to repeat it slowly.  She did, but it still didn’t help.  She just chuckled, and kept repeating and gesturing.  Well, by this point I knew that she was asking me where I got my shoes, but I had no idea how to answer her!  Ahh, the perils of learning a second language!  So when the Spanish-speaking Cast Member finished up with the husband, he came over to translate my answer.  She laughed, and we said our goodbyes–I even managed mine in Spanish!  It wasn’t a complete success, but her patience gave me confidence to try again.  And it was better than just smiling at each other awkwardly for five minutes!

The only real hiccup in the day occured at clock-out.  Late in the afternoon, one of the girls I trained with asked me why I was still working: I was supposed to have clocked out five minutes before!  No one had come to bump me out, though, so she went to tell a manager that I needed to be relieved.  When I finally got to clock out, it was 17 minutes late, and, if we’re any later than 15 minutes, it’s a half a point on our record. You can also get points for being late, or not showing up at all, and if you get more than 3 points in 30 days, 6 points in 60 days, or 9 points in 90 days you get a reprimand.  Too many reprimands, and you get terminated.  Even though a half point isn’t putting me in any real danger, I didn’t want to have a point for staying late to help guests!  So I went to find a manager to extend me for the two minutes I was late.  She was very nice, but said that i should have checked with one of them to extend me before clocking-in, as they can’t do it afterwards.  She did get my name and ID number, though, and said she would see what she would do, and this evening it shows on my record that I was extended for those extra 17 minutes.

I used the laundry room at Chatham for the first time tonight.  Ugh.  I hate that laundry room.  It costs $1 per wash and $1 per dry, which can really add up.  The washers are tiny, and there’s not even a temperature control on eiter unit!  And the cards….ugh!  As I’m starting to complain, I think this laundry thing needs its own post.  So check back tomorrow for the full scoop.  Right now, I’m off to bed, as I have to get to costuming by 7:30 tomorrow to pick up a new costume.  I have to have a different costume for floorstock than I do for register, so my lovely circus tent dress will get a break.  Once I have both costumes, I will be posting pictures of them here. 

Good night, everybody!

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A Day of Great Guests

August 21, 2009

As we’re wrapping up our training, it’s quickly becoming obvious what my favorite part of the job will be: interacting with the guests.  Today we worked behind the register some, and also worked the position known as “personal shopper.”  This is another example of Disney-ese.  Really, the personal shopper role just consists of walking around the floor, talking to guests, and trying to help them find anything they may need.  It was a little awkward at first, initiating contact with complete strangers, but I quickly got really into it.  Some of the guests just said they didn’t need any help; they were just browsing.  That’s fine, and it’s typically my answer when sales people ask me if I’m looking for anything specific.  But I was really surprised by how many people actually seemed excited to talk to me.  Although we had lots of great guests today, a few really stand out in my mind.  These people made my first real day of guest interaction special, and I hope that, on any days in the future when I’m feeling down about my job or don’t feel like going to work, I can remember exactly how wonderful these guests were.

One of the first guests that really stood out in my mind was a woman who was probably in her early 30s.  She was with her family, and while they shopped she came up to me and pulled out her map.  She wanted to know about show times.  So I got her a times guide, and asked her what show they were looking for.  They wanted to catch the “safari show”.  I told her our Kilimanjaro Safari ran continuously until 6:00, so they could catch it anytime during the day. She was very happy to hear this, and asked me what other shows I would recommend.  Not only was I able to recommend Festival of the Lion King, but I told her to make sure they were there at least half an hour early, mentioned that it might be difficult to get out of the arena quickly after the show, and recommended that they wait until later in the day, when the weather is cooler, to ride Kilimanjaro so they would have a better chance of seeing more animals.  All of these were things I knew from my own experiences in the park, and her reaction to my advice made me feel great.  She gave me a huge smile, thanked me, and headed back to her family, telling them exactly what I had told her: that they would go catch The Lion King, and then ride Kilimanjaro when it cooled off in the afternoon.

I’m still really enjoying Pin Trading, and it led to some of the best guest interaction of the day.  We were working in the “Island Mercantile” store, and our trainee took us outside as Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade went by, so that we could watch.  While we were watching the parade, one of my fellow CPs and I noticed an older man wearing a vest completely covered, front and back, with pins.  After the parade passed, we worked for a while at the Pin Trading booth, and this sweet gentleman came over to see what pins we all had.  His name was Barry, and as he talked and joked with us, he gathered quite the crowd.  People of all ages were coming over to see his collection, and he answered all sorts of questions.  Turns out he’s been pin collecting since Disney started it in 2000, and he said his favorite pin is his very first one: his wife bought it for him for $10 in 2000, and he says that now the same pin sells for over $150 on Ebay.

