Hi there, you really look great today. Did you do something new with your hair? Looks awesome.
Welcome to the third installment of “Like Sands Through the Hourglass, These Are the Jobs of My Life…”
In this chapter, we will delve into ONE, that’s right, just ONE of the 33 jobs I’ve had. I can’t cut this one short. There’s so much to say about it, I don’t want you to miss a single detail…so, what was once going to be a three part blog may now turn into five. Is that okay? Do you mind? I just want to be thorough. Yeah? You’re okay with it?? Awesome. Thanks for being so understanding.
So, in September of 1997, I moved to Florida. It was a bit of a whim that turned into a seven year whim. What was the reason for my somewhat abrupt and dramatic move after 21 years in lovely, four season having, rural New Hampshire to the Sunshine State? Two things. Vacillation and Disney. I didn’t know what to do with my life and I’d always loved Disney, so….seemed pretty obvious.
Job Number 18. Walt Disney World: I moved to Florida with $600. You’d think I’d have been a millionaire by then since I’d been working full-time since I had been a fetus, but sadly no. I had spent my earned income on candy and potato wedges at Wallace’s convenience store, fuel to drive around incessantly and aimlessly with my best friend Lauren and cassette singles of Milli Vanilli songs. My Dad and my pseudo-4th sister, Amy drove down with me. In my awesome, new to me, 1987 Silver Audi Quattro. LOVED that car. It had remote start. I thought I was Donald Trump. I didn’t have a place to live or a job or know anyone, so…I had a solid plan. My sister’s friend’s Dad knew a lady who owned a house in Kissimmee where there was a room for rent.So that was my back-up plan. But, I was gonna get my own apartment damnit. Nope. I ended up living in a room of a house with two strangers who were renters of a lady who knew my sister’s friend’s Dad.
I got an interview at Disney in the first week. It took place at the “Casting Center”. A building modeled after Alice in Wonderland. The hallway leading to the main office visually got smaller and smaller going up. It was an incredible place. I knew, if the “Casting Center” was THIS amazing, this was going to be the best job ever.
I wore a linen and silk khaki “suit”…it was more of an outfit a Safari Guide would wear. It was slacks with a matching button down vest that I wore a white shirt under. Wow. Unfortunately, in 1997, Disney’s Animal Kingdom wasn’t yet open or I would’ve been a shoe-in with this getup.
I got a job THAT day and a requirement for this particular job was a three-month stint at “Disney University”…and the next class didn’t start for two months. But, I was considered a “Cast Member” for those two months, which meant, I didn’t get paid, but…I was able to get into the parks for free as much as I wanted. I WENT TO THE PARKS EVERY SINGLE DAY. FOR TWO MONTHS.
I still only had $600 to my name (also had a little help from my friends…aka Mum and Dad to pay rent, thanks Mum & Dad…) So, I quickly learned how to live on the cheap at Disney. A bag of tortilla chips and a side of black beans and salsa at Epcot. Alright. A side salad and a empty cup that I could fill at a water fountain for free at the Magic Kingdom? That’s right. Once in awhile, (aka pretty much every night) I would splurge and go to the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom area of Epcot and order a Yard of Bass Ale and watch “Illuminations” (The fireworks and laser extravaganza set to triumphant music), front row of the World Showcase Lagoon. It was truly….(sorry) Magical.
To this day, every time I tell someone I used to work at Disney, the first thing 98.9% of people ask me is, “What character were you??” As if this is the only job to be had at Disney. I’ve also had countless people add, “Were you Winnie the Pooh?” You know why they’re assuming this, right? Guess who’s chubby? Pooh Bear. Guess who else is chubby? This blogger. Oh bother. So, I say, “No, I just worked in Sales.” That’s my short story anyways. The longish story is that I worked at CRO: Central Reservations Office. This was a building off-site, actually about 30 minutes from the parks. I worked in a call center. When you call 407- WDISNEY, you would’ve gotten me…or someone else there. “Thank You for calling Walt Disney World Reservations, my name is Synergy, how can I help you?” I’ve said that 40 trillion times. Yes, Synergy. You couldn’t use your real name, so that was the name I chose. If you don’t know the reference, you probably weren’t a 10 year old girl in the 80’s. (Google “Jem & The Holograms”) I helped people to plan their magical Disney experience. And because of my three months at Disney U, I knew EVERYTHING there was possibly to know about Disney. You wouldn’t believe the things people asked and wanted to know. Thread counts of sheets at their chosen Disney Resort. Carpet colors. How many elevators? “What time is the “Three O’Clock Parade”? (True story. Got asked that once a day.) “What’s the fastest route from Space Mountain to the Country Bear Jamboree?” To this day, I am storing a ridiculously insane amount of unnecessary Disney information in my head. I can’t get it out. Disney’s Contemporary Resort thread count of sheets in the Deluxe Rooms? 1200.
