Monday, November 15, 2010

A Story. A Long, Rambling, Random Story.

So last week was the three year anniversary of mine and Luke's first date. We like to keep track of the little things. :-) And I actually intended to post this last week, but, well, life happens. Anyway.

Before everyone tunes out, no, this is not the story of our first date. Although we both agree that we really out to write down the details somewhere before we forget them, I'm not really one to get particularly mushy-gushy on the blog-o-sphere so . . . yeah. Not happening. However, today's story (brought to you by the letters L and L and the number 3) 1~ is slightly related. 2~ is (I think) an amusing enough diversion for a small chunk of time for those who don't know it, and 3~ will likely be a pleasantly traumatizing walk down memory lane for those who do know it. Traumatizingly pleasant perhaps? One of the two.

So. Luke and I met, as I'm pretty sure everyone knows by now, in Florida. Whilst working at Disney World. And it was grand. (No, really, it was . . . most days . . . ) Now it just so happened that by sheer coincidence that first date took place at an exceedingly frightening, nay, terrifying time of year. What was it, you ask? It was -

Super Soap Weekend

*insert freaky screechy music here*

At this point you, the reader, have had one of two reactions. 1) Cringing in terror and repressed memories. 2) Asking "what the crap is Super Soap Weekend?"

For group number 2:
Super Soap Weekend (hereafter SSW) is . . . well, was one weekend every September when bunches of stars from ABC soap operas descended on Disney World (specifically, the Studios . . . where we worked) to meet the fans, sign some autographs, take pictures, and basically film a bunch of promos for WDW. There are Q&A sessions and motorcades and Mickey and Minnie have special costumes, and it's not all that unlike SWW (Star Wars Weekends . . . I really ought to just make that glossary already!)

Sounds harmless, right? And SWW are pretty harmless. Sure, it's safe to assume everyone you see is some level of Star Wars geek (and before you mock, just remember those are my people you're talking about!) but nobody's really expecting Mace Windu to go home with them. Well, except perhaps Linda Skywalker. But she is a crazy story for another day.

However, back to the main story. When it comes to SSW . . . well, this is where the crazies come out. And it is not pretty.

For starters, Disney has these things they call ECVs. It stands for something unendingly clever and explanatory that I've forgotten, but never fear, once Eric comments he'll cement his know-it-all status by ending the suspense for all of us. :-) (you know I love ya Eric, right?) Anyway, it's a massive, bulky, ugly motorized chair, much like the ones you see at Walmart. Bet you can see where this is going - think of the average person you see using them at Walmart. Yep. While there are plenty of people who use them at Disney because they need them - Grandma got one when she came to visit . . . I think she might have still been wearing that boot thing - the majority of the people who get them . . . how do I put this politely . . . oh, I know! Most of the people you see in ECVs mowing people down all throughout WDW epitomize the reason one of my roommates managers referred to them as "manatee movers." A term I came to love almost as much as touron, believe you me!

'Kay, so now you've got a picture in your head of who's riding in these things, now get this - each park is well supplied with their own stock of manatee movers. Pretty much the only time they might run out is around Christmas. But for SSW, all three of the other parks ship a good chunk (I've heard up to half) of their inventory to the Studios because otherwise there won't be enough. In fact, they might still run out! The horror! The horror!

And to say these are rabid soap fans does not begin to describe it. As one of my favorite trainers put it, these are women who've scarcely moved off their couch for decades because they've been glued to the TV watching these soaps. (well that explains why they're spilling over both sides of those things!) And yet, somehow they're convinced that when they come down here and finally meet their darling Quinn VanderSnodgrassEnHofferMan (because that's who it is . . . these shows are real life, and those people are not actors!) he is going to be just so taken with her that he will follow her home and be her willing love slave forever and ever and ever.

