Amber Earns Her Ears

About the Column

Amber Sewell is 'earning her ears' at Disney World from the ground-up: her first experience as a Cast Member was her participation last year in Disney's CareerStart Program. Maybe you saw her at EPCOT's Electric Umbrella? If not, you'll be 'seeing' a lot of her on Disney Dispatch as she shares her stories about what it's like to be young and working for the Mouse. Amber's stories are fun, fascinating, and plain ol' fantastic. And maybe, just maybe, they'll put you on the road to earning your ears, too.

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FROM: Amber Earns Her Ears Published Mondays

A Week of Little Adventures

Amber has costumes, cookies and Crossroads to deal with this week - as well as a special castmember tour of Haunted Mansion.

The Disney College Program is a competitive, paid internship open to college students who want to spend a semester at either Disneyland or Disney World working, learning, and possibly laying the foundation for a Disney career.

After a successful stint in Disney's CareerStart Program, Amber Sewell began work in May 2011 at Disney World as part of the College Program. We'll follow her adventures every week right here...

This week was full of small adventures.

Adventures have to be limited this time of year. A $135 paycheck tends to shrink your options, especially if you’re trying to save money, however impossible the task appears. In an attempt to improve that situation, I picked up one of the scant offerings on the Hub, turning my Wednesday into a 14 hour day. Stocking in the West from 7.00-3.30, and then a shift at the Seas from 4.00-10.00. Stocking that early in the morning is always a struggle, simply because I am in no way a morning person, and the lack of car means I have to wake up an hour earlier than I normally would to catch the bus. Somehow, though, I made it up, and there’s something about walking around the apartment complexes, or EPCOT itself, in the early hours of the morning, when everyone else is still – enviably – in bed, that gives me just a little bit of energy.

I encountered a problem before I even started my shift.

Costumes. I had the pants for stocking, but not the shirt, as I’d thought I had. Disney limits how many costumes you can check out in relation to your status; as a CP, I’m allowed to have three shirts and three pants out. With package pickup, the small shirts are extremely rare, so I hold onto any of those I can get, as I spend most of my time there. If necessary, I’ll pick up a fourth shirt for whatever shift I happen to be working; as long as I turn it in within a day or two, it’s fine. But I had thought I had the blue shirt required for the heart of house shift. I got to Cast Services thinking that the Costuming’s hours were from six to six; the sign outside the closed doors crushed that with a large number 7. I went back to my locker to throw something in and scrambled around in my brain for a solution.

Could I walk to work in my tank top and work pants, desperately ask to clock in (you aren’t allowed to clock in if you aren’t in costume), and rush back to Costuming to get the appropriate shirt? Could I wear the costume I brought from the Seas? But no, that wouldn’t work, because most of the seven o’clock stock shift is spent in Image. I was walking slowly down the halls of Cast Services, trying to figure it out, when I saw one of my fellow Cast Members from the West open the doors of Costuming, and reemerge a few moments later with a costume. Elated, or as elated as possible at six-thirty, I went to tug at the doors – which were locked. After a few moments of tugging futilely at the door and muttering under my breath, a passing Cast Member who had stopped to watch my efforts told me to knock.

A rather disgruntled Costuming Cast Member opened the door, and after a hurried explanation of my situation, she allowed me to dash down the aisles and return to check out my shirt. Who said the Costuming Cast Members were always horrible?

I made it through the stock shift much easier than I did the week previous.

There was no sleeping on my break, or dozing off when I sat down to pass a wave of nausea in the Land’s stockroom. I ran around Image constantly doing something; I had the feeling that if I paused, exhaustion would catch up with me and I would be done for. I kept setting goals in the day – in an hour and a half you can take your first break. In thirty minutes you get to break the Land. It went on like this until 3.20, when I carried my stuff over to the Seas so I could spend my last few minutes stocking there before taking a break in between shifts.

I was hungry, so I bought a bag of gummy worms and sat in the hallway backstage and chatted with my mother before my second shift of the day. I have a feeling that the Seas is kind of this location’s version of Fountain View; I was really excited about shifts at first, but now the hours just absolutely drag by as the air conditioner assaults you with gusts of chilly air. Luckily, I was working with a Cast Member I get along with really well, so we spent the hours alternately straightening things and standing around bemoaning how slowly time was passing. It’s become common practice to cover the times on the register with Mickey stickers, to rid you of the temptation to watch every minute of your shift peel away. It doesn’t really help if you wear a watch, as I do.

The normal release time for the Seas is ten-thirty, but as the area was all-clear (meaning there were no more Guests in the building) and we were cleaned by nine-thirty, we were able to get an ER (early-release) for ten after we accompanied everyone to the money room and made our way back to Image with the manager, coordinator, and the lonely soul who had worked the Land by themselves all day. I went home and slept.

