Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tales From The College Program: Getting Fired. Part 2

Getting my job back:

Since Rat Face had gone as high as possible to get me fired, I decided to do the same when trying to get my job back.  Ed Backlor was the VP of Downtown Disney at the time, I decided to email him.  A day later I received an email from Djuan Rivers (who I just discovered is a Disney big shot now).  Ed was out of town and had forwarded my email to Djuan.  We arranged a time for him to call me the next day.  I was pretty nervous as a sat there staring at my phone waiting for him to call.  I didn’t know where the conversation would go.  Djuan was very friendly, he had read my email and asked me some more questions about the firing.  I left out the part about how everyone eating for free so I wouldn’t get anyone else fired.  He told me the typical “well, I know it’s not a lot of money, but if everyone gave away $3.25 worth of food, it would really hurt the company.”  He said I could reapply with Disney in 6 months and when I did I would most likely be asked to write a paper about how sorry I was for costing the company money and the lesson I had learned.  I told him thanks, but my lease was up in December and I wasn’t going to sign up for another year on the off chance I could get my job back in 6 months.  

Now I just needed to figure out how to get into the parks for free for the next 3 months.

Rat Face Strikes Again:

After I knew I was not going to get my job back, I stopped by The Link to tell Missy the whole story.  Right when I walked in, she gave me a free ice cream cookie sandwich. it was a very nice gesture.  As I was telling her the whole story, Rat Face came through the kitchen door.  When he saw me, he dropped his head and high tailed it out of there as fast as his rat legs could carry him.  I was pretty disappointed he ran away so quickly, I had already come up with a plan in case I saw him again.  I was going to grab him by the face look him in the eye and say; “I know it was you, you broke my heart.  You broke my heart!”  Apparently, I was really into channeling Al Pacino in September 2004.  
If you don’t get the reference, click here.

Missy and I kept talking, when I noticed 2 Disney Security guards were waiting at the door.  Rat Face had walked out and immediately called security on me.  I finished talking to Missy and headed out.  They followed me until I was off Pleasure Island.

Going to the parks for free:

When I interviewed for the College Program my friends Ralf and Steven also applied.  We did our interview together.  Ralf and I were two of only three people accepted from the 100’s of applicants from the University of Houston.  Steven joked around so much during the interview, I was amazed Ralf and I were accepted.  He wanted to be a character.  When he was told those auditions were being held in New Orleans he decided to run around the room like King Louie to prove that he didn’t need to make the drive.

Steven came to visit me for a few weeks and ended up moving in.  He wanted to prove to us that he could be a character

 and wouldn’t you know it, he got the job.  He had been working about a month when I was fired.

When you are a new hire you are issued a temporary work ID.  It’s basically the same one the CP’s get.  Instead of being colored and having your photo on it, it’s just a plain white card with your name.  After 90 days you are issued a regular ID.  Work ID’s are what Cast Members use to log in, get discounts, park, and most importantly, get into the parks for free.  Just like a guest ticket, the first time you go through the turnstiles with your ID, it registers your fingerprints.  Steven had no desire to go to the parks, and had never set up his fingers to his ID. (In 2004 they were still using the weird “insert 2 fingers and squeeze” system.)  My plan, set Steven's ID to my fingers.

I went to the Magic Kingdom Main Gate with all the guests, inserted Steven;s ID, put my fingers in the machine, and squeezed.  My pulse was racing, waiting to see if this plan would actually work.  I thought maybe since it was the first time they would ask to see my ID, but they didn’t.  A few terribly long seconds later, I was in the Magic Kingdom.

The scam worked perfectly, Steven and I even went to the park together once!  Steven wanted to go to Epcot with me and a friend, so we came up with a plan.  My friend and I would go in, then she would take Steven’s ID from me, leave the park, give Steven his ID, then the two of them would go back in.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, Steven’s fingers weren’t set to his ID!”  That 2 finger system never worked right, I told Steven that when it failed, tell the Cast Member that it never worked, then just pull out your drivers license, when they saw the matching names they let him in, no questions asked. 

The timing worked out great; I was able to go to the parks for free until I moved back to Texas in December.

I can’t even volunteer:

I moved back to Houston that December and started going back to school.  A year or 2 later I noticed the familiar College Program Recruiting signs all over the place.  I decided to watch the presentation; they try and become a campus rep.  Campus Rep is a pretty sweet gig, you help set up the presentations, put up signs, go to a couple meetings and as long as you keep helping out you get a work ID/Park Pass.

I went to the presentation, hit it off with the recruiter, she gave me her card and told me to contact her because they needed campus reps. I sent her all my info and she called me the next day.  After a couple minutes of small talk she asked me about my program and if I had ended it on a good note.  I told her my program ended fine, but that I had been fired while I was a part time Cast Member.  She then made me go through the whole long story.  We were on the phone for another 20 minutes before she finally said;  “Well, you have a no re-hire status with the company, so we can’t bring you on as a campus rep.”  She knew the minute she called me that she couldn’t hire me, she just wanted to hear what someone could possibly do to be banned from working there forever.  Well the answer is, cost the company $3.25.

