real lj idol | week 18 | 1710 words
Take inspiration from a current LJ Idoler.
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Not everyone was lucky enough to work at the Magic Kingdom, so Bob was pleased that he got hired. The interview had gone well, and the benefits were good. He figured this could be a whole new chapter in his life.
Bob started work on a Monday, which at first just consisted of orientation and training. There were dos and don'ts, but all of them centered around each employee doing his or her part to keep the magic running smoothly and invisibly for the park's thousands of daily visitors.
After a week, he had a sense of the most of the low-level behind-the-scenes jobs, and how to conduct them in the most unobtrusive, efficient way possible. He knew the backdoor routes through most of the park, and where things like janitorial supplies were hidden. He knew the general structure of various shift routines, and how to keep from getting behind.
The atmosphere was cheerful, if loud. It wasn't just the customers—various areas had their own backgrounds of theme music (the teacup ride in Fantasyland could make a grown man weep, and there always seemed to be something playing in the vicinity of Liberty Square). Still, it was part of the package, and overall, that package was pretty good.
There were free beverages at break time, and an assortment of small snacks ranging from fresh fruit to pretzels and cookies. Bob went for the coffee and chocolate-chip cookie every time. Where else could you get warm cookies for free, on a daily basis? Was Disney World an awesome place to work, or what?
For the time being, Bob was a cleaner—one of those guys who went around with a dustpan and broom and cleared away old napkins and spilled popcorn in the blink of an eye. It wasn't the most challenging job he'd ever had but he kept his area of the park relentlessly tidy, and he took no small amount of pride in it.
The pay was decent, at least until Bob's roommate announced he was moving back to Philadelphia.
Well, I probably don't really need a two-bedroom apartment anyway, Bob thought. I could find a one-bedroom or a studio closer to work, save some money.
It only took him one day to find something suitable. He gave the landlord notice, and started packing boxes in his spare time. The change felt freeing somehow, as if he were casting off useless, old habits. Well, why not?
Two weeks later, the landlord had a new tenant who was ready to move in early. Bob didn't mind—he'd already packed most of his stuff, and could be out within a day. He phoned the manager at the new apartment complex to see if something was available earlier.
The number had been disconnected. Bob drove over to the building, which was festooned with Condemned banners.
Damn it! Now he was stuck. He had to find someplace else to live, somewhere that wouldn't bankrupt him during his slow crawl up the company ladder. His old landlord had nothing to offer him, and new places just weren't coming open.
His move-out date got closer and closer. It seemed as if he should be more bothered about it, but he was doing all he could, and work kept him awfully busy. He'd just have to make do.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the Post Office would not deliver mail to your car—not even if you parked it at the same place every day. That seemed kind of unreasonable, but you couldn't fight the system. Bob decided that a post-office box was good enough. He wouldn't be getting as much mail as he used to, anyway.
He showered at work and took his meals at a mini-mart. He jumped at the chance to fill in on other people's shifts, because there was nothing going on back at the car except reading by flashlight and sleeping.
The company interpreted it as initiative, which they valued. They promoted him to one of the supervisor positions for the janitorial night-shift.
Bob liked working days better than nights, but the promotion was good. By the time morning came each day, he made sure the Mouse Kingdom was gleaming. When he picked up his paycheck two weeks later he also realized he could afford a wider range of rental prices on apartments. By the end of the week, he had a new place to live. The monthly rent was low enough to free him from needing a roommate, and from being vulnerable to that roommate's potential midlife-crisis whims.
Everything was smooth sailing until he got so short of breath one day that he went to see the doctor.
"Pre-diabetic," the doctor pronounced. "Your weight is up, and you're headed for a host of serious secondary problems. You need diet and exercise, and you've got to cut back on the sugar immediately. Nurse Simmons will come in and talk to you about nutrition after I'm done."
Bob tried to take the news in. His pants had been getting tight around the middle, but he'd been so busy. Who had time to focus on things like that?
