Friday, May 30, 2008

Jungle Cruise - 1987 - Man (er, uh...Kid) Overboard!!

Ah, the green waters of the Jungle. In the image above, our dear little hut has had a bit of a facelift since the days I took the helm of the Amazon Belle. This photograph was definitely taken within the last five or six years. The water alone looks to have been fresh from a recent rehab (the more recent the rehab, the more lime green the color; with time, the water turns a darker green).

Speaking of green Jungle water, it brings to mind a tale of when I was a skipper. It involves the loading dock, a small child, quick reflexes and "verbal judo."

I had just dumped a load of guests at "Unload" and had throttled into position at "Load." I was giving my welcoming spiel to the boarders ("Step aboard, Adventurers...please don't mind your boat loaders, they are very affectionate and have a disturbing fascination with touching people by their elbows. Just smile as they do this and continue stepping into the boat. They usually let go of your elbow," or some such drivel). The boat loaded up about halfway, with most of the folks on the dock side (port for all you mariner types). At the rear load position, a child was about to step in when the Loader somehow missed the small boy's elbow or forearm. The boat simultaneously lurched away from the dock as folks entering from the rear walked along the starboard side.

As I spieled into my microphone, I caught a tuft of the boy's brown hair as it disappeared below the boat's railing on the dock side. A splash of gross, green water that erupted in the same location told me that we had a swimmer between the dock and the edge of my boat. The frantic scrambling of the read Load position Loader was also a tip off that something was terribly amiss in Adventureland. As this drama played out, the guests on board---being humans (mostly)---leaned toward the dock side of the boat to see what was happening. Experience in boating (and skippering the Cruise) told me that this was a "BAD" thing.

"EVERYBODY stand up and lean AWAY FROM THE DOCK!!!" I shouted to my vessel full of guests. I must've sounded pretty serious because (for perhaps the first time in Jungle Cruise history) the guests actually took a skipper seriously and followed orders. Cops call this type of authoritative affectation "verbal judo." It is meant to compel immediate compliance. Sometimes it actually works, because when I yelled "LEAN AWAY FROM THE DOCK!" again, everyone leapt to their feet and immediately leaned toward the center of the boat and away from the dock.

This action by my crew of guests shifted the weight in the boat so that the dock side of the vessel was tilted up and away from the edge of the dock---thus affording the small boy who had fallen between the boat and the dock a wonderful opportunity to NOT be crushed! The boat leaning away from the dock also allowed our frantic boat Loader to reach down and grab the soaking boy by the arm. He instantly pulled the boy up out of the gunky water in a single motion.

When the crying child was safely back on the dock, everyone in my boat sat down. A wave of relief rushed over all of us. Then the guests started clapping---for our heroic boat Loader and, oddly enough, for ME, since they all realized--at about the same moment---the reason why I had suddenly shouted at them to get AWAY FROM THE DOCK! If they had all kept leaning over to look, the boy would be crushed or at least stuck under the boat (which is not a good place to enjoy the attraction).

The kid never thanked me, but he's out there somewhere---uncrushed---walking with a memory of Disneyland and the Jungle Cruise that I don't think he'll soon forget. I don't blame him though, he was wet, scared and was shuffled away from the dock before he or his surprised parents had the opportunity to fully absorb what had just occurred.

As for you, dear Reader, just think about that green Jungle water. Now think about being in it over your head. You'd best step lively the next time you think of boarding a Jungle boat!