There you have it, the long story of why I am permanently banned from working at Walt Disney World.  If any of you run into to Djuan Rivers, tell him to give me a call, or if you see my old manager John, just tell him you know what he did to me! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tales From The College Program: The Day I Was Fired...

All of my College Program posts up to this point have been in no sort of order, until now.  Today's post is written 10 years to the day, the day I was fired.

When you're a CP, working less than 40 hours a week is pretty much unheard of, but when you're a part time Cast Member, 40 hours a month is a miracle.  My program ended in January 2004, instead of going home I found an apartment a few miles away from Downtown Disney with my coworker Dan and his roommate, Rickli.  During the next program Dan and I worked a couple days a week.  It was almost no different than when we were CP's.  When that program ended in the summer our hours dropped drastically.  We were only working one or two days a month.  Instead of getting second jobs, we started doing medical experiments for money.  We'd spend a weekend at a facility in Gainesville and make a quick $1,000.  This is how we were able to afford our apartment.

My birthday (September 18th) came and I was finally scheduled to work.  There was a new CP at The Missing Link who was still in training, his name was Steve.  Steve was on the grill that night and he was having a hard time.  I was the middle man (I worked the fryer and made the drinks) so I would jump in and help him.  The Link was a pretty easy place to work.  It was the only quick service restaurant on Pleasure Island, but with so many other food options at Downtown Disney we stayed pretty dead most of the night.  Our big rushes would only last 15 minutes or so, but if you weren't organized at the grill you could get swamped fast.  That was Steve's problem, he could only make one order at a time and he had trouble organizing the tickets.

The next day I went to the Magic Kingdom with my pal, Matt Biddle.   My manager John called me later that night and asked if I could work on the 21st.  I hadn't worked 2 days in the same week in forever, I said yes.  The reason he needed me to work was because Steve had called in.  He had a class that let out at 5:00 which would cause him to miss the CP bus that would take him to work.  I had ridden that bus for the majority of my program, I knew that wasn't true.  The bus stop is literally 30 feet from the building where the classes are held.  My thinking was Steve had hated working at The Link and he wanted to get out of it for a day.

I went to Downtown Disney a little early on September 21st so I could buy Green Day's American Idiot album which had been released that day (This is the only reason I know the date of my firing).  It was Missy and I running The Link that night.  She took first break, and I had just started making myself some cheese sticks when Steve and his girlfriend walked in.  I said hello, but inside I was thinking "What are you doing here?  You called in, don't you know the first rule of calling in is don't show up at work later?"  He said they were Downtown for a movie and just wanted to stop in for a snack.  They ordered cheese sticks and a water.  I took the cheese sticks I was making for myself out of the fryer and gave them to Steve with a cup of water.  He offered to pay, but I told him "Don't worry about it, you're still in training, you eat for free."  Obviously, this was not  Disney policy, but The Missing Link was such a small place we always ate for free.  Even at the end of the night, instead of throwing away the leftovers we were allowed to eat what we wanted.  In fact, while I was a CP I usually didn't eat until I was at work.

Steve left and the night dragged on.  After we closed I was in the kitchen washing dishes, John came back from closing Cirque (Missing Link managers would manage Cirque and The Link, other nights just Cap'n Jacks).  I noticed that he had a Cirque kid with him.  This was odd because Cirque had been closed for a couple hours by this time.  John asked the kid to take over washing my dishes and asked me to come upstairs with him.  PI was kind of like Main Street, above The Link's second story facade were offices.  Above The Link was John's office and a small office for Loss Prevention.  As I was following John up the stairs, I jokingly asked "Am I in trouble?"  He didn't say anything.  Thats when I got nervous.  'Hey, John am I in trouble?"  He said "Let's just go to my office."

We sat down in his office and I was scanning my brain for anything I could have possibly done to get myself in trouble, I was coming up blank.  John sat back in his chair and let out a long sigh, "I have been dreading this all night."  Now I was really nervous, "What did I do?" I asked.  John replied "Did you give Steve free chicken fingers and a coke?"  It was at this point that I knew my Disney life was over.  "No" I told him.  John let out another sigh, this time of relief.  "I gave him water and cheese sticks."  John said "Well, someone saw you, and went over my head with it."  I asked John who it was but he wouldn't tell me.  It didn't matter, I knew exactly who it was...Rat Face.

As I stated earlier, Loss Prevention was also located above The Missing Link.  The guy who worked in that office looked like the health inspector from Ratatouille. (just. like. him.)

