So I am celebrating 1000 posts, and I've decided to write up a detailed report on what a day working at Disneyland is like. This is going to be very, very long, and while I know there are some people who will want to read the whole thing, I'll break it up into different sections so you can pick the section that you want to read about. I worked on all different wagons, but I've decided to pick a day shift at the churro wagon in Fantasyland up by Small World mall (where the pretzel wagon is today -- for some reason they switched with each other several years ago).
Arriving at work
So in outdoor vending we would have three different costumes that we might be wearing depending on where we were in the park. The generic costume we called the "teals" (what you see in my picture) and that was the costume we would wear if we were in Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, or Toontown. We also had a seperate costume for Main St., and a seperate costume that covered Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Critter Country. Because the costuming department was a very, very long walk from the outdoor vending office (costuming is by Space Mountain and the ODV office is by Splash Mountain) we were required to call in to the office as soon as we arrived and before we got our costume for the day to confirm the location that we were working. I would usually to to arrive in the parking lot 90 minutes in advance in order to allow plenty of time to catch the shuttle to the park, get my costume for the day, change, and walk to my office. Anyone who works in the foods division gets unlimited free drinks at any restaurant, so if I had any extra time, I would usually walk over to the Inn Between (cast member restaurant connected to the back of the Plaza Inn) and get a cup of coffee.
Arriving at the Outdoor Vending (ODV) office
If I had a day shift, then I would arrive before the park opened, and my churro wagon would still be back at the office. I would first have to check out a fund and count the money to verify that it was correct, and then myself and a few other cast members would push the churro wagon from the ODV office to it's location. The standard operating procedure was that we were supposed to have four cast members to push a churro cart in or out, but if the park hadn't opened yet (which meant there were no guests to dodge) then we could get away with two. There is a large gate by the exit to Splash Mountain that we would use in order to get the cart onstage, and then we'd push it all the way to Fantasyland. There are no backstage shortcuts, so we'd have to go all the way up and over the large hill by Splash, through Frontierland, into Main St, and then on to Fantasyland. Ideally I'd be set up and ready to go about half an hour before park opening. It took about 15 minutes to get the oven warmed up and ready to go. (If anyone is interested, we cook the churros at 400 degrees for 4 minutes, and we buy the king size churros from Tio Peppe's).
Working in the Park
We had 8 1/2 hour shifts, and we would get a half an hour break and then an half hour (unpaid) lunch. The rule of thumb was that we weren't supposed to go more than 2 1/2 hours without getting a break, however on a really busy day that didn't always work out. I'd guess about a third of the time we never even got one of our half hour breaks, and so we'd tell the team lead at the end of the night that we didn't get a lunch and then we'd get paid half an hour of overtime. We started the day with 900 churros, and if it was a busy day, we'd go through more than that in a single shift. The person who was supposed to give my my two breaks for the day was also in charge of keeping the wagon stocked, so if I needed more churros they would go back to the ODV office and get them for me. On a busy day, the line for my wagon would start right away and it would never stop, so I developed a pretty good system for keeping the line flowing and keeping the churros relatively fresh. After I was done helping each guest, I would take 10 - 15 seconds and put 10 more frozen churros into the oven to cook before I would help the next guest. The ovens have a conveyer belt, so you just put them on the belt and they go through the oven and then roll down a slide under the oven and into a pan.
For the Fantasyland location, the biggest thing I had to worry about were the two day parades. I worked there during the Lion King, Hercules, and Mulan parades. I would have a really long line right before the parade, but once the parade started no one could get to my wagon, so I got a 15 minute break where I could do things like break down some of the churro boxes, organize my cash drawer, and generally clean things up. In between the 1st and 2nd parade was always the busiest time of day, but I eventually learned to ignore how long the line was and just focus on the guest in front of me. The worst part was that my stocker couldn't get to me during the parade, so if I had run out of something, I wouldn't be able to be resupplied until after the 2nd parade. There was an ice cream vendor right next to me, and a lemonade stand next to them, so if it was something simple like napkins I could usually ask a guest to go over to the wagon and get some for me. Many guests were actually delighted to help.
As I mentioned my lunch was only 30 minutes, and I could count on being stopped by various guests along the way from my churro wagon to the Inn Between. Usually they were either asking for the nearest restroom or asking me to take their picture. Because ODV is the biggest department in the park, we had our own "unofficial" tables at the Inn Between, and I could expect to find anywhere from 5 to 20 other vendors whenever I would go. The social part of working at Disneyland is easily the best part of the job. Disney would always hire the best, most outgoing, most energetic personalities and so that meant that almost everyone was fun to talk to. We'd plan activities after work, set up dates, fall in love, break up, and gripe about guests and management all within those 30 minutes. I did like working in the park, but my break at the Inn Between was always the thing I looked forward to the most. The food was mediocre, and wasn't as expensive as food in the park is, but it seemed high for an employee cafateria. It was buffet style and was basically salads, sandwiches, and burgers.
Leaving at the end of the day
If I was a day vendor, then there would be a night vendor who would come out to take over about an hour or so before I was scheduled to be off for the day. We had to switch funds, so that did mean we had to close the wagon for a few minutes. Once I got back to the office (after stopping to give directions and take pictures many, many times) I would check in and count my fund. The day vendor was great because after I counted my fund I could go home, but the night vendor had to wait for three other cast members to come and help them push the churro wagon back to the office (sometime while the park was still open, and, heaven forbid, sometimes even during Fantasmic, which meant they had to dodge huge crowds). In addition to counting the fund, the night vendor also had to check back in all of their inventory, and clean the wagon, and have the wagon inspected before they were allowed to go home. Cleaning a churro wagon is hard work because the cinnamon sugar gets everywhere. The conveyer belt is the hardest part. It was supposed to be silver, but if people didn't clean it good enough it turned black. We had a scraper tool that we had to use to try and get it as clean as possible, and then once every month or so it would be soaked in some kind of special soap that helped remove the grease. It usually took a good hour to clean a wagon. After that, back to costuming and then then the shuttle to the parking lot.
So there you have it, a day in the life of an Outdoor Vendor. It was hard work, much harder then probably most other jobs in the park, but it was also an awful lot of fun. I loved being able to work in every area of the park, and I really really liked the people that I worked with. Sadly the pay scale was just abysmal so I couldn't stay there, but I'm very glad for my 3 years that I did get to work there and I definitely miss it. My last day was 10/31/99. The first wagon that I ever worked on was the popcorn wagon in Critter Country, and the last wagon I ever worked on was the churro wagon in Critter Country. I guess my favorite was probably the popcorn wagon at the hub, mostly because it was the closest wagon to the Inn Between. I've seen Fantasmic several hundred times, and I would imagine I've seen Light Magic more times that just about anyone else who didn't work in the parade. I think Mulan was my absolute favorite parade ever at Disneyland. I dated a lot of insanely hot girls while I worked there, and had a lot of good friends. We didn't have much oppertunity to meet people outside of our department, but we were a pretty tight-knit group. During the summer there was a standing bonfire every Thursday night at Huntington Beach by one of the lifeguard towers, and on Saturdays in the summer management would usually grill up some hot dogs and burgers at the office. There is no way I could have stayed there, but I really, really miss it.