Thursday, March 29, 2012

How I became a smoker...

Set the way back clock for 1990. I was working at EPCOT Center at Disneyworld during a VERY hectic Fourth of July weekend at a pavilion called "Journey into Imagination" sponsored by Kodak. Decked out in the pavilion's uniform of double-knit royal purple polyester with a yellow shirt, I went to work out on the floor for the ride "Journey into Imagination with Figment," facing the 200,000 plus visitors that I would see that day alone, not to mention the half-million more my co-workers and myself would interact with during that seven day time span.

Tour guides, when they bring their tours into the park, are told that their groups can only contain 25 people and if they run into another tour group, they have to wait at least five to ten minutes before taking their tour into the pavilion, ensuring that no two tour groups would lump together. Well, on that day, three very foreign tour guides got together and sandwiched not only two, but THREE tours together, which meant 75 non-English speakers (that in most cases we found didn't wear deodorant, in which most ride operators at Epcot term tours like that "a moving stink") pushing and shoving their way to the front of the line, forgetting all about common courtesy.

With that many people bearing down on you, you know you have to get the ride loaded fast because there are hundreds of people in line in the blazing Florida heat just waiting to get into the air-conditioning. The cars that service the ride are set-up as trains. Each train contains four cars, each car seats seven, three in front seat, four in the back seat. So, as the person at a position called "Load 1", I was the first point of contact to get people onto the trains, asking them "how many in your party." Well, when it comes to those large non-English speaking tours filled with rambunctious guests, you learn hand signals, namely holding up three fingers or four to denote how many passengers in each car. With the tour of 75, bodies quickly rushed into the cars, they didn't even bother to follow any type of orderly conduct and well, every ops person at Epcot knows, when you get a tour like that, get them loaded as quickly and as safely as possible.

Well a nice man from Omaha, along with his wife and daughter, got caught up in the middle of that throng of "moving stink" and out-of-control humanity. Well, as you may have guessed, my co-worker, the person at a position called "Load 2" didn't even think, he roughly grabbed that nice man's 8-year-old little girl and tried to rudely *shove* her and her parents into a car in the middle of this moving catastrophe and utter chaos. That nice man almost put that Load 2 person in a headlock (and I don't blame him). That nice man looked at me and hollered "HOLD IT!" When I saw what happened, I jumped into action, my 18-year-old heart just racing and horrified by the situation playing out in front of me. I intervened. I slowed down the train, looked at the man and said, "Sir, I'm so sorry, could you please bring your family and stand right over here." As he was walking with his wife and daughter, he politely proceeded to viciously chew me out, and I mean he chewed me up, spit me out then put me back into his mouth to chew me up again. I've never heard such hatred spew from another human being in my whole life and I had to take it full-force, apologizing the whole way. I placed the family in a safe area where they couldn't be disturbed, then finished loading the tour of 75.

The space between trains is known as a "bubble". Lucky for us, a big bubble (about 30 seconds long) came just as we finished loading the tour of 75 which gave everyone the chance to calm down. As the next train came around the corner, I slowed the ride again, looked at that nice man and said, "Sir, right this way please." I put him and his family in the front seat of the train, didn't put anyone in the back seat behind them, gently closed the safety doors on the car, wished them a pleasant ride, then skipped a car, then began loading again. Just as I had finished placing the man and his family in the car, I was bumped in rotation to break. As I walked back to the break room, I was still shaking from what happened. When I walked into the break room, I could see that my lead, Randy, was at his desk smoking a Marlboro Red (which to this day I can't smoke Reds). I snatched that bad boy out of his hand, took a drag, let it out, and the world was a better place. I've been a smoker ever since.

The ironic part of it all? By the time my break was over and I bumped back into rotation at the unload area, from around the bend came that same man and his family. As he stepped off the ride, he took me to the side and apologized. He looked at me and said, "Our trip thus far has been horrible and we have been pushed, shoved and absolutely run over. How you handled what happened to us was absolutely wonderful and we really appreciate that you gave us our own space to enjoy the ride. My wife, daughter and I are truly grateful you were there for us, you made our trip well worth it."

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