He always walked through The Link when going out to PII, instead of the back of the building where he would get a nice view of the Saratoga Springs construction. (This is always the best place to be at 12:00 New Years Eve because you can see the fire works from all over WDW at once)  Missy would always say hello to him, and he would always ignore her.  This really annoyed her, so one day she said something to John about it.  John talked to Rat Face about it and he started giving Missy a very forced hello whenever he walked through.  I knew he was the one who ratted me out.  He did not tell John, he didn't even tell John's boss, he went as high as he possibly could.  I mean, why wouldn't he, this was a matter of $3.25!  Sure, you could say "Well, he was just doing his job."  but he could have  easily told John.  HIs office literally 6 feet away, this was revenge for the scolding.

I asked John what would happen to Steve, he said that he would be fired too for accepting the food.  I had to write down what happened and made sure to include that Steve had tried to pay more than once to help his case.  Then the worst part came, John asked for my employee ID.  This was also my park pass.  In just  a matter of seconds I lost every reason I had to be living in Florida, it was awful.  John felt bad, I made him call Dan and tell him what he had done to me, which he did.

There was nothing left to do after that but go home.  I got up and walked towards the door.  Before I walked out I stopped and turned back, "Hey John."  He looked up from his desk "Yes?"  I told him "If it was gonna be anyone, I'm glad it was you." John's response was "You're going to make me cry."  

Don't tell him, but I stole that line from Al Pacino in "Donnie Brasco." (watch the scene here)

There you have it, the day I was fired.  Since this post was long, I'm going to write a part 2 next week where you'll learn about how I tried to get my job back and the scam I used to keep going to the parks.

Friday, May 9, 2014

More Cute Stories Volume 4: 1964/65 New York World's Fair

Man, I love Rolly Crump.  I also love Jeff Heimbuch for all the great Rolly Crump material he has helped produce in the last few years.  Jeff is kind of like Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus, except instead of sucking the youth out of children, he is getting all these great stories out of Rolly Crump's head and passing them on to us.

Jeff and Rolly's newest project is "More Cute Stories Volume 4: The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair."  I have been a fan of this World's Fair for quite some time, so to hear first hand accounts of what went into making some of it's attractions was fantastic.  Rolly's tells you all about the experiences he had working on Small World, The Ford Magic Skyway, The Tower of the Four Winds, and why the Seven Dwarfs didn't walk around the fair.

As much as I love hearing about the fair my favorite track on the album was the one about Mary Blair.  Rolly is known for being one of the few people who was close to Walt Disney, but his friendship with Mary Blair is just as incredible to hear about.  In fact, I hope we get a whole volume of Mary Blair stories one day. (Are you reading this Jeff!?)

Speaking of Jeff, now that I think about it, he does have a very youthful face.  Even with a beard he could pass for 17.  Maybe he has more in common with Hocus Pocus Bette Midler than I thought.

Do we know if any kids went missing during The Communitour?

You can download the album for only $4.99 on amazon! What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Look What You Did You Little Jerk: The Time I Met Macaulay Culkin

Last night I saw Macaulay Culkin's band "The Pizza Underground" at the Hi Ho Lounge in New Orleans.  If you aren't familiar with them, they sing Velvet Underground songs, but change the lyrics to be about pizza.  You can listen to their demo here.

Like everyone else on the planet, I love Home Alone.  I saw it in the theater when I was 8 and have been a fan of Macaulay Culkin ever since. I live in Houston, so New Orleans is a 6 hour drive, but this was not something I was going to miss.  Two of our Houston friends; Eddie and Martha also wanted to go, so we all met up in New Orleans.

The Show:

We didn't realize it until the day of the show, but the Hi Ho Lounge had added a second earlier Pizza Underground show.  The doors for our show were supposed to open at 9:30 with the show starting at 10, but because of the early show everything was pushed back and we couldn't get in until after 10.  I think this made the crowd a little antsy, especially when there were two opening acts.  Neither Carte Blanche or Toby Goodshank played for very long, but the crowd talked over them the whole time.

There was a girl in the crowd who had made a giant pizza slice out of card board and attached it to her head band.  The crowd put up with her wearing it for the opening acts but before The Pizza Underground came on people started throwing paper at her and yelling for her to take it off.  She was close to the stage and was blocking everyones view.  Luckily The Pizza Undergrounds mascot "Anchovy Warhol" came out and told the girl she could either take it off or move to the corner.  She decided to move.  I thought it was really considerate of the band to do that.  After showing a video of various pizza related things on a screen at the back of the stage The Pizza Underground came out.  Macaulay Culkin asked the crowd "Hey, do you guys like pizza?" A couple band members went behind the screen and brought out at least 10 boxes of pizza handing them out to the crowd telling everyone to take a piece and pass it on.  Then The Pizza Underground started their set.

