Disneyland night crew enjoys sprucing up after closing and the perks of odd hours. Some call themselves vampires. They say good morning at midnight, when others say goodnight. They arrive at Disneyland as the last guests leave and stay until the magic begins again the next day.
Among the 1,200 nocturnal engineers, bakers, plumbers, hotel crews and other workers is a woman security guard who works nights because the sun aggravates her skin cancer. There is a janitor who likes the cool air at night, and a tree trimmer who wants to spend time with his children during the day.
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Unlike Cinderella, who never got any appreciation for her work from her evil stepmother, the night crew at Disneyland got their appreciation recently when about 75 executives served them breakfast at 3 a.m.
"It's a basic human need to feel appreciated," said Matt Ouimet, president of Disneyland Resorts, as he waited to speak to the workers. "It's easier with the day shift, but the night shift can be out of sight, out of mind if you're not careful."
Night-shift workers are prone to create their own workplace culture, said David Mitchell, director of research publications at Circadian Technologies, a shift-work research company in Lexington, Mass. The hours usually shut them out from the usual corporate events, which can foster a feeling of alienation from the day-shift workers.
The night-shift workers tend to be younger, and since managers typically don't work at night, the employees go about their work more independently.
"It fosters a lower stress and less-hectic work environment," he said.
Philip Ruiz, 38, arborist at the Disneyland Resort, spends his nights climbing trees and trimming branches.
He's part of a 10-man team that takes care of the 17,000 trees in and around the resort. He's worked nights at a book warehouse before but started at the Disneyland Resort in November.
"I love Disneyland," Ruiz said. "We get to make the park look beautiful for all the guests. There is a lot of pride in that."
Although the park resembles New York streets during rush-hour by day, it gets a small-town feel at night.
Cars and golf cars drive leisurely around the Main Street traffic circle. Occasionally, workers stroll down the sidewalks, gazing in the windows. The park is mainly quiet, except for some recorded tunes, which sound oddly out of place, like someone forgot to turn off the radio before locking up. The sounds of waterfalls, drowned out by the noise of thousands of guests during the day, add ambience at night.
Working while the park rests allows Ruiz to spend his days with his three boys, ages 9, 6 and 4. He usually arrives at his Montclair home at about 11 a.m. and picks up his 4-year-old son from daycare. The two of them take a nap for a couple of hours before his other two sons and his wife come home. The whole family goes to bed at 8 p.m., and Ruiz gets up at midnight to get to his shift by 2 a.m.
"I love the hours," Ruiz said. "The kids hardly know I'm gone."
Better arrangements for family and children was the third most-popular (12 percent) reason given by participants in the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey for choosing to work night shifts. About 40 percent said it was the nature of the job to work nights, while 17 percent said the night shift was a personal preference.
Although Ruiz gets between six or seven hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, staying "fresh" can be difficult, he said. Difficult, but crucial. His job involves hoisting himself up tree trunks and trimming branches guided by floodlights.
Jose Alvarez, also an arborist, said he never gets used to the weird hours, although he's worked them at Disneyland Resort for 15 years.
"I feel sleepy even though I've had seven hours of sleep," Alvarez said.
But after so many years on the job, Alvarez, 37, prefers the job security and seniority of his present job over trying to find a new one with better hours.
The dangers of climbing trees and trimming branches forges a team spirit that helps Alvarez through his shifts.
"You're facing more dangers during the night because of the darkness," Alvarez said. "We depend on each other not to get hurt."
The crew camaraderie is why Adrian Hernandez, 34, keeps coming back to his nighttime janitor job after five years. He and the other 12 janitors on his shift don knee-high rain boots, flashlights and orange vests as they wash down the park with fire hoses.
In addition to washing away dirt, Hernandez has used the water pressure to push back wayward crawdads that escaped from the pond in the Small World Mall. Lately, the most out-of-the-ordinary event during his shift was when Hernandez had to alert security to take care of wayward grad-night high school students hiding in the park after closing. Other than that, his job stays pretty routine.
"The hardest part is adjusting to being awake," he said. "The job is easy."
The cool air is the main perk of the job for Hernandez, who car-pools with a co-worker from his grandmother's home in Los Angeles.
Although he's a California native, he doesn't like hot weather.
"I'm a cold person," Hernandez said. "It's weird, I should probably be in San Francisco or someplace else cooler."
But moving is out of the question for Hernandez. He grew up here and he wants to stay here.
"I love earthquake country," he said.
He also loves getting sneak peaks of the park's shows during his shift. Rehearsals for new performances happen at night, and Hernandez gets to see them long before the throngs of visitors.
As Hernandez and the other Disneyland nighttime inhabitants move around the park, Carolyn Voss monitors their comings and goings from her security-guard booth at the gates. Voss' night shift is a way for her to stay alive, literally.
"I have skin cancer," Voss said. "The sun bothers me."
Caffeine, even dancing, keeps Voss from falling asleep. Her co-workers and the other "vampires," as she calls the nighttime workers, keeps her spirits high.
"We all know each other and support each other," Voss said. By Catrine Johansson