A little while after Barry left, a boy around 10 years old came over to trade with me.  He found a pin on my lanyard he wanted, but his pins were secured with special locking backs, and he couldn’t find his key.  We went inside, and asked one of the full-time Cast Members if we sold keys to fit his lock.  Turns out the locking backs sold at Disney are a slightly different size, so none of the keys would fit.  I wasn’t sure what to do: this poor kid wanted the pin, but couldn’t get any of his off of his lanyard to trade!  I looked over to the full-time CM who was helping us, and she gave me a little nod.  So I took the pin off my lanyard, gave it to the boy, and told him to keep his pin, and enjoy the rest of his day.  I was really happy that I could do something to make him smile.  But a few minutes later, her returned the favor!  I turned around, and the same boy was behind me, holding out the pin he had wanted to give me off his lanyard.  He said his dad had found his key, and so he wanted to come back to give me the pin he owed me.  This kid could have easily kept both pins, without even having anything to feel guilty about.  I had told him to keep both pins, after all.  But he didn’t: he returned to complete the trade.  People like Barry and this little boy really made me realize how even a little thing like pin trading can mean so much to people.  Today, I really did feel very lucky to be a part of that.

Not everything today was Pixie Dust and sunshine: I came home very tired, hungry, and sick of my stupid costume.  And I’m sure that, once the novelty wears off, I’ll start to take moments like these for granted.  But four months isn’t that long, and I hope that even by the end of the program I’ll still remember how wonderful it felt to help make the day magical for our guests.

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Merchantainment!

August 19, 2009
Today, I had “Merchantainment” training.  (Disney, how I love thee. Only you could take a boring training class, make it somewhat entertaining, and give it such an awesome name.)  This was another class at Disney University, and is one that all Merchandise Cast Members take.  The four girls I will be working at Discovery Island were also there.  It’s really nice that I’m starting to really get to know some people: I have a group I can sit with in the cafeteria, and friends to hang out with on days off.  It was scary to move so far away from home, where I had such old friends, but it’s been surprising how close I’ve gotten with people already.  I’m actually getting ready to go out for sushi with my roommates, and yesterday, Brit and I went to Hollywood Studios. 
Me and Brit at DHS

Me and Brit at DHS

We had a great time, and I think Hollywood Studios (f.k.a. Disney-MGM Studios) is even better than I remember.  The highlight of the day was Fantasmic, their nighttime extravaganza.  We had to get there an hour and a half early, in the rain, to get a seat, but that didn’t ruin our night!  In fact, we had a great time.  The entire stadium did the wave for almost 20 minutes (trust me, it was more exciting than it sounds) and then our Cast Member training kicked in–we started a miniature dance party in our seating area.  We were having a great time, and the people around us were defiinitely enjoying it–clapping, shouting, and even video taping us.  Sure it was a little silly, but we were having so much fun, we really didn’t care.

In our class today, we finally learned to work the register.  In high school, I worked for a company that developed Point-of-Sale software for hardware stores, but I’ve never actually worked a real regiser.  So the software components are familiar, but the hardware is a litle more confusing for me.  I know I’ll get it eventually, but there’s just so much to remember right now!  I have tomorrow off, but I don’t think I’ll get into the parks again.  I need to do laundry, run some errands, and all kinds of non-fun stuff.  I might also go check out the local mall, and try to get a library card.  It will be nice to see some of the non-touristy areas of Orlando, but I have to say: today marks one week since check-in, and, if possible, I’m even more excited about working for Disney than I was last week, so it will be nice to get back onto property and back into the park on Friday.

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Putting In a Full Day’s Work

August 17, 2009

It’s not even 8:30, and I’m ready for bed.  I expected to be tired after work, but I really had no idea how truly exhausted I would be.  Today was my first full day working in the park, and even though I never got behind the cash register, there was more than enough information thrown at me to make me feel a little overwhelmed.  But I also really enjoyed finally getting to interact with guests.  After some online training, we ventured out into the park for more tours, equipped with Pin Trading lanyards. 

The view I'll see every morning on my way to work.

The view I'll see every morning on my way to work.

Pin Trading is a very popular hobby among WDW visitors, but I used to think it was a bit silly.  Guests buy pins they like, and then can trade with each other or with Cast Members.  Cast Members are provided with lanyards and pins, and are unable to refuse a trade.  This makes Cast Members very popular with Pin Trading guests–if they see something they like, it’s theirs, as long as they have a pin they’re willing to give up.  As I said, I’ve never been interested in Pin Trading.  But today I realized how people could totally fall in love with this hobby.  It was a great feeling when guests would walk up to me, especially the kids, and ask to trade.  I would get down, ask them which pin they liked, and then talk to them about it or about the pins they already had.  By the end of the day, I had an almost completely new set of pins, and had gotten to talk with lots of guests I probably never would have talked to otherwise.  It was fun to find out where they were from, what kind of pins they were collecting, and what rides they had enjoyed.  And it was also fun to ooh and ahh over the pins with my fellow trainees: even though they’re not technically ours, its still exciting to get a really pretty pin, or one featuring a favorite character. 

