Sunday, January 29, 2012

Disneyland - What's It Like?

What's it like to be a Disneyland Cast Member?
I've run up against this question many times over the years.
An answer today might differ somewhat from a Cast Member's answer in the 1950s, 60s, 70s or 80s, I'm sure.
I'll give an answer a shot in my simple, broken manner.
I'm a simple, broken person, after all, so I've gotten pretty good at this approach.
To begin with, if you work at Disneyland and do not think that the very fact you work there is something pretty cool indeed, I say you are missing a key component of your personhood.
You are like a security guard at the Louvre who wanders empty halls at night without noticing, encountering and taking in the artwork that surrounds him.  What a colossal waste!  Why not guard a junkyard instead?
If you came to work at Disneyland solely for a "job" or to complain about your hours, your wages, your bunions or whatever else, I am not sure I understand you.
So, for starters I would say that most Disneylanders felt the job itself was something special.
For a number of us, our role involved being On Stage - out in the Park among the guests.
Some are more outgoing than others.
Others are more outgoing than they should be!
All must admit to a feeling certain small thrill while being part of the Disneyland "show."
Where else in the world is there a job with the goal of making people happy and safe?
Happy and safe in DISNEYLAND, that is?
Sure, the folks working there would love to see their customers safe and happy.
Not the same.
Who at Nordstrom, Macy's, Forever 21, Starbucks, American Eagle, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma or Target or Walmart wouldn't wish to pursue a similar goal?
Nope. Not the same.
There is just something different about the Park, even when compared to its new next-door neighbor, Disney's California Adventure, or to the mega-Disney parks in Florida, Paris, Tokyo, the Antarctic, etc.
Disneyland is its own means and end.
It was touched by its founder and literally lived-in by him!
It defies easy categorization or explanation.
It is escapism and fantasy.
But it is also quite real.
There is, unfortunately, vomit to be cleaned up.
There are screaming children throwing tantrums.
Angry guests at the ends of their respective ropes, losing it on a poor counter girl at Coke Corner.
High prices.
Smells from grease traps and busy restrooms.
These realities fade into the beauty and joy that Disneyland uniquely brings.
They are overcome by the smiles and laughs of children, teens, adults and grandfolk.
They are drowned out by fireworks, flowers, shiny paint, bursts of color, sparkling lights and sheltering trees.
They dwindle to insignificance beside mountains, castles, mansions, Percherons, steam trains, sternwheeled steamboats, treehouses, rivers and pirate ships.
They are obliterated by children's voices singing, steam whistles blowing, cannons discharging, strange and eerie sounds echoing through halls, frontier gunshots, bleating goats, Yeti roars, carousel music, ragtime piano, jungle drums, marching bands, sudden-drop screams and electrosynthemagnetic musical sounds.
They are erased with ice cream, churros, turkey legs, soda, popcorn, fritters, mint juleps, licorice, rock candy, caramel apples, pineapple whips, teriyaki skewers, pizza and fajitas.
They are overrun by waterfalls, spinning teacups, singing birds, clip-clopping horse hooves, dark caverns, icy slopes, flying elephants, dancing natives, pixie dust, flowers, canal boats and miniature houses.
Indeed, the realities have no chance.
The Park's charm and warmth and happiness conquer all.
Being part of all of that was simply a joy.
With Mickey on your name tag, you had a role to play in the grand experience we all know as "Disneyland."
The sheer fun of having fun.
Working with others who were in on the secret.
Reuniting a lost child with a thankful parent.
Making your little corner of the Magic Kingdom, well...
Herding crowds or spending moments one-on-one with someone looking for a restroom, a lost camera, a little conversation, whatever.
Being a little silly---and that's okay!
Solving problems---unexpected problems.
With style.
With diplomacy.
With humor.
Taking a moment to watch the parade go by as you called out, "Please keep to the right!"
Getting to see fireworks every night!
Most of the people you encountered were actually enjoying themselves and having fun!
Your superiors actually wanted you to be nice to people.
Every day.
You got paid money to be at Disneyland.
There's a gig I can handle!
This whole blog is a dim reflection of memories, experiences and feelings that were instilled within me simply by working at the Park.
I know a LOT of other folks who worked there, too, and feel the same way!
Call me a nerd.
Goof off.
A grown up with "Peter Pan" syndrome.
Mickey Mouse.
Terminally un-hip and un-cool.

I'm okay with all of that.

After all, there is one thing I've got on most folks...

I worked at Disneyland!

Well...that's my answer.