I know, you think I'm joking. I only wish I was. Fact: physical fights have broken out over spots in line to get a ticket to stand in another line - a "standby" line in which one may or may not get fifteen seconds of face time with soap star X, a pre-signed (i.e. pre-stamped) photo, and if you're really lucky a hastily taken picture of the lucky ticket holder and soap star X. Security has to be called for these women who are contemporaries of my mother and grandmothers!! How crazy is that?!?!

And the lines - oy! They start lining up at the front gate of the park at, like, 4:00 in the morning - and that's only because Disney won't let them camp out over night! Can I just say, that much devotion to a TELEVISION SHOW and, more importantly, that much disconnect from reality is, quite frankly, terrifying.

But to add to all that craziness, they actually shut down Backlot to use the area for autographs for the weekend. (they meaning the park execs, not the crazed, delusional fans. And, well, it's not like anybody goes on that ride anymore anyway.) And they make the Backlot cast do crowd control for the autograph lines. This would be the time of year that I was always most thankful that I was trained at the playground and LMA so I could wouldn't have to touch that job with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole. Of course, that didn't always work. You see, at the playground they wear these horribly ugly yellow shirts. And since there's only a handful of people wearing them for the playground on any given day, whenever there's any sort of event going on, that's what the event people wear too. Which can only lead to trouble.

Here's the scene: November, 2006. My friend (Mike) and I have only been working at Disney for about two and a half months. I was lucky enough to be off, but Mike had to work . . . at the playground. In the yellow shirt. That everyone else is wearing that day. The people keeping you (yes, you!) away from your one true soul mate Quinn VanderSnodgrassEnHofferMan, or perhaps his evil twin. Or even more evil triplet. Anyway, as Mike tells it, this crazy lady was talking to him, when she suddenly puts two and two together - people wearing yellow shirts can walk right up to any of these stars they want. She needs a yellow shirt! So, naturally, she demands that Mike gives her his shirt. He laughs it off . . . one of those "heh, heh, you're crazy so I'm not going to make any sudden movements" type laughs and says no. She comes at him all, "give me your shirt!" He's backing up, still kind of thinking she's joking . . . until she has two buttons undone and is going for more. Yeah, she was totally going to physically take his shirt away in order to get close to all the soap stars. To this day I find this story ridiculously frightening . . . but I still crack up every time. That's just kind of how it is. People come into the break room saying "you will not believe what just happened out there!" And you listen to the story, and you're completely shocked and horrified and glad it wasn't you . . . and half an hour later everyone, including the storyteller, is cracking up and dramatically reenacting the whole scene every time someone new comes in. Good times.

Hands down best story, though - and this is another that still makes me laugh every time. My friend (Mary), in either '06 or '07 got the assignment of being an escort for Susan Lucci. Now for those who don't know (which, I hope, is everyone but Eric and Ian and Kayla) Susan Lucci is kind of a big deal. She's been on whatever show she's on since, like, before I was born. And apparently she's kind of a diva, at least during SSW. She has to ride with Mickey in the motorcade, and she has to have this spot for autographs, and blah, blah, blah, whatever. So anyway. Mary's in the bathroom, washing her hands. Chatting with some random CM (cast member . . . so doing that glossary) who's also working SSW. Just random stuff, what their assignments are, how it's going, whatever. Mary mentions she's with Susan Lucci. Other chick asks her how that's going. Among other things Mary says, "she's a lot more wrinkly in person than she looks like on TV." (I'm sure you can all see where this is going.) Toilet flushes. Door opens. And out comes . . . yep, Susan Lucci. Awkward!!! Mary says she felt kind of dumb, but she was laughing about it by a day or two later. Good times, kids, good times.

Of course, SSW 2008 was the last time they held it at WDW . . . I think they finally came to their sense about having all these crazy old ladies invading every year. So now it's held in a new city every year. I think. That was the plan, but it might have just died out or something. I really don't know. But coming full circle, our first date was the Saturday of SSW 2007. Needless to say we stayed far away from the Studios. Well, sort of. We went to Japan . . . in Epcot. And it was awesome.

