Welcome to the Disney Culinary Program

Yesterday was insane. So insane, in fact, that I needed to sleep before I could even relive it in blog form. Of course, I’m sure the 20 year olds don’t feel that way. I rarely “feel” my age but yesterday it was apparent.

After leaving my hotel very early and arriving at the airport, I headed straight to baggage claim. At first, the situation seemed bleak but then, voila! My lost bag (and Keurig) had arrived and was being stored in back. I loaded the 50-pound bag of love onto my cart and proceeded to the Mears Shuttle Service ticket window which, was closed. ARRRRRG. I wanted to arrive at Vista Way early and that was now looking like an impossibility. I then wandered out to where the shuttles were sitting and found a chartered driver who was willing (nