If you can't afford to travel the world, working at a theme park - especially in Orlando - provides a great way to meet people from around the globe anyway.
In my time working at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, I met folks from the United Kingdom, France, Brazil and dozens of other countries. Taking time to chat with folks - even if just in a crude pantomime - immerses you in accents, attitudes and cultures unlike anything you'd find in most any other "normal" workplace.
It also, unfortunately, immerses you in the world's wide variety of nasty cold and flu strains. Working in Orlando in the summer, you're welcoming thousands of South American visitors who are escaping their winter. Unfortunately, many also are bringing their winter colds and flu with them.
Perhaps after working several years at Disney World, you develop the immune system of a veteran kindergarten teacher - exposed to the worst germs the world has to offer, you develop immunities that keep you healthy year-'round.
But in your first couple years at Disney, you're like that rookie kindergarten teacher - coming down with every illness brought into the classroom by your germy students.
And so it was that the sickest I've ever been in my life was during my time working at Walt Disney World. I remember the moment the illness hit me. I was getting my hair cut when an icy blast penetrated my entire body, but from within. My body shook, then immediately I felt the cold melt away and I broke into a drenching sweat. As soon as the barber finished, I tried to rise from the chair, but my legs buckled. I had to stop again and sit by the front door for a few moments to gather my strength to walk 10 yards out to my car.
Foolishly, I went ahead and drove into work. It was a six-hour closing shift, and I just parked myself in the County Bear Vacation Hoedown theater. Normally, I wouldn't feel too excited about watching show after show, but in my state, I was happy for a place to sit in the dark and quietly count the hours until the end of my shift.
Eventually, midnight came and I dragged myself through the tunnels and to the bus which would take me to my waiting car. I almost made it all the way home, too. But along the way, the second phase of the illness hit, and, uh, well, there's no delicate way to say this. Twice, I had to pull over to, well, return my lunch.
Fortunately, I had the next day off, so I could stay in my bed and sleep - dead to my family and the outside world. And the day after that? Well, as quickly as the illness had hit me, it went away - like a South American tourist blasting into town for a whirlwind visit, then catching the next flight back to Rio.
Ever take ill at a theme park? Share the (not so) gruesome details, in the comments. Be sure to check out the archive of Robert's cast member stories, too.Tweet
The "rest" part is *so* crucial. At the first sign of sniffles on a trip, slow down. If given a chance to mount a defense, your body often can. But not if you're hauling it around a park like Napoleon moving across Europe.
I'd been working way too many shifts when I got hammered with my big illness that year at Disney. If I'd taken more time off before, I'm convinced it wouldn't have it me so hard. I just had no energy to deal with it.
You have to give Disney credit. Most ride surfaces are cleaned nightly, the bathrooms are scrubbed several times a day and the food places are spotless. Even the streets are sanitized and hosed down at night. So despite the large and international population, I felt like I was working in a clean workplace.
Now some of my co-workers did get sick a lot. Needless to say some of them were messy and not very clean. Others just couldn't get used to the climate/enviroment as well, and others had bad allergies. Also too that some of the people who worked at the Jungle also got sea sick. Not that I am calling anyone here unclean or mess etc.
But of the many jobs I had (lifeguard at large pools, library to name a few), and of the many parks I've been to across the country, Disney was hands down the cleanest, and the cleanest to their ability.
However everyone she met got sick including me and her grandma.
Flash forward a few months. I convince my girlfriend that a day in Disneyland is the perfect way to spend our anniversary, and the night before we had dinner together and watched a movie at her apartment. As the movie was ending I noticed a minor gurgle in my stomach. I left and went back to my apartment, and by that time the gurgle had grown into a full-on sickness. I was up every few minutes kneeling before the porcelain alter giving my offerings. The next morning I was a complete wreck, still feeling kinda sick and completely sleep deprived. I remembered that the tickets waiting at guest services were already paid for and non-refundable or exchangeable. I picked up my girlfriend, and she was understandably concerned about how I looked. I said I was a bit sick the night before, but I was rapidly improving and nothing would help more than a wonderful day out with her.
