Theme park cast member stories: A very unwanted souvenir
Published: January 18, 2010 at 10:55 AM
That happens when theme park attractions go down for their regular refurbishments. When I worked at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the employees who typically worked a closed attraction would be reassigned to other attractions in the same area. (Almost everyone was trained on multiple attractions.) But there's be one person assigned as a "greeter" at the closed attraction, whose job was simply to confirm to guests that, yes indeed, that attraction was closed.
You were supposed to be nice about and offer suggestions of other stuff to do and answer questions about the park, so the gig wasn't as boring as it might seem. Especially for cast members like me who enjoyed talking with guests.
But some locations offered more chance to talk with folks than others. Right now, Disneyland's drained the Rivers of America for its regular cleaning and repair, closing Tom Sawyer Island, the riverboat and canoes. When I worked at Disney World, we had the same thing, except that Disney also was building a pedestrian bridge across a corner of the river, to accommodate Splash Mountain, which was then under construction.
As a result, there was a construction wall around the entire perimeter of the River, as well as another construction wall on the other side of the pathway, where Splash was going up. This created a narrow walled pathway heading to up Thunder Mountain, through which everyone going to, and coming from, Thunder had to pass.
This is also where they stuck the poor CM from Tom Sawyer Island. Usually when an attraction is down for rehab, you can still tell that the ride is there: The front door's just closed and queue blocked. But with the construction walls blocking all views of the river, there was no sign that TSI had ever existed. By the time anyone had walked up to where the TSI entrance had been, it should have been abundantly obvious to them that the attraction was gone.
And yet, we kept people out there to reaffirm the obvious. Unfortunately, the TSI entrance, where were supposed to stand, was at the narrowest pinch point along that now-walled path. So you really didn't want to stop people there to engage in any friendly conversation about the park, and what they could be seeing instead.
So we drifted down the path a bit, toward Frontierland. Unfortunately, that moved us closer to Pecos Bill's restaurants and the Turkey Leg wagon. One thing we quickly discovered after draining the river was that hundreds of Disney World guests had chucked the turkey leg bones they'd been gnawing on not into one of the many trash cans provided, but into the river itself.
With the water drained, that exposed enough turkey bones to make the river bed look like a Jurassic fossil dig. The gamy muck also attracted every seagull between Jacksonville and Miami.
You can see where this is going now, can't you? :-)
Unfortunately, the day it happened to me, I couldn't. All I knew is that I was standing at the corner of the river, trying to keep traffic moving to and from Thunder when I felt someone nail me hard in the shoulder with a rock.
I wasn't standing underneath anything, so I knew that nothing could have fallen down on me. Maybe some overeager worker mucking out the river had hurled something over the wall? All I knew is that my shoulder hurt like heck. And... was I bleeding? It felt like something was seeping around where I'd ben hit.
I jerked my head to the left to look at my shoulder... and found a dime-sized glop of bird poop.
How could something that small hurt so much? Slowly, as the stink filled my nose, Physics 101 returned to my brain and I remembered that even small mass could pack a lot of force if it were moving fast enough. So I guess Stinky McSeagull relieved himself pretty high up above me.
But what to do now? A quick trip down into the Magic Kingdom tunnels and to the wardrobe department for a fresh shirt. I guess I was lucky that the only time I've ever been nailed by a bird, I was working at Walt Disney World, where a costume department was standing ready to provide me a new shirt immediately and wash the gunk off the old one. (Though I was told afterward by a park old-timer that it wasn't unheard of for wardrobe to clean a guest's shirt in the same situation if a supervisor took pity, though most folks in that situation just bought a new T-shirt and dumped the fouled shirt.)
Anyone else ever get a "souvenir" from park wildlife? Feel free to share your embarrassment in the comments.
Read more of Robert's stories about working at Walt Disney World.