Sunday, September 21, 2008

Disneyland - The Sweeper Walk- The Sweeper Whistle- And A Brief Hello to "Big Red"

Yesterday I took my brother and his girlfriend to the Park with my wife and children.

For some reason, family members seek me out when it comes to Disneyland trips. I find this odd---not because I don't know my stuff and am not helpful in getting them to see the most things possible---but because I can be a "Disney-Nazi" tour guide.

This means that you are up at the crack of dawn, and, upon arriving at the Park, you, as my honored guest, are summarily marched and stampeded through as many as 11 to 14 attractions, across 65 acres, within the first two-and-a-half hours of your visit to Disneyland.

Forget that "happy memories" crapola, we're here to see stuff---and lots of it---before all those other meddlesome guests arrive and pack the Park in like a third world marketplace.

Get it? Disney-Nazi.

Sure it can be tough to handle at first, but for some reason the family members keep coming back for more. They love to tell their friends that they went on more attractions by noon than many people do ALL day---(indeed, more attractions than some have been on in their entire lives!). They love the mile-a-minute spiel about Park highlights, history and hysterics. They thrill at learning the "Sweeper Walk" and the "Sweeper Whistle"---both highly necessary for a successful whirlwind tour.

The "Sweeper Walk" (or "Disney Walk") is a fast paced gait used to pierce through thick pedestrian traffic, as you dodge slow pedestrians ahead of you like a running back blowing through the defense. The others in your group follow you, single file, and dodge and weave while keeping the brisk pace. It's not quite running, but it's a close as most would like to get.

The "Sweeper Whistle" is an attention-getting device used by old-school Day Custodial types to locate each other in a crowd. It is a whistle that starts with a short low note, shoots to a long-held high note and then descends to a short low note again. It is very distinct. My children have never lost me in a crowd because they recognize and respond to the "Sweeper Whistle." It doesn't take long for the family members that I am guiding through the Park to learn to recognize (and occasionally employ for themselves) "The Whistle."

If we become separated during a Sweeper Walk from Point A to Point B, the moment we realize the problem, the lead (that's me) pulls off to the side, turns around, surveys the crowd and gives The Whistle. The lost members of the group can hear the sound across the noise and commotion of a thousand fellow guests and instinctively move toward the sound. I repeat the whistle until I spot the lost group members (or they spot me). Upon seeing me, one of the lost will give The Whistle in response.

Very effective.

The weather yesterday was perfect at the Park. We scored an amazing number of attractions before 11:00 a.m. had arrived.

At around this time, we slowed our pace to take in lunch. Then we found ourselves again at the Hub at the top of Main Street. There we met "Big Red."

He was proud, tall and quite muscular. He was a Disneyland cast member who went about his duties with calm and steady devotion. Though he was often egged on or held back by his fellow cast members, he never raised his voice in protest or gave so much as a sideways glance. He epitomized patience, even when guests clamored for his attention.

Big Red works on Main Street and has for several years. A lot of regulars recognize him, but even new guests that he's never met seem to develop a favorable impression of him almost instantly. A couple nearby saw him and were anxious to approach him and get their picture taken together.

Even I never got that kind of buzz when I worked Jungle. While the Japanese tourists loved to gather around me for a group photo near the main entrance of the attraction, I'm pretty sure it was the Jungle---and my costume---and not my deeply charming personality that got the shutters clicking. Still, that was nothing compared to Big Red.

My brother's girlfriend even wanted her picture with him. As he approached the top of the Hub, I mentioned to the young couple that Big Red would stop for a photo right in front of them.

And he did.

Then our group had to get in on the act.

My youngest daughter and I approached. I saw one of his fellow cast members and asked if a photograph would be okay. Sure.

"What's his name?" asked my daughter.

"Big Red."

"Is he a Percheron?" I asked.

"No, a Belgian."

"Can we pet him?" begged my daughter.

"Sure, but not near his face. Pet him on his side by his tummy."

I watched her small fingers stroke the sleek hair along the giant horse's side, just below the harness and tack that helped him to pull the heavy trolley car up and down the street.

Big Red never flinched. He turned his head slightly toward my daughter and patiently accepted another guest's adulation. He lifted his head proudly as we stood for a photo with him.

With a clang of the bell and a shake of the reins, he dipped his powerful head again and slowly clip-clopped away.

We watched him and a trolley-full of guests glide around the Hub and back down Main Street.

My daughter won't remember that we went on Peter Pan, Dumbo, Matterhorn, Finding Nemo, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, The Jungle Cruise, Tarzan's Treehouse, Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, The Pirates of the Caribbean AND Splash Mountain BEFORE 11:00 a.m. yesterday.

She'll remember rubbing Big Red's tummy.

That, my Disney friends, is as it should be.