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Theme park cast member stories: Grad Night Police of the Caribbean

Written by
Published: January 31, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Crouched behind a fake rock, I watched the boats pass, one by one. My eyes had adjusted to the lack of light. The flashlight in my hand? I carried it not to help me see, but so that I could be seen.

When the time came.

I smelled the boat before I saw it. As the crew of teenagers rounded corner of Hurricane Cove, I waited for, then saw, the glowing tip of the joint. Row four.

Flashlight on. Panic.

As my flashlight illuminated the boat of Grad Night partiers, it also shone directly into the security camera mounted on the wall directly behind them. The cast member in tower would see the light, and deploy the boat stop that would trap the passengers in front of me.

The boat hit the stop, and the passengers lurched forward. The kid dropped his joint. His girlfriend shrieked, then slapped him across the shoulder. I doubt he felt it, or even heard her. His eyes opened, wide, toward me.

His friend, sitting on his other side, craned his neck forward a touch. He squinted at me. Many he was trying to lighten the moment with a joke.

"Dude" (I swear he actually said "Dude"), "that pirate looks so real."

Or maybe he really was just stoned.

Many veteran Walt Disney World cast members avoid working Grad Nights. They don't like the late-night hours, or the hassle of enforcing order among tens of thousands of only-theoretically supervised teenagers.

Me? Not yet a year out of college, I couldn't wait for the opportunity to scare the living excrement out of some high school kids.

On Grad Nights, we'd not only station extra cast members to work "audience control" along parade routes and in attraction queues. We also stationed cast members inside some of the longer, slower rides, including Pirates of the Caribbean. We'd learned from experience that many kids thought they weren't being watched while on the ride, so that provided their best chance to get away with smoking/drinking/uh, whatever.

So we waited for them. Flashlights in hand. Ready to use the most awesome weapon imaginable to destroy a teenager.

Embarrassment.

"Hand it over."

The girlfriend yanked on Smokey McPuff's arm, glaring at him, which also served to turn her face away from me. Smokey pulled a small plastic sandwich bag from his pocket. Two kids from the front row handed up a flask. I hadn't even seen them. Bonus. I dragged my flashlight across each row, to see what else I could find.

No one would make eye contact with me. Except for Smokey and his buddy, who still seemed to be trying to figure out if I was real. Not wanting to hold up the ride too long, I waved my flashlight forward, signaling tower to release the stop and drop the boat down the waterfall.

The empty sandwich bag and half-empty flask would end up with Magic Kingdom security, which over the course of the evening would collect enough contraband to fill the limo of a rock star on his way to check into "Celebrity Rehab."

The rest of the night, I tried to fight the boredom as boat after boat after boat of normal, perfectly well-behaved kids floated past. After a while, what I was doing reminded me of fishing. Hour after hour, you sit there, staring at the water. You learn every detail of the place. You notice every ripple in the water, every reed on the bank.

Every last blasted verse of "Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me."

But every once in a long while, the line snaps... and you catch something.

For more of Robert's stories about working at Walt Disney World, please visit themeparkinsider.com/stories.

Readers' Opinions

From 198.95.226.224 on January 31, 2011 at 10:46 AM
hilarious! i witnessed a boat in front of me at grad night in disneyland get stopped for smoking and they were all taken off the boat immediately!
From Ben James on January 31, 2011 at 12:19 PM
I had to laugh at this story because it reminds of my time working in the Museum industry and busting our teen volunteers smoking in a highly visible area.

Robert, Can you somehow add a few other cool stories this week? A lot of the Midwest is expected to see a storm not seen in 29 years. We could really use something to offset the boredom. :)

From Eric Malone on January 31, 2011 at 12:59 PM
Always love a good yarn. When I went to Grad Night back in '04, I never considered smoking or drinking on the boats. Considering most people think they're not being watched, I find it hilarious to know that people are getting busted for doing things they're not supposed to. To be totally honest, though, I thought this was going to be a story about people hopping off the boats. I'm sure you've got some of THOSE, too.
From Carrie Hood on January 31, 2011 at 1:24 PM
I remember working Middle School Grad Night at Seaworld for the several years I worked there. It was hellish but we always had our own brand of fun, my job was simply "Take a flashlight and an empty Polaroid camera.. go threw the bushes and scare the kiddies who are making out".

Yeah it was long and annoying, I got scratched by dozens of sticker bushes and random greenery. However when you did catch the little baby-teens in the bushes making out, the flash of an empty camera and a flashlight kicking on.. the amusement of the entire situation came out. Remember, we got PAID for this! ;)

Ahhh, the good ol' days.

From Joshua Counsil on January 31, 2011 at 4:12 PM
Can't spell "POTC" without "pot".
From Tyler Stover on January 31, 2011 at 11:46 PM
When I was a CM working in TDA, I had a coworker who seemed to enjoy Grad Night Cross-U shifts. He once pointed out a cave built into the side of Big Thunder, just past a small fence right off of the path between Big Thunder Ranch and Fantasyland. Apparently it went back just far enough so the unused tracks leading into it looked like they went into an actual mine, and the shadows in the back could be quite dark. His plan was to hide in the cave with a flashlight at the ready, wait for any frisky couples to come into the cave for privacy, and light them up.

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Stories from a Theme Park Insider

Stories from a Theme Park Insider

What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
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