If you've listened to their demo it's only 9 minutes long.  If they would have come out, handed out the pizza and played for 15 minutes I really think the crowd would have been satisfied.  Instead they would leave the stage between songs and have someone else come out.  First it was one of the members from Carte Blanche who came out and rapped.  Macaulay's girlfriend came out and sang a poem that he had written for her.  One of the female members of Pizza Underground stayed on stage and sang a song by herself.  There was even a Nirvana tribute performer named Kurt Cobained under the band name "Nevermound" who sang Nirvava songs in the past tense (Come as you were).  The most bizarre of the side acts was Pussy Joel.  The band left the stage and a video of cats played on their projection screen while Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" played over the P.A. all while the hashtag #PussyJoel would randomly appear on the screen.  Like I said, I would have been fine with just 15 minutes of Pizza Underground, the side acts were a but much.

After the show the bar cleared out pretty quickly.  Within an hour there were probably 20 people left, with most of them standing at the bar.  Becky, Martha, Eddie, and I decided to hang around for a while to see if Macaualy Culkin would come out.  A couple girls kept one of the pizza boxes the band had passed out and had asked one of the guys who was helping break down the stage to have the band sign it.  He went backstage, had Macaulay sign it, then found the rest of the band and had them sign it too.  I had brought my childhood Talk Boy with me (my wife was carrying it in her purse) hoping we could get Macaulay to sign it.  Since the pizza box had been a success for the girls, Becky went over and asked him politely if he could ask Macaulay to sign the Talk Boy.  He was pretty excited "Man, I haven't seen one of those in a long time!"  Unfortunately though, he said he could not ask Mac to sign it.  He told us that he was the bands manager.  "But, when he comes out to leave, you can ask him to sign it."  That was good enough for us so we waited around a few more minutes to see if he would come out.  There was another girl who had been waiting near us, one of the bar backs came from backstage and told her that Macaulay had left.  Martha had heard the bartender tell someone that the band had been practicing their karaoke earlier, so we assumed they went to a karaoke bar.  When we left the Hi Ho Lounge, we saw one open bar across the street.  We decided to try our luck and check it out.

The Karaoke Bar:

Right when we walked into the bar I knew we were in the right place.  There was Anchovy Warhol, and next to him was Macaulay Culkin.  He was leaning against a pole in the middle of the bar.  I honestly don't think anyone in the bar realized he was there.  He was standing there by his manager and one of his bandmates watching people do karaoke.  When the manager saw Becky he waved her over.  He tapped Mac on the shoulder and said "Mac, this is my friend Becky."  He turned around, avoided eye contact, quickly shook her hand and turned back around.  I thought it was a really gracious move of their manager to introduce Becky as his friend, giving us an opportunity to ask him to sign the Talk Boy, especially if he thought it was for a friend of his manager.  Becky gently tapped him on the shoulder.  He did not stop looking at the stage (even though no one he knew was singing) but turned his ear slightly towards her.  Becky said "I really hate to bother you, but I have a Talk Boy in my purse and I was wondering if you could sign it for me."  Without looking at her he said "Nah, no, no.  I don't want to make a big deal."

Now, I am not an unreasonable person, I understand his thinking behind that.  Sure, you don't want to sign one autograph and get ambushed, but like I said before, no one was talking to him.

I have been waiting to meet this guy since I was 8 years old, and here I am 2 feet away from him, I'm not about to pass this chance up.  I did not want to not take up too much of his time, so I decided to offer to buy him a drink.  I tapped him on the shoulder and got the same slight head turn that he had given Becky.  "Mac, can I buy you a drink?"  He turned his head away from me, raised up a beer and said "Already have one."

Becky and I went back over to Eddie.  The three of us stood there like Charlie and Grandpa Joe at the end of Willy Wonka. "What did we do wrong?"

That's when I noticed Martha talking to a very drunk, very angry woman.

The Incident:

I walked over to Martha to tell her about our strike out.  That's when the angry woman (I never heard her name, but for the sake of this story lets call her Roxy) told me her story.  I had seen her at the Hi Ho while we were waiting for Macaulay to come out.  I had seen her go backstage.  She told me "I gave him $75 worth of mushrooms (I'm assuming they were from Whole Foods and were for putting on his pizza) and he didn't acknowledge or even thank me, just took them!" (I edited that a little, just drop an F bomb in wherever you want.)  Then she started yelling about how she was going to grab him by his pony tail and slam his head into that pole.  Becky and Eddie had still been standing over by him and saw us talking to Roxy so they came over to see what's up.  Eddie said the whole time he was over there that Macaulay had been bragging to his girlfriend about how how was the king of karaoke and how he was better than all these people.  Naturally this made Roxy even more angry.  Then Becky told her the talk boy story.  At this point Roxy was boiling and walked away.  We were standing around discussing how we should probably just leave before we are disappointed even more.  That's when I looked up and saw Roxy screaming in Macaulay Culkin's face.  Then she pointed over at us and started screaming at him even more.  I didn't know what to do, I just figured we should get out of there. I started walking towards the door, that's when Roxy grabbed Mac's head by his ponytail and bashed it into the pole he had been leaning against.  Anchovy Warhol and the manager jumped in-between them and yelled "Get her out of here!"  As the bouncer came to haul Roxy away, safe behind his 2 friends, Macaulay started egging Roxy on.  Arms out telling her to "come on" with an obnoxious smirk on his face.

