Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Disneyland - Jungle Break Area Blues

One thing has remained the same between my Jungle days of old and my most recent stint on the attraction last year: the break area.

It is at the end of a little corridor behind the old stage of the Tahitian Terrace and the Aladdin show. It consists of a few discarded chairs, a trash can or two, a computer terminal (for accessing the Cast Deployment System - "CDS"), and a walkway next to a railing next to the Jungle boat storage area. You can see the storage area to your right as you round the final bend of the river just past Trader Sam. Two large doors swing open to allow access to the back area. When they open, if you look hard enough and believe strongly enough, several skippers at various stages of ennui will appear, lounging for their break on old chairs or leaning on the railing.

Hey. It was our break area.
Not perfect, but a small oasis in the Jungle.
You bumped there from your rotation. Perhaps you literally ran from there to the Inn Between and back in order to get a quick drink or snack. Perhaps you hit the vending machines located near the "dancing natives" in the access alley behind Main Street.
You would share a quick hello with fellow skippers.
"Any good boats today?"
"Nah. Pretty dead."
"Is that because of your sorry spiel?"
"Shut up. Your last boatload looked like the cast of a George Romero flick."
"Really? The last laugh I heard from one of your boats was YOU laughing at your own jokes."
"Yeah, thanks. Last night I had a great group. They loved me!"
"It's nice when relatives come to the Park, ain't it?"
"Rookie? I've been on this attraction for six months straight! I hear natives chanting in my head at night!"
"Six months? Rookie."
"How long have you been on the Jungle?"
"Well...I started in 1987..."
Shocked silence.
Of course, there are a couple of old skippers who have truly been on the Jungle since the 1980s. If you should see Randy or an old foreman named Gerry on the dock, dust them off because they have literally been working the attraction for more than a quarter century.
Talk about old jokes!


The break area is not glamorous, but it suits its purpose.
There you find a few quiet moments during your shift.
You actually get off your feet for a while (heck, between skippering the boat and working the dock, you are on foot for 6-7 hours per shift! No wonder I lost all that weight when I returned. I might have to publish a book: "The Jungle Cruise Diet."---I'll let you know).
Most breaks consisted of a diet Coke and bad vending machine fare.
With the advent of cell phones, most skippers sat and texted or played games. Back in the '80s, we would while away the time by teasing each other or playing practical jokes. Most such hijinks are strictly verboten in today's Disneyland.
Ah, workers' compensation and the Labor Code, such grand enhancements to the modern workplace.
No more cups of water poured down the back.
No more cigarette loads (tiny sticks of white gunpowder strategically inserted into fellow cast member's smokes when they weren't looking).
No lying in wait as a group for the next guy coming off on break (man, we scared the hell out of so many skippers!).
Not so much psychological warfare between skippers (good natured, but devastating nonetheless).
That is not to say the banter died completely.
We still would try to joke around a bit.
But in today's workplace---shackled by political correctness, "hostile work environment" claims, the dangers of a joke being misunderstood or taken wrongly, etc., some of the fun simply had to go to the wayside.
The real fun typically started off site, after one's shift, at "Charley Brown's" or "Acapulco" or the pub or wherever.
This is a family blog, so we will leave the off-site shenanigans for another venue, perhaps.

To the poor old Jungle break area and the skippers sitting there right this moment: Cheers!!

For those of you who did not enjoy your trip with me today, the address and telephone number of our complaint department is right over there on the wall to our right as we approach the dock. Feel free to comment there as often as you wish. (You Jungle Cruise lovers know exactly what I'm talking about---if not, take a look at the writing on the wall over there the next time you come to the end of a cruise through the Jungle).

Now it's time to say goodbye to all our company.