The job at CRO was fun and I loved talking about my favorite place on Earth all day long. I sold that place like nobody’s business. Too bad I didn’t make commission. There were some crazy things though. First off, dress code. We were in an office building, 30 minutes from any actual “Guests”…but the dress code was strict, to say the least.
* Only natural colored hair, no crazy dye jobs.
* No visible tattoos or piercings.
* Woman must wear skirts or dresses with nylons, not tights and only nude or black nylons. Not navy or white or anything else. We could also wear slacks, not pants or jeans, with trouser socks. Yup. No sneakers, flip flops, open toed shoes or heels more than 2 inches.
* Hair looking presentable.
* Make-up (on women only) must be natural and not too heavy.
* Jewelry- You could only wear one pair at a time. (Women Only) I remember getting a memo one day that said, “Earrings can now be the size of a nickel, instead of a dime.” People were psyched.
* Men had to wear suits and ties and buffed black or brown dress shoes. Belt had to match shoes.
They would have frequent, surprise “Outfit Checks” at the doors in the morning. All the managers would be standing on either side of the door, the women would have measuring tapes around their necks to make sure the ladies’ skirt lengths were up to code. If you were in any way out of spec, you were sent home. To change. And then come back. I was sent home once. I think I wore white nylons. What was I thinking??? I mean, not to go against the stringent rules, but to just wear white nylons in general?? Yikes.
Secondly, not everyone was happy that you talked to on the phone. I had to “talk down” many a guest that were, to put it mildly, not thrilled about something that was happening on their vacation. I had people go as far as to say to me, “I’m going to find out where your building is and come there and bomb it.” It’s like, “Dude, I’m sorry that your chicken fingers in Tomorrowland were cold. Get a grip!”
Often, while sitting in my tiny cubicle talking to a Guest about getting a cot at the All-Star in their room with two double beds for their family of five or how The Swan and Dolphin Resorts were on Disney property, but not managed by Disney…I would get a tap on my shoulder. Guess who it was? Donald Duck. He was handing me a Snickers Bar. And Goofy was pushing the steel cart around with Coca Colas cans on it. True story. We needed caffeine and sugar to keep the queue of calls steady…there was a big, scrolling numbers board in the front of the room with the number of people on hold, how long each person’s call was lasting, all these stats. It was like the NYSE, just less screaming.
After about two years and trying to push my way up the ridiculously difficult Mickey shaped ladder at WDW Inc., I had to give up because all the free passes to the Disney parks, free movie tickets, free Snicker Bars and cans of Coke and all the embroidered Mickey Ears you wanted couldn’t pay my bills. On my first Anniversary, I was given my very first raise. I was so excited. I got balloons and an enormous card signed by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, the whole gang. The raise? 12 cents. Yup. A year later, through tears, I gave my resignation.
Working at Disney, will forever and always be one of the highlights of my life. I learned SO much about how a business should be run, about how Customer Service should be, about how the higher the price of a room, the higher the thread count of the sheets. I’ve thought about opening up a Travel Agency, now that I’m back in New England. JUST for Disney trips.
Sometimes, when I’m not my happiest, I close my eyes and visualize walking from the Monorail Station at the Magic Kingdom, down Main Street USA, past the Ice Cream Parlor, taking a left to Adventureland, up to Fronteirland, up around past Liberty Square, past Fantasyland and down to Tomorrowland and back to Main Street USA. It’s my happy place. 🙂
I feel honored that pretty much everyone I know asks me to help them plan their trip to Disney. I love doing it and will help anyone that wants advice on making your time at Disney the best. But, I’ll just say this one last time, “No, I don’t know how you can get in for free. I’m sorry.”
And lastly, if you learn nothing from this blog, which you probably won’t, I wasn’t really “teaching” anything, but anyways, learn these things, please:
A. Walt Disney World is in Florida. Disneyland is in California.
B. Disney doesn’t equal the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is one of four parks inside of Disney.
C. Universal Studios (aka “The Nether World”) and Sea World are NOT a part of Disney. Some say they are Disney’s “competition” and to those people I just laugh. Silly, silly person…
So, there ya go. My 18th job at WDW. I always say, “Great place to work if you’re 16 or 66 or don’t have any interest in or need for money.” Because if it weren’t for their miserable pay, it’s the most Magical Place on Earth to work. 😉
(Spoiler alert: After CRO, I worked at a not-owned-by-Disney, but on Disney property restaurant, so…I was still, in the mix…19-33 still to come!)
Heart you. And heart you Disney, like in a “need therapy for liking it so much” kinda way…