Theme park cast member stories: Beating the heat at Walt Disney World
Published: September 27, 2010 at 10:56 AM
Now that's hot. The combination punches of heat, humidity and sun knock down thousands of tourists each year. And more than a few cast members, as well. My first summer, working inside the relatively mild conditions of the old Mickey's Mart store in Tomorrowland, I passed out on my way to break one evening, overcome by the heat and my failure fuel up by eating a decent lunch before my shift.
That incident left me sharply aware of the need to take care of one's body in the heat.
Every location I worked at in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom had a big Igloo cooler - and whoever was first into work in the morning was responsible for filling it with ice and water from the nearest food location. Next to each cooler you'd often find a stack of clean, white hand towels. On break, we'd often soak a towel in the icy water and wrap it around the back of our neck, while also drinking a cup of water. In Central Florida's sauna, your body demands a constant flow of hydration in order to keep the sweat flowing. If you don't keep the water coming, your body temperature will be soaring.
While I grabbed every cup of cold water I could when working the Tom Sawyer Island rafts, or any other outdoor location at Disney, I actually tried to avoid air conditioning whenever possible. Why's that, you ask?
I found that moving in between hot and cold air more uncomfortable than simply acclimating myself to the heat. Too much time in the A/C slowed down my body's internal air conditioner. Rather than be like a car that's always stopping and starting, I figured I'd rather just let my body's cooling system cruise at highway speed, and stop pretending that I didn't live in someplace so terribly hot.
At home, I kept the thermostat at 85. I shopped at a 24-hour grocery, so that I could go only after midnight shifts, when the contrast between the cold store and outdoor air was at the minimum. When taking breaks, I stayed in lead offices rather than walking down to the stronger A/C in the tunnels.
While I embraced the heat, I continued to do my best to avoid the sun. Sun and heat are two different challenges, as anyone who's gotten sunburned on a ski slope in winter should know. I always put on my sunscreen when I got dressed for my shift. And I tried to follow the best advice ever given me by a Florida native: Always stand (or park) in the shade.
With my pale, freckled skin, I can't afford what would likely end up a blistering mistake if I didn't protect myself from the sun.
What's your strategy for managing the heat in the Orlando-area theme parks? Please share your story in the comments.
For more stories from Robert about his time working at Walt Disney World, please visit themeparkinsider.com/stories.