As CPs in the parking lot, we were mainly scheduled on the night shift. The majority of our initial training took place in the morning, and occasionally we would be scheduled for a day shift (something I always dreaded), but they were few and far between. Ask anyone from parking, and you’ll find that there is a real tangible difference between the day and the night shift. They were two different worlds and each carried different responsibilities.
Now clearly, I had my bias towards the night shift, but I’ll do my best at representing both sides here. For starters, the day shift was much busier. Yes, of course night shift had the big exit after the park closed, but that was a steady kind of busy that happened over the course of a few hours, usually from anywhere around 8pm to midnight. Morning-busy was a different kind. It was frantic, fast-paced, and short-lived; the first three parking lots on the Heroes side could be parked in as little as an hour. In the evening, those same size lots on the Villain’s side might take three or four hours. The only time I ever experienced that kind of busy at night was on the Fourth of July. I think because I didn’t have much practice with morning procedures, it made me very uncomfortable to work at that speed, and that only made me a nervous-wreck which was just asking for mistakes.
That’s another thing: Sure, we were all in parking so the idea of procedures were all the same, but the two shifts truly operated differently. The speed of the morning forced the cast members to change task quickly and didn’t allow for hardly any guest interaction. Decisions had to be made quickly and correctly or you would end up with a disaster on your hands. I found that the overall attitude from Cast Members was less kind even though it was bright and early in the day, but I think that came from the Full Timers knowing exactly what worked to make an efficient morning, and the new kids messing it all up. To start a morning, trams would line up across the back lots and down the tram lane, waiting for their turn to pick up guests. Trams became full quickly and lines grew long. Pulling up, loading guests, playing your spiel, and pulling away had to happen in five minutes or less. Once you were on your way, your one goal was to drop off the guests and head back out to the lot. During the morning before 10 am only one side of the lot would be open, so all six trams would be running on the Heroes side of the lot, which presented it’s own set of obstacles. Had we switched sides of the tram lane while you were at the load zone? Which side of the road was that tram in front of you going to be heading down? Which planter do I need to turn at? Honestly, thinking about it now is giving me anxiety. Mornings just were not the ideal place for me, and it didn’t help that every mistake I made seemed to confirm to everyone else that I didn’t belong. The air was tangible with disappointment in the mornings, but that might have been just me. Some of the best advice I received on my very first day came from a fellow CP who had just finished training. She said, “the old men here are cranky and rude and they will say whatever they want. Don’t let them see you cry.” In other words, they feed on your weakness. I know I’m painting a terrible picture of the morning shift here, which I claimed I would try to avoid, but really guys. I can’t hide how much I disliked anything before 2pm.
When I look back on my training, I barely remember it, but I know that it mainly took place during the day, I only had one night shift during that first week. Perhaps if I had picked up a few more shifts in the AM, I would have found it more enjoyable, but I knew immediately how comfortable I would be at night. While the night shift allowed for more chatting in the lot and a slower pace over all, it also had a major downside: the “end-of-the-day-guests.” The one thing you could count on were grumpy attitudes and annoyed faces with seldom a thank you to be heard. Now really, if you consider that any family returning to their car in Simba at 10pm had been at the parks since at least 9am, then you can understand why they might be tired, easily upset, and just generally not in the best mood. However, that doesn’t excuse rude and inconsiderate behavior. I was just trying to do my job, and I wasn’t ever out to personally ruin anyone’s vacation, despite what some may have thought. That aside, I had several favorite “jobs” to do in the lot, and you can check those out HERE, but I also had two favorite times during my shifts: early evening, around 4 or 5pm, and very late after-hours at 1am or later. The earlier time offered a steady pace of entering and exiting guests, and allowed me to chat with co-workers and enjoy the weather. The latter made me feel special, as though I was the only one in the world. When the lot was near empty, and the last ferry was on its way over from Magic Kingdom, when there was one tram running and the custodial crew was starting to clean the TTC, I knew that I was one of the last remaining people on Disney property. The quiet that settled over the parking lot was calming and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t walking down Main Street, I had a secret view of the world. Walking in the lot and resetting the cones, enjoying the silence and the massive sky above me filled with stars will always be my favorite part of my shifts.
While I’m sure the day shift could say the same for their close-knit relationships, it was after 9pm that I made my best friends. It was during the pouring rain and the beautiful sunsets, during exit and after the lot was empty, while riding on the back of the tram and singing into the mic and while chatting in the break room enjoying food from the vending machines. Try as I might, I am a night owl through and through, and not only did I generally enjoy the atmosphere of the night shift better, I was more alert and aware of my surroundings then. I loved nearly every minute I spent in the parking lot, and whether I am enjoying morning hours or relishing the evenings, I truly hope I get to return to it one day, if only to drive a tram one more time.