Monday, August 31, 2009

Disneyland Musings - Volume 4 - Crossing Main Street to the West Side

West Siders know it best, perhaps.
The walk from "backstage" on the East Side of Main Street to the West Side of the Park.
Nowadays, in the post-Indy world, a good number of West Siders take a shortcut to their location that permits them to bypass a whole lotta "on stage" territory. Still, even those folks---for the most part---have to cross Main Street on their way to their location.
Even longtime Disneyland cast members still "feel it" when they are about to go back out on stage.
There's a little extra spring in the step.
You tend to put aside whatever junk you brought with you behind the berm and focus your energy at the task at hand---bringing Disneyland to guests.
Not only that, but you literally step from the drab back area and into the Park---alive with people and music and movement.
When you step out onto Main Street, you are a Cast Member.
Guests wave at you.
They take pictures of you.
They ask---or, more likely, you offer---to have their picture taken.
As you head toward Adventureland, or Frontierland, New Orleans Square or "Critter" Country (pardon me a second----*cringe*---ok, I'm alright; can never get "Critter" Country to roll of the tongue the way Bear Country used to), you walk amidst guests.
You might not be "on the clock" just yet, but you are on stage and part of the show.
"What time is the parade?"
"When are the fireworks?"
"Where is the closest bathroom?"
"Which way is the Haunted Mansion?"
"Is it always this crowded?"
"Do you like working here?"
"How do I find a turkey leg?"
"Where do I get batteries for my camera?"
"Where are the characters?"
"Do you have any pins to trade?" (* cringe * again)
"How late is the Park open tonight?"
"What's a Jungle Cruise guy doing on Main Street?"
"Where is City Hall?"
"What time do you have?"
"Where do I pick up my Photopass pictures?"
"What is a Fastpass?"
"Why are they putting up ropes?"
"Why can't I stand where the ropes are?"
"Where is Lost and Found?"
"I can't find my mommy and daddy." (Have no fear---I've never failed to reunite lost parent(s) and child(ren)).
"Where can we find some food that isn't "fast food"?
"Can I have your name tag?"
"Hi, Mike." (said as though they've known you for much longer than the half-second glance down at your name tag before addressing you---usually responded to with a quick, "Why, hello, Amy!" 0r whatever name might be emblazened across their mouse ears, t-shirt, keychain, purse, Annual Pass or other tell-tale indicators of the guest's name).
"Is this the way to Fantasmic?" (almost universally asked as the guest is walking toward Tomorrowland or Matterhorn Way).
"Where are the lockers?"
"When does California Adventure close?"
"Do you know, ____? He/She works here, too." (Guest has a better chance of winning the Lotto than hitting upon someone who knows some 6,000 fellow cast members by name).
"I used to work here in the 60s/70s/80s/90s."
"Can I have your hat?" (Almost always teenagers).
"Where is the Blue Bayou?"
"Where is the best place to watch the fireworks?"
"You guys must get asked that a thousand times a day. How do you do it?"
"Hey, he's wearing a Mickey Mouse watch!"

The way I look at it, if you don't like interacting with guests...what the HELL are you doing working as a Cast Member at Disneyland?
There's plenty of room at the DMV or the County Clerk's Office or Coroner's Office if you aren't into prompt and courteous customer service.
Sometimes the guests would come in groups of twos and threes at a time (not together, of course).
One would ask a question from your left and, as you turned to answer, another would shoot a query from behind you while yet another (completely unrelated to the first two) would approach with an inquiry from ahead of you.
Any Cast Member worth his or her salt easily answered each of the guests and made them feel that they had been heard and seen.
Even when no one questioned you, you were still "on stage" and noticed.
If you were headed to Jungle, you were dressed in khaki and likely wore a hat; same for Indy.
Thunder operators also had distinct costumes.
Of course, we all had name tags.
Dead giveaways.
It's actually one of the things I miss most---stepping out onto Main Street as I headed for my shift.
Each time I'd walk out from back stage, I felt the energy of being "part of the show."
Sure, there are people who work for Disneyland who might not "feel it" as they trudge toward their daily duties.
But those folks aren't true Cast Members...
...they're just "employees."

Here's hoping that your next trip to the Park will bring you plenty of interaction with Cast Members and blessed few encounters with "employees."

You know what I'm sayin'.