The end.

P. ost S. cript
Holy crap, people actually watch these shows? And think they're realistic? That is not a positive commentary on the state of humanity. That said . . . kinda funny . . . as in laughing-at-how-obviously-painful-to-spit-out-these-lines it is for the actors. :-)


  1. Susan Lucci = All My Children. I shouldn't know that, should I? Does this mean you got to meet Luke and Laura? Good thing I'm not crazy enough to have formerly known about SSW. I merely grew up on the shows...

  2. Yes, actually . . . sort of. The first year I was there (2006) was Luke and Laura's 25th wedding anniversary so there was a whole big special to-do on Friday (Friday doesn't usually have anything special connected with SSW). I didn't actually meet them myself, but I saw both actors up on a stage at this big old panel discussion or whatever they were doing that evening.

  3. Nope, not still in the boot thingy. Just had trouble walking for very long. We watched Days of our Lives back in the dark ages (probably 30-years ago or so). Did you know if you tutn it on now it is exacly the same as then. I haven't watched in 30-35 years, but in going by it hasn't changed, same people doing the same thing. Love Grandma

  4. Okay I had to start writing my comments down to make sure I would forget them as I finished reading your post. So first, if i am correct, I am the one who introduced you to touron. Which I am very proud of to this day. Number 2: I love the term manatee movers. The majority of people in this things are of the larger variety that would probably benefit from the exercise if they actually walked around a place as big as WDW instead of using the movers. And 3: LOVE LOVE LOVE your allusion to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

  5. Yeah, I'm pretty much stuck on manatee movers. I love manatees, but the animals are large and slow because they're supposed to be that way. It would never occur to me to use a power chair to get around Disney just because I'm fat. Aren't the blistered feet supposed to be part of the whole Disney experience? Like backpacking, only with rides.

  6. Unfortunately, i don't have any clever meanings for the acronym "ECV", all I have is the real name, which is rather boring ... Electric Convenience Vehicle.

    (now ... EPCOT, yeah, I've got some good meanings for that acronym, my 2 favorites being Every Person Comes Out Tired, and, of course, Every Paycheck Comes On Thursday ... anyways, I digress)

    Don't forget about King Tall being run over by an ECV and having to be on modified duty for a week.

    I remember picking up a convention shift at AK on the night before SSW, just to put me into double back for the next day, figuring that if I'm going to have to work that stupid event, at least I should be paid well for it. I even mentioned it to a certain manager* who said that due to his position, he couldn't support this, but that if her were in my shoes, he would've probably done the same thing (and it wasn't his labor budget anyways)

    (* said manager shares a last name with Santa ... and I ran into him at Epcot today)

  7. Grandma - I heard this awesome joke way back in the day:

    A couple of little old ladies were chatting one day, and one of them mentions a soap opera.
    "Oh, I used to love that show!" the other little old lady says. "I haven't watched it in at least 40 years. Can you catch me up on what's going on?"
    "Well," says the other little old lady, "it's later that same day . . . "

    Sarah - it was either you or my friend Justin, who worked at Yellowstone for a summer . . . apparently people are just as stupid when they go to national parks as when they go to theme parks. And I'm glad someone appreciates my allusions. :-)

    Cyd - I sometimes feel bad about using the term manatee movers. It's so harsh on the manatees.

    Eric - my personal favorite will always be Experimental Polyester Costumes of Terror. And I totally missed the story of King Tall. Dare I ask just how that one happened?! Also - that totally sounds like Clause . . . I can count the managers I miss on one hand with fingers (plural!) left over, and he's one of them.

  8. As I remember, he was trying to walk behind one ... a good 5 or 6 feet behind it, when the driver somehow put it in reverse and raced backwards for no apparent reason, hitting Aaron in the ankle. When you combine the 100 lb weight of the ECV, plus the 500 lbs that was on top of it, that makes for one painful collision with one's ankle.