While I was on my program I worked through several holidays: Valentine’s Day, over Spring Break, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day (I somehow had Mother’s day off), and the Fourth of July were all included. While all of these holidays were busy and offered their own kind of crazy, I have never seen anything quite like this particular three day period of time. During this weekend, the powers-that-be also approved overtime and double back, which is where if you have any two shifts that are less than eight hours apart you get paid for the time in-between. I knew this weekend would be huge and I was already scheduled 50-some hours to begin with, but as my fellow CPs signed up for extra shifts to make the most of the overtime offer, I decided to do the same. By the end of that three day weekend, I had worked around 50 real hours, and I would be paid as though I had worked almost 70. And I still had a full 30 hours left to work that week.
I worked 15 hours on the 3rd with a four hour gap in-between, and then another 15 hour shift on Monday the 4th. By my side were Chantal, MacKenzie, Ingrid, Brittney, Sarah, and many other full and part time cast members who were all suffering together. The mornings were busy and we filled the lots fast, quickly moving to the other side and filling there as well. I remember it was a hot weekend, the sun was blazing and coordinators were refilling our water coolers all day. While the first 15 hour day is hazy, I distinctly recall day two because I was counting down the hours marked by my breaks. The CPs had brought tons of food to feast on in the breakroom, people were taking naps at tables, and we were just trying to make it through one more two hour period until our next break. I know I was on a tram twice in a row during the morning, for which I was thankful because I would not have been able to handle tram walking in the lot. I recall pulling doubles(pulling one tram up behind the last car of the one in front of it to load more guests) several times, and for the first time I wasn’t too nervous about working in the morning. I got the hang of it pretty quickly. I have a very clear image of Morgado walking up to the rear of my tram as I was spieling and throwing out some smart comment, breaking the tension and putting me at ease. I helped park Zurg after 10am, and then returned to help park Scar. I must have been on a tram for a good part of the day, because the next time I remember being in the lot, I almost had a heart attack.
The lot was rarely busy at night. Maybe we had a steady flow of traffic, but it was never fast like in the morning and we never had double lines of traffic. It was 30 minutes until the fireworks show, and the sun was setting. Jeff drove us out to the lot, and dropped us off in the middle of a huge line of cars. We were in the first few rows of Ursula but filling fast. I was scared to death because I hadn’t dealt with that much traffic since my training days 5 months earlier. As I joined the crew in the lot, I remember Steve saying to me, “watch your back, double lines are going to start any second.” After about five minutes of jogging back and forth down the row, I was on my way to the end when
I heard someone shout for my attention. I was still a few yardsaway, so I had to run to the end of the row and turned just in time to direct the double line of cars into their spots. I was riding the excitement and adrenaline, but I was so nervous about messing up. As the fireworks show began, the traffic died down. While there was still a steady flow, there was enough of a break that we were able to turn and enjoy the fireworks above the trees. People stopped trying to catch trams, and just stood by their cars to watch as well, and it was this odd unifying moment. The Cast Members were smiling at each other, knowing it was a job well done, and I was a little starstruck by the whole thing. Here I was, in the parking lot after dark, watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July at Disney World. Of course I was only running on four hours of sleep at this point, but it’s a moment that sticks in my mind, even if I can’t quite articulate it very well.
The rest of the night ran smoothly, as far as I can remember. If I my memory serves me, exit did not seem so daunting because I was mentally prepared for the volume of people. It seemed like we had been parking and re-parking the lots all day long, and then it only took two hours for it to mostly clear out. I do remember that people were still coming in long after we had quit parking cars and only 30 minutes before the park was closing. When the lot was finally almost empty, and time was winding down, I was able to catch my breath and appreciate the day that I had experienced. I was proud of my work, I felt closer to my co-workers, and I was absolutely dead on my feet. When I think back to my time in the parking lot, the Fourth stands out as one of those times where I had the most fun. I suffered by my own hand through lack of sleep, I worked hard in the midst of chaos, and I even was able to take a moment and appreciate the silence at the end of those 34 hours. While maybe it isn’t something I would do again, I know that I am glad I did it once, and that I had my friends by my side.
Side note: Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures from that 34 hour period. I have one saved video from my Snapchat story, some of which I could share but few would find interesting. The rest is lost to time and my own memory. Rest assured there were many pictures sent to one another on Snapchat featuring people taking naps and the massive amounts of food that we brought along. It’s also where Sir, our plastic toy alligator, made his debut and we took turns watching him during our shift. The sleep exhaustion led to delirium, and I’m certain that I don’t need pictures to remember those nights, at least not for several years. Just the same, I have found and featured a few pictures of the Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular as well as a special guest appearance from our beloved Goofy, who was with us in spirit.