Sometime during the week, Cassandra and I started talking about burgers in hotel delivery. Not McDonald’s burgers – none of that pre-frozen patty stuff. We were craving thick, real burgers with all the fixings and no kiddie toys. We decided to head someone on our day off to achieve our new goal. It was the day after my long one, so I’m afraid I slept in a bit before we got started. Our goal had been to get a burger and head to Typhoon Lagoon, since Cast Members get in for free as it’s not the busy season. By the time I was up and ready, though, burgers were the only things on our mind, and I met her at the bus stop to catch the F bus to Crossroads, where Fuddruckers awaited us.

Only, as the Florida autumn rain began to fall, the bus passed Crossroads and went to the post office, instead.

I looked across at Cassandra, as I’d never taken the F bus before. She confirmed suspicions: that the bus was indeed leaving us here, and we’d have to make the trek to Crossroads on foot. After waiting while one of the ladies on the bus argued with the bus driver about not dropping us off directly in front of the building (one of the riders had several large cardboard boxes to send out), we walked quickly to the small buildings and stood under the overhang, hoping the rain would slacken a bit before we ventured out. After several minutes of cajoling the dark clouds, though, it still persisted in coming, so we gave up and started off. Cassandra had an umbrella, and offered to share its protection, but it wasn’t going to cover both of us. I don’t mind getting wet, and it was inevitable at that point, anyway.

Our burgers were well worth it.

After we’d finished them, we walked back to the post office area and sat on the curb until we noticed the ants crawling up our legs. Suspicious of how long it was taking the bus to get to us, I called the clubhouse to ask about the bus schedule. We would have to wait another hour for the next bus, and it was switching its route to take it to Crossroads rather than the post office, as that had now closed. So we walked to Crossroads yet again, agreeing that any further plans for the afternoon had better be cancelled. We decided that a movie and cookies sounded perfect on such a gloomy day, and perhaps a journey to Chik-Fil-A, as it’s buy one, get a second original chicken sandwich or nuggets free for Cast Member day.

Back in my apartment, I began making cookies while Cassandra went to her place to grab her movies.

I had told my roommates – only two were home – that I was having some friends over, and we were going to watch a movie. This prompted immediate results: they both stretched out on the couch and started discussing what TV shows they were going to watch tonight. I thought it a bit rich, especially as everyone’s mattress is out on the floor of the living room from their sleepover that’s been going on for about a week now. But I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really care to be in my apartment any more than I have to, so I texted Chris, who was at Animal Kingdom earlier for a Cast party that got cancelled, and we all reconvened at his apartment to watch The Librarian and eat some cookies after we retrieved our Chik-Fil-A.

As a Cast Member, we get some pretty cool opportunities.

Sunday one such opportunity arose in the form of a guided tour of the Haunted Mansion. I signed up for two different dates, well aware that my will power in the early morning isn’t exactly commendable. The tour required that we be gathered at the bus stop of the Magic Kingdom by six-thirty in the morning, meaning I would catch the five-nineteen bus there. I debated back and forth as to whether or not I was going to go, but eventually came to the realization that I would probably regret the missed opportunity. So when five-nineteen rolled around, it was to find Cassandra, Chris and myself on the A bus on the way to Magic Kingdom, all of us half-asleep (or, in my case, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep on the bus ride).

It was a small group that showed up for the tour. Our manager showed up with some Munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts to provide us with some energy, and we made our way through the tunnels to the Haunted Mansion, where we met our tour guide. She’d been working at the Haunted Mansion for thirteen years, and had built up a wealth of information over that time. We got to walk the ride with the animations and everything going off, and it was really a very cool tour, despite the time. A lot of history is caught up in that ride, a lot of things that I wouldn’t have thought of if they weren’t pointed out to me. Little details that I had never caught in the numerous times I’d ridden the ride before were made obvious by her point of the flashlight, and the eternal confusion as to whether the stretching room is an elevator or not was solved when we got to lie down in the floor and watch the ceiling descend toward us. “Now you know what we do when we get bored around here,” the tour guide told us with a chuckle.

After our tour, five of us headed to IHOP for some breakfast before returning to our apartments, all for some sleep, I believe, except for the one unfortunate girl who had to head back out for work right after that. I managed a three hour nap before heading to EPCOT for my package pickup shift.

The upcoming week holds promise. There’s a double-birthday celebration on Wednesday that I’m quite looking forward to, the Cast preview of the Food and Wine Festival on Friday, housing inspections, and of course my parents’ visit for one day to exchange cars and eat around the world. Free food!


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