Well, he'd just have to do as the doctor said. He went home and cleared all the junk food and sweets out of his apartment. Then he went out for a walk.
It was hard passing up the treats at work, but he brought in carrot sticks and celery for break time and sandwiches for lunch. He felt a little grumpy from time-to-time, but diets would do that to you, and he noticed that his clothes were getting looser.
Sometimes, he took off his name badge and went out for a stroll during part of his lunch or break. It felt good to stretch his legs, and if he kept to the back ways enough it was less crowded. He mostly just saw the Cast Members and crew.
Minnie waved to him one day, behind City Hall.
"Hi, Minnie," Bob said. The characters weren't allowed to talk—it spoiled the magic—and he had no idea who was actually inside the suit. But a friendly face was always welcome, even one made out of foam. It did the trick. Even the birds in the trees suddenly seemed to be singing louder.
The good feeling didn't last. Each day seemed more hectic than the one before, and Bob started to ask himself whether large-scale janitorial service was really what he wanted to be doing with his life. Was this honestly where he'd hoped to be?
A week later, he was out walking around after the park closed and he spotted Mickey up ahead. Bob was feeling curious, so he followed Mickey for a while. The Mouse went about his business, wandering down Main Street and looking in the windows, and stopping to polish a mailbox with his handkerchief. Bob thought it was strange that he didn't take the head off—it had to be hard to see through the eyeholes—and what about the gloves? They were huge, foamy and clumsy. How could anyone even pick things up with those gloves on?
Bob wondered who was wearing the Mickey suit. He spent most of his time in Frontierland, where Mickey rarely made an appearance. Bob had met a few of the people who did Cast Members there—two of the Brer Rabbits, and one of the Brer Bears. But no Mickey.
Maybe this was someone new, who was trying to get a feel for the character. Not a bad idea, he thought. Not a bad choice, either—the costume was classic Mickey all the way, right down to the red shorts and the yellow shoes.
Mickey turned toward him then, and Bob suddenly felt as if he were intruding. He waved as casually as he could, and headed back toward the supply office. He still had the rest of his shift to finish.
He meant to ask some of the more senior employees whether they'd ever seen anything similar, but it was a busy night. The next day, he went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment, and the news pushed the whole thing farther out of his mind:
"You're no longer pre-diabetic," the doctor told him. "Your blood pressure has dropped, too. Whatever you're doing is working, so stick with it."
Bob had lost twenty pounds by then, and he liked the exercise. It helped him deal with the occasional rough day at work.
The following day was one of those: two people called in sick for work, and the park was filled with angry Fast Pass holders and frustrated maintenance people after Splash Mountain broke down late in the day. By break time, Bob felt he'd earned a cookie. Not all the cookies, nothing crazy like that, but just one wouldn't hurt him.
It tasted every bit as good as he remembered.
The rest of the day ran smoother. Bob pitched in on the cleaning crew, and he heard rumors that Splash Mountain would be ready by morning. By the end of the week, one of the day supervisors had quit, and Bob applied for the job and got it. Things were definitely looking up.
He thought he saw the shadow of giant mouse ears near the Crystal Palace one night, when he was leaving after one of his final night shifts. But he decided he was imagining it. The park was full of Mickey Mouse hats anyway—they were sold in practically every single store.
The morning of his first day-shift was beautiful. Florida was entering its best season, and the air was soft and not too muggy.
There were already plenty of customers in the park as Bob headed toward Main Street. He passed crying children being led toward the exit by their parents (the little ones always cried when they left) and families that were just coming in. You could spot the kids who were there for the first time, just by the wide-eyed wonder on their faces alone.
Bob smiled and continued on, his steps light and his head high. Life was good. This really was the Happiest Place on Earth, and he was thrilled to be part of it.
It was all truly some kind of special magic.
My inspiration for this story was impoetry, who got a job at Disney World last year. But every other facet of the story is pretty obviously fictional.