So although the day was exhausting, it was still really exciting to finally get out there “on stage” and interact with the guests.  We also got to meeet our managers, see backstage, visit all of the shops where we can work, and even watch the afternoon parade.  Tomorrow I have the day off, but I will continue my training on Wednesday and by Saturday afternoon, I will be able to start working my regular rotation.  I’ve already gotten my schedule for my first week after training, and it looks like I’m going to be spending most of the time in the stock room.  Unfortunately, this means later hours: DAK usually closes around 5:00 or 6:00, but on nights where I have to work in the stock room, I have to work until 9:00.  It also means less guest interaction, but our trainer said that stock room is actually a really fun place to work, and will allow us to get to know the merchandise in each store before we really start manning the registers.  It doesn’t sound as exciting as register to me, but I guess we’ll see next week!  The worst part about working the stock room is that I’ll have to go back over to Costuming to get another, diffferent costume.  I’m trying to look on the bright side, though: I’m going to use it as an opportunity to drop off some of my dirty costumes, and get back some nice clean ones.  Yay for no laundry!

Random fun fact about working at DAK: bikes called “DAKcycles” are provided for Cast Members to get around backstage.  There are bike racks all over, filled with bikes that anyone can grab and ride to their destination.  When the they’ve finished with the bike, it can just be left at any bike rack for another Cast Member to use.  I haven’t used this system yet, but I’m sure I will soon!  Looks like fun to me!

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I’ve Been a Bad Blogger!

August 16, 2009

As I was reading other people’s blogs, preparing to do this program, I noticed a trend: many people began really strong, posting several times a week, but once their program started, the number of posts dropped off dramatically.  As a reader, I found this understandable, but frustrating.  I really wanted to know how the program would go, what I could expect, what would happen when I finally got to Disney.  I promised myself that I would be diligent with my blogging, continuing to record my experience no matter how long the days were, or how late I was working.  I told myself that I would find the time. And yet, here I am, five days into my program, and I’ve only posted once.

And, oddly enough, time hasn’t been the problem.  Sure, I’ve been busy.  But there has also been plenty of down time.  I still haven’t worked a full day since I got here half a week ago.  But the real issue has been content.  Although there has been plenty of exciting things happening, there has been a lot of hesitancy to share too much, and this has intimidated me whenever I thought about sitting down at the keyboard.

Disney is very serious about protecting the magic: they take the revelation of backstage information very seriously.  So much that’s happened in the last few days has taken place backstage, that it’s difficult to know what is considered confidential, and what I can write about freely.  Even if I was sure what I could write about, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  So much has happened in these last few days.  I’m going to try, however, so this post may be extra long.  Let’s get started, shall we?

On Friday, I went to Traditions, the general Walt Disney World training session.  Parts were a little…less interesting than others.  But most of it was actually  interesting, and even a little inspirational.  The things they talked about—how we can create magic for guests, why so many people return to WDW over and over again—made me feel lucky to be a Cast Member.  That afternoon, two of my roommates, Brit and Melissa, and I went to the Magic Kingdom to cap off a great Disney day.  We spent several hours at the park, seeing favorite attractions, viewing the parade, and just soaking up the atmosphere.

As exciting as Friday afternoon was, Friday evening was less inspiring and a little more depressing.  I spent the evening with my Mom and stayed with her at the hotel so I could take her to the airport first thing Saturday morning.  I was prepared for a long goodbye on Saturday and maybe even a few tears, but, after being told at the ticket counter that they would be closing the gate 30 minutes before takeoff, leaving my mom 2 minutes before they closed, there was so little time for goodbyes that we just hugged quickly before she ran off through security.  It really did make the process easier, though it was a little startling to find myself on my own so quickly.

On my way back to the apartment, I decided to take advantage of the full awesomeness of having nearly unlimited entry privileges at the Disney parks.  I swung by Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where I will be working, to check out possible work locations.  It was around 8:30 when I arrived, and, although the park wasn’t supposed to open until 9:00, all of the areas seemed to be open.  I shopped for a little in some of the shops on Discovery Island, and then decided to see if I could get on Dinosaur.  I could and did, and walked almost straight onto the ride.  Then I left.  I was out of the park before 9:30, just as it was starting to get crowded and hot.

Today was my first real training session, called DAKlimation.  If Traditions was the general WDW training, then DAKlimation was the general Animal Kingdom training.  Tomorrow I’ll have training specific to my  area, but today was mostly about learning the basic theming of each land in Animal Kingdom, and taking a guided tour around the park and backstage areas.

Then we got our costumes.  Mine is pretty bad, but at least I met several other people who have to wear the exact same thing.  It has a skirt, which isn’t bad, but the top is like a tent with a giant striped collar. So when I go to my training tomorrow, bright and early, I’ll be wearing my gorgeous new ensemble, complete with hose.