Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Disneyland - Whoa. Is It October Already? Shuttle Bus Blues and Aromas...

Gang, things have been a bit busy in the realm outside the Jungle is "101" administrative offices lately.
I posted on September 11 and then next time I looked up, it was a month later!!!
I hate it when the real interferes with the virtual world and keeps me from posting my deeply insightful prose.
C'est la vie.
Where to start?
How about a story of a modern Disneyland cast member's experience?
Namely: the shuttle bus.
In my day, we parked in the employee lot, walked through Harbor House, and went off into the Magic Kingdom to start our shifts.
Today, the employee--ahem---Cast Member--parking lot is, for most folks, located some distance away from the Park.
Indeed, one of the main CM lots is located off Katella, across from McCormick & Schmick's Grille and the Cheesecake Factory.  It is known as, oddly enough, the Katella Cast Member Lot ("KCML" or "K-Lot").
It is quite large.
I favored parking along the fence on Katella, east of the main entrance to the K-lot during my recent Cast Member sojourn.
I would then amble over - in full Jungle Costume - to the...Bus Stop.
Yes, the Cast Member Shuttle.
Imagine a locker room on wheels.
Perhaps that is a bit harsh, but I will say that the shuttle had a certain "air" about it that was unmistakable.
Sweaty folks returning from their shifts or bringing soiled costumes to exchange over at Wardrobe, combined with the the endlessly recirculating air conditioning system of the shuttle, to form a heady atmosphere aboard.
At the end of the night, after a Parade guest control shift let's say, a crowd of Cast Members would fill the shuttle to capacity over at the Harbor House gate.  We'd ride shoulder to shoulder, pit to pit, arm to arm---back to K-Lot.  I think that's where the stronger aromas were cultivated initially.
Then they would infiltrate the ventilation system of the shuttle where, like spirits in the Haunted Mansion, they were doomed to haunt the shuttle inhabitants forever.
The ride in from KCML to begin a shift was much the same, though typically quieter.  Folks were plugged in to I-pods, I-phones, cell phones, I-pads, you name it.
Some stared off through the windows as we made our way from KCML to the eastern entrance of Disneyland, along Harbor Boulevard.
The shuttle buses looked like they were shipped from a Holiday Inn in North Carolina, hastily outfitted with Disney logos, and gassed up for delivery of groups of Cast Members to the Park's doorstep.
It was about a 15-25 minute process to get from the Park onto the shuttle and back to KCML.
The union made sure everyone got paid for this extra commute time.
Believe me, that $0.84 made all the difference!
I don't know.
I mean I understood the logistical reason for locating the Cast Member lot so far from the Park.  Where the heck else were they gonna put Disney's California Adventure?
I just know that starting and ending each day with a bouncy bus ride was a bit less magical than the old days when we literally parked our cars outside the Park's gates.
In many ways, we shared the guests' experience.  We parked in the same 100-acre lot (though our section was cordoned off over on the northeastern edge, near the Monorail track along Harbor).
We left its wide grayness and entered the Park to a world that was quite colorful (once we were onstage).
From outside the berm to inside in a few minutes.
No waiting in line for a bus.
No huddling in a crowded shuttle, hanging from straps.
No thick, musty smells.
I am sure in my younger days, the shuttle would not have seemed quite so unpleasant.
At the end of our shift, my friends and I would have enjoyed the ride back to the parking lot to joke with and tease each other; to plan post-shift activities; to lambast leads and managers, etc.
Perhaps that is how the 20-something Cast Members of today experience the shuttle ride.
I saw some indication of it during my recent stint on Jungle.
As for me, I'll take the 100-acre parking lot of old.
For readers of these lonely bits of data in cyberspace, I expect that last sentence is hardly a shock!

Stay happy and savor the promise of the future my friends!

---Mike (your wayward Captain, guide and dance instructor)