Martha and I went outside to look for Roxy so we could find out what she said.  She was already in the back of someone's car, but saw us and came out.  First she had yelled at him about his lack of gratitude with her generous gift of mushrooms.  Then she told us she said "Those people came all the way from Houston to see you and you won't even sign something for them?!"  That's when she grabbed his ponytail.  "Then Andy Warhol shows up and I tell him F**K you Andy Warhol, Your'e washed up!"

The Conclusion:
Martha and I went back to the bar to find Becky and Eddie.  They were inside watching Mac's girlfriend rub his sore head.  It was almost 2 in the morning at this point so we decided it was best to leave.  As we were waiting for a cab to drive by, out came The Pizza Underground.  I thought to myself.  "This could have been one big misunderstanding, maybe Mac will see Becky (one of the only people who recognized him) his conscience will kick in and he will say "Hey, I'll sign that Talk Boy for you now."  That didn't happen thought.  As they walked past us I heard one of the members say "We'll just do Karaoke when we get back to New York, and we'll make sure to get a private room."  Then they crossed the street, got in their van and left.

Maybe he was drunk, maybe he had eaten Roxy's mushrooms and didn't want to be bothered.  The truth is though, you were in New Orleans to play a show, your name is on the ticket.  If you didn't want people talking to you maybe don't advertise it as a Macaualy Culkin show.  Let's be honest, he's the only reason anyone outside of Brooklyn knows who this band is.

I've played the night over in my had a million times at this point.  Was I overreacting?  Is he just short with people?  On stage he had been laughing and joking and seemed like a really pleasant guy.  I checked twitter and one guy had tweeted about seeing Roxy slam his head into that pole.  He also tweeted that Macaualy Culkin refused to take a photo with him.  So, the whole time he was in that bar  only a handful of people approached him and he was rude to all of them.  How hard is it to just be nice to someone who took time out of their day to support you and your band?  "I already have a drink right now, but thanks, maybe later."  "Find me when I leave and I'll sign your Talk Boy outside, I don't want to cause a scene." "Hey, Roxy, thanks for the mushrooms, they'll really add to the delicious factor of my next pizza!"  Just a few nice words and he could have avoided the whole thing.  If he would have just taken the slightest amount of effort I would be writing "I met Macaulay Culkin and it was the best night of my life!" instead of "I met Macaulay Culkin and I will probably never watch Home Alone again."

He had told Becky he didn't want to make a big deal by signing our Talk Boy, but by not signing it, that's exactly what he caused.

Gas to drive to New Orleans: $60
2 Tickets to see The Pizza Underground: $30
1 Night in a hotel: $200
Seeing a woman slam Macaulay Culkin's head into a pole: Priceless

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tales From The College Program: Guinea Pigs and Sorority Girls

You may find this hard to believe, but being a Disney Intern does not pay very well.  It was because of this, that Dan and I decided to find ways to some make extra money.  The easiest way we found was to sell our plasma.  There were a few draw backs to this though.

1. It only paid $15.
2. We had to pay $5 in tolls to get there.
3. It was 40 minutes away.
4. We had to sit in a waiting room with mostly homeless people for an hour.
5. Plus another hour in the chair with a needle the size of a Capri Sun straw in your arm
6. Dan took one of the plasma girls out on a date and never called her again.
7. The one time Dan's roommate Rickli came with us, he got violently ill in the CiCi's pizza bathroom afterwards.
8. One time they jammed the needle through my vein which gave me a hematoma that went from my shoulder to my wrist.

Eventually we found something much easier that not only paid more, but also fed us.  We became professional guinnea pigs.  Using the website gpgp.net (Guinnea Pigs Get Paid) Dan found out that we could make $1200 by simply staying at a resreach facility in Gainsville for the weekend.  The three of us signed up, passed the physical inspection and before we knew it, we were locked up with 20 other lab rats. 

Aside from Dan, Rickli, and I only 2 other people in the study spoke english.  They were girls our age that went to the Universty of Florida.  What they were doing there I have no idea, because they didn't look like your average guinea pig.  One of the girls even bragged about a time that she made out with Nick Carter at a bar. 