Driving to the park, I got really shaky and felt some numbness in my hands, and chills all over. We got to the park and my sickness actually helped at this point, because while she thought I was making another restroom visit I actually picked up our tickets. I then figured my shaking was from hunger, so we got a decent breakfast. After that we rode Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, where I posted a horrible score. Then we got in line for Storybook Land, and that's when things started going downhill again. My girlfriend looked at me and said I kept looking worse and worse. I said I felt fine, but I really was feeling worse and worse. Finally I felt breakfast coming back up again, and I luckily made it out of line and to the nearest trashcan in time.
It was at this point that I learned that Disney trashcans have a deep lip inside the door that makes being sick in them rather difficult. I also learned that Disneyland's infirmary is pretty nice. My girlfriend demanded an explanation as to why I insisted on going when I was clearly too sick, so I had to show her the surprise tickets and explained I couldn't return or refund them. The nurse suggested we try anyway, so while I napped in the infirmary my girlfriend went to City Hall. They were very understanding and exchanged our tickets anyway for two weeks later.
Two weeks later the weather was very cold and the windchill even worse, so the usually insane crowds gathering for unreserved spots for Fantasmic were reduced to a handful of people. I felt slightly cheated out of the main benefit of reserved seats, but the buffet was excellent, and the balcony provided a very interesting perspective of the show.
The funny thing is that last year in june I almost cancelled my annual trip to Orlando, afraid of the H1N1 flu outbreak in the US. My wife made us carry individual alcohol gel bottles. And wipe down everything we could before rides.
Now that I got this out of the way. From a HealthCare worker point of view. The thing you have to be most concerned in any trip is with food intoxication. You get more downtime in average from an infected meal then you get from most other bugs. Any place where food gets exposed to people, your chances to get something are multiplied. Even places with top hygiene don't account for airborne virus and bacteria landing on exposed food stuffs.
All in all, good personal hygiene, good eating habits that reinforce your immune system and a little luck go a long way in preventing trip spoiling illness.
So to my shame i got some insolation, to my shame cause i actually live in the Caribbean and sun is stronger here. (Not as humid but definitely stronger. But we actually don't go out much more than 1 or 2 hours cause is suicide.) I got back to the hotel feeling sick, and hot. I remember i kept trying to sleep but i had those fever dreams. (Those dreams that aren't fun at all when you have fever and your not fully awake or really at sleep.) So i kept feeling like i was on a roller coaster and every single turn i would hold strongly to my pillow, cause i felt like the roller coaster was going oh, so fast. I managed to wake up and sit on the floor i took something for the fever and somehow slept through that night.
The next day i was feeling better ready to take on the next park. But careful not to expose my self to the sun all day without break.
I guess you can take being a diehard theme parker to the extreme when you think you can make it with severe sickness. Needless to say, I have been sick at Disney World twice due to a mixture of heat, food, and motion. Thankfully I have never been so sick as I was at Opryland.
As kids will be kids and do almost anything, I thought I saw Zachary licking the hand railing. NO, I said loudly, to the surprise of everyone around us. I leaned down and asked him if he indeed had been licking the railing and he said yes.
I explained to him, how people form all over the world came there and how they could put germs all over the railing that would make him sick. Thank goodness the H1N1 virus was not around yet. But long story short, by the next morning, he was sick as a dog, as the saying goes.
I was nice enough to change the bedding for housekeeping, since he got sick all over it. Nothing like getting sick for two days on vacation, even worse if it's a child. And Zachary never licked another railing.
The first couple days had been kinda chilly, but Monday was going to be beautiful, so we planned for an Islands of Adventure day. I got up, and immediately realized I had a rather awful headache. I took some Advil and a nice long, hot shower hoping to get rid of it, but to no avail. I tried eating a little breakfast and drinking a bottle of water, nothing. Still, we were determined to enjoy the park.
Just as we were about to leave our hotel room, my stomach went from ok to uh oh in about 2 seconds. I gave a prayer to the porcelain gods, but after felt a lot better. The headache was ebbing away, though my stomach still felt awful. After about 20 minutes, we left to go to the park. By the time we got there, I felt good enough to do Hulk as my first ride. Not the best of ideas, but it turned out ok, though I was worried throughout the entire line.
By the time lunch rolled around, I felt perfectly fine.
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