Monday, April 5, 2010

Disneyland - Jungle Cruise - Bumping Into Load - 1981-82

A fivesome of fine lads fearlessly stand their post at front and rear load on the Jungle Cruise dock circa 1981-82 (thanks to old skipper Ed Cunningham for originally sharing this one).

In addition to showing off the snazzy thatched confines of the old main entrance queue, this photo also depicts why Jungle skippers must be nimble of foot as well as lip. When a boat slips from the load dock into the jungle and there is a gap between it and the boat coming up behind it, there is precious little real estate between your friendly boat loaders and over four and a half feet of churning, green, gross jungle river.

I won't say I ever saw a skipper summarily bumped into the water at this position by a devious fellow skipper---or that I was the one doing the bumping (or being bumped). I will say that sloshing back to wardrobe to get a dry set of pants and socks was a long, moist trek. Working the rest of one's shift in wet Red Wing work shoes was no proverbial picnic either.

There have been more than a few guests who were prepared to stroll from the dock into a boat that was no longer there. Thankfully, we dockhands were alert for such wayward folk and---usually---got to them before they obtained a jungle baptism. The most potentially drenching time for guests and skippers was during a "bump" in the rotation, when one skipper would replace another at either load position. As two skippers tried to switch positions at the load station, an overly anxious guest might step past the famous "yellow line" and precipitously near the edge of the dock. This would result in three bodies trying to occupy space meant for only one. The laws of physics dictated that somebody would be going in---or dancing along the edge of the dock like a chimney sweep on the rooftops of London (Coo...what'a sight!). I have often waltzed with a fellow skipper during a bump as we tried to switch places on the tiny dock.

This process was made all the more interesting back in the days when tomfoolery by one's fellow cast members was not merely a remote possibility, but an immutable law of nature.

Rookies and skippers who were generally obnoxious (or woefully late returning from their breaks or lunches) were often targeted for these "accidental" bumps.

The bumper would approach the victim at the load position and say, "Bump." This meant, "I'm taking over, you can rotate to your break." The bumpee would then try to move along the dock while the bumper stepped into the load position. While both bumper and bumpee were making this transition, the bumper would literally bump his fellow skipper (who was invariably on the "outside" edge of the dock) toward the river's edge. As the victim lost their footing, the bumper would grab the handrail at the load position with one hand and the plummeting skipper's arm with the other, catching them just in time. Well, in time enough to let at least one of their legs dip into the river up to the knee.

Then the bumper would act profusely apologetic.

You know, some guys who were so good with the apology, it wasn't until maybe my third trip back to Wardrobe for new pants and socks that I realized maybe, perhaps, I had been the victim of an intentional act.

Today's "Jungle is 101" lesson comes in two parts:

1. Be careful on the dock.
2. Never trust a Jungle skipper to pass up a good opportunity.