We checked into the facility on Friday morning, slept over Saturday and Sunday, then had to come back on Monday with our pee jug and poop journal for a final check up.  This study was for high blood pressure medication, to test the effects on someone with normal blood pressure.  It was also the only study we did that required us to pee in a jug and take notes on our bowel movements, but hey this story is supposed to be about a Sorority right?

We had become friendly with the Doctors who ran the facility and they knew we lived in Orlando.  They offered to let us stay at the facility Sunday night so we wouldnt have to drive back and forth to Gainsville for 6 hours on Monday.  We had nothing better to do so we took their offer.  One of the girls asked us if we had dinner plans for Sunday night, we did not so she invited us over to her sorority house for dinner.  We may have been guinnea pigs, but we weren't complete idiots, we accepted.

We had all day Sunday to ourselves, we grabbed our pee jugs and headed to the movie theater to see "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" then we snuck into "Euro Trip."  Spoiler alert, both movies are awful.  Our date with destiny was approaching so we headed back to the research lab to get ready for our big night.

Our host had told us to dress up, but when you know that for the next 3 days you're going to be peeing into a jug, wearing nice clothes isn't your number one priority.  I borrowed a shirt from Rickli and we left.  This was before GPS on phones and none of us had ever been to Gainsville before, so I have no idea how we found this sorority house.

As we approached the door we realzied that we didn't even know this girls name.  Who were we supposed to ask for if she didn't answer the door?  Eventually one of us knocked and a girl who wasnt Heather/Jennifer (pick your favorite sorority girl name) opened the door.  Luckily instead of asking who we were there to see, she asked for our names.  We passed the inspection and she had us sit in a holding area with some other dudes where she explained the rules to us.

Now, you may be thinking, "I've seen college movies, there are no rules!"  Well, this sorority had one, "Guys were only allowed on green carpet."  This meant we could be in the entry way, main room, or dining room, that's it.  When you got to the stairs the carpet changed colors.  After she was done explaining the rules Heather/Jennifer showed up and took us to the dining room.  It was huge!  I don't know how many walls they tore down, but this dining room felt like a school cafeteria. 

We sat down and were waiting for our food when one of the head girls stood up to make announcements.  Maybe I was extra hungry or tired of peeing in a jug, but the announcements went on forever.  After the head girl was done, guys from neighboring Fraternities would come to the front to say something along the lines of "Hey Ladies, I'm Brad and this is Chad we're from (insert frat name here) we are having a car wash/party/bake sale/t-shirt sale/(whatever frats guys do) coming up and we want to invite you/sell it to you/get you drunk!" This was always followed by squeals of excitement.

Finally the announcements were done, time to eat.  Nope, not yet.  Now all the girls had to introduce their guests.  The first girl stood up "This is Dave and Rick from (insert Frat name)."  The guys names were also followed by squeals and screams, but those were nothing compared to the noise made when it was announced "And guess what ladies...Theyre SIIIINNNNGGGLLLLLLEEEEEEE!"  The girls went nuts, apparently Sorority girls have a thing for single Frat guys.  Do you want to guess how the next Frat guy intoduction went?  The same, they just kept getting louder.

Dan, Rickli, and I looked at each other, we were all thinking the same thing.  We turned to Heather/Jennifer and said "You know, we're cool if you dont introduce us."  It was too late though, we had already been spotted.  Maybe the girls had screamed themselves tired, or maybe it was because Heather/Jennifer gave us the worst introduction ever, but the girls reaction to the three of us was worse than we had expected.

Heather/Jennifer half stood up and in one quick breath said "HeythisisDanRickliandDonnie" she started to sit down when she remembered she needed to tell these girls about our obvious relationship status. "oh yeah, theyre single."  She mumbled it even faster than she had said our names.  The sorority girls were not pleased, they did not squeal, the did not scream, the did not make a peep.

We ate our spaghetti as fast as we could, stood in the main family room long enough as to not appear ungrateful then got the hell out of there.  Since we spent the night at the research facility, we were the first ones checked out in the morning.  We took our checks and headed back to Orlando, we never saw Heather/Jennifer again.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Magic Bands & Rapid Fill Mugs

When I first heard about the Disney's Magic Band system I hated it.  Let's see if having spent the last week using one changed my mind.  I'll go over each function of the band and how well it worked for me.

Room Key:
The first time I used my Magic Band was to get into my hotel room, and it worked fine.  We ended up swithching rooms ( we had asked for one with a queen bed) and the front desk was able to update the room number in our bands without having to go to the front desk.  I had gone to the new room before we moved our luggage to make sure both bands worked, and they did.  Something happened in the time I went from the new room back to the old and my wife's band had stopped working.  The next morning she went to the front desk and had it reset, and this somehow caused mine to stop working.  After it was reset, both of us were able to access the room for the rest of the trip without a problem.
Park Passes:
The Magic Band also holds your park pass on it.  Just like with the key card, you still have to provide a finger print.  Everything you do with the Magic Band requires you tapping the Mickey on your band to a Mickey someplace else.  So, getting into the park you place your Mickey on a pole at the main gate, wait for the circle around Mickey's head to light up, then put your finger on the scanner.  If all goes correctly the lights around Mickey's head will turn green and you can enter the park.  This worked everytime for me.  On our second day my wife's band acted up again and it had to be reset by a Cast Member who was standing by.  They have done away with the old turnstyles and added 2 Magic Band stations in their place.  I wouldn't say this system is any better or worse than before.  Guests without Magic Bands tap their card againt one of the Mickey's which actually seemed to work a little faster because you have to line the Mickey on the band with the Mickey head at the gate the right way to get it to read.
Making Purchases:
So far the Magic Band acts just like a wearable room key, and like the room key, it can be used to make putchases.  When you check into your hotel they will ask you to select a pin number for your charges, this way if you lose your band no one else can make charges with it.  This was the part of the band that caused me the most trouble.  Every register in all of Walt Disney World now has a Magic Band reader.
Just like when entering the parks, you hold the Mickey on your band to the Mickey on the machine and wait for it to turn green.  After that you type in your pin number and you're good to go.  I had a problem with this at least once a day.  One time the problem was with the machine itlsef not reading, but most of the time after I entered my pin the machine would say "Thank You" and nothing would happen.  The Cast Member would have to start over, and if it didn't work the second time I would just get out my credit card.  When it works though,  it's actually very convenient.  At the end of your trip Disney emails you an invoice of everything you charged and even who's Magic Band made the purchase. 
Fast Pass+:
Planning your days in advance was the part of the Magic Band I hated the most when I first read about it.  I did not want to plan out my entire trip before I was even in Florida.  I later realized that was not how it works, it's actually pretty awesome.  I had not ridden Toy Story Mania in years because I did not want to waste my precious "no wait morning hours" on Hollywood Studios.  With Fast Pass + though I can get a Fast Pass for Toy Story, Tower of Terror and Star Tours without even entering the park.  All you have to do it open the "My Disney Experience" app and select the park and attractions you want.  You can even change your Fast Passes for a different attarction or park after you've made your selection.  Every attraction now has it's own fast Pass + line.  They use the same Mickey reader as the main gate.  I did not have any problem with the Magic Band when it came to Fast Passes.  I did miss one of my times because Fantasyland was closed during the fireworks.  Instead of lighting up green, the Mickey lit up blue, but the Cast Member let me go through, she even fixed the status on a nearby computer so when I got to the second station it was back to green.  Using Fast Passes on your band is similar to using the paper ones, you tap the band once at the entrance, then again before you board.

My Disney Experience:
My Disney Experience is the app used to make all of your plans.  You can make dining reservations, select your Fast Passes, and even check wait times for attractions.  The app did crash on Thanksgiving day for a while, maybe there were too many people trying to use it.  Other than that it worked fine.  I do wish they would send push notifications to your phone telling you when you had a Fast Pass available, I kept having to open the app and check.  I would also like to see them cut down on some of the options.  Right now there are too many menus in the app, and I feel like some of the could be combined for a better user experience.

As much as I hate to say it, I like the Magic Bands.  I will miss my beloved key cards, but if they can fix all the small issues with the cards, I think people will enjoy them.  I am worried about what they will do to ticket prices in the future.  Even if the bands are cheap to make, they still have to mail them across the country.  I think they should find a way to charge people for the bands, but also have a free option that uses the plastic bracelets they used to use for Not so Scary and Very Merry. 

Disney has already started making Magic Band related merchandise.  Seriously, I can't find anything with Mr. Toad on it, but this shirt was made?

Plus, all sorts of Magic Band accessories.

Now onto this new mug system.
Rapid Fill Mugs:
I assume everyone is familiar with Disney's resort mugs.  You pay $12 for a platic mug that you can use at the drink stations in your resort for the duration of your trip.  I will admit that I am guilty of throwing my mug in my suitcase and using it on my next trip.  It's not my fault that they havent changed the design on the mug for years.  Do they expect me to buy the same exact mug twice a year?  The answer is yes.  Apparently Disney saw reusing mugs as a big enough issue that they have overhauled the whole system.
My wife went to buy breakfast one morning and decided to purchase a mug.  The Cast Member asked how many days she was staying, my wife thought she was just being friendly.  When she said 6 days the Cast Memeber took her mug and placed it on a machine to activate it.  Then told her it would be $17.99

This is the same picture I posted earlier, but the machine in the back is the one used to activate the mugs.  They set the mug on top then select the number of days.
When she told me about this new day charge I decided to get a mug but say I was only staying for 2 days.  The price of my mug was $11.99.  I figured this was some new sort of honor system, but I was wrong.  When I went to fill up my mug, this is what I saw.
There was a new digital display on the soda fountain.  There are also plastic trays under every selection that you have to set your cup on before it will start dispensing.  If you do not set the cup down, you will see this message.

After you set your mug down on the tray the display changes to show you how many more days you can use your mug, and  how much soda is left with this refill.  When the digital mug is full, you have to wait to get more.
Lets say you try to pull a fast one and  fill up your mug then pour the contents into your friends older mug.  The Rapid Refill system is set up to where you can only refill your mug every 3 minutes.  My wife ran into this problem when one of the machines was broken.  She walked over to a different machine and this message was on the screen.
This all seems completely ridiculious to me.  Were so many people bringing back their old mugs that Disney needed to trash all the old one, buy new high tech mugs, then spend millions of dollars updating every soda machine in the resorts?  They are sending out free Magic Bands to thousands of people everyday!

You might be wondering what I did after my 2 days were up.  Turns out there is a way to cheat the system (for now).  Only the soda fountains are set up with the Rapid Fill system, you can still get all the free tea, coffee, and hot chocolate you want.  I should also mention that the mug is your only option for getting a fountain drink in the resorts now.  There are no more cardboard/styrofoam cups avaialble unless you are drinking coffee.
I rode Small World on this trip and it was a mess;  missing dolls, broken animatronics, and dirty carpets. Who at Disney makes these crazy decisions? "Should we fix the problems we have with attractions, nah, let's find a way to make more money off of these resort mugs!"


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ultimate Willy Wonka!

The Alamo Drafthouse is pretty much my favorite place on earth (after Disney Theme Parks of course).  If you are not familiar with The Alamo Drafthouse, it is a small ( but growing) theater chain built for movie lovers.  First of all you can order food from your seat and eat it during the movie.  This is done by writing down what you want and placing it in a rail for a waiter to pick up.  The theater itself looks like this.

If you look carefully, I'm actually in this photo.

Aside from the eating/drinking and their awesome no talking or texting policy,(or that they own Mondo) The Alamo Drafthouse holds some amazing events.  I have seen Rushmore with Jason Schwartzman and The Breakfast Club with Anthony Michael Hall.  Both stars hung out before the show to talk to fans and participated in a Q&A after their film. The most recent event I attended was a screening of Willy Wonka with the original Veruca Salt and Mike Teevee in attendance.

Not only were some of the films stars there to answer questions, but everyone in the audience was given a bag of goodies to use during the film.  There were bubbles for the fizzy lifting drink scene, dryer sheets to make the theater smell like a laundry for "Cheer up Charlie."  We had champagne poppers for when the great glass elevator bursts through the ceiling, streamers to throw during "I Want it Now" and of course, lots of candy.

Before the film started Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) and Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) came out to introduce themselves and say a few words.  Julie came back during the movie to pantomime her "I Want it Now" sequence, which the crowd went crazy for.  When the movie was over, they came back out to answer questions from the audience.  Julie talked about how her and Denise Nickerson (Violet) both had crushes on Peter Ostrum (Charlie) and would switch off days holding his hand.  Paris said that since he was younger and kind of a brat they wanted nothing to do with him.  

Paris is mostly bald, so of course someone asked if it was because of Gene Wilder pulling his hair in the "Pure Imagination" scene.  He laughed and said they had to do that part 9 times.  Julie talked about how Roy Kinnear (the man who played her father) taught her a trick for getting paid extra and being in more shots.  He showed her how he elbowed people and leaned into the scene so he would be seen on camera.  This ensured he would get paid for being on camera but also appear in the film more.  I had given my wife Becky a pretty good question to ask, but when Julie looked over and was about to pick her, they were told time was up.  There was another movie starting soon so they had to wrap things up.  Julie shrugged at Becky and mouthed "sorry."

After the screening we were all given a Willy Wonka poster singed by Julie and Paris.

After everyone had left the theater, Becky and I waited around to see if we could say hello to Julie and Paris.  We ended up walking outside at the same time they did.  I went up to Julie and thanked her for coming and told her how much I had enjoyed it.  Paris came up to us and I thanked him as well.  Julie recognized Becky and said "You had a question that we did not get to, what was it?"  Becky asked the question I had been wondering my whole life.  What is a bean feast?  In "I Want it Now"  Veruca says "I want a feast, I want a bean feast!"  As a kid I always thought, "Who wants a feats made entirely of beans?"  Turns out, that's not what it is at all.  A bean feast has nothing to do with beans.  Julie told us that it is like a harvest festival where you have the best of everything.  She went into more detail about it, but I was so excited to be standing next to Veruca Salt I don't even remember what else she said.

After that we parted ways.  Julie and Paris were both very friendly and since they had stopped to talk to us I did not want to bother them more and ask for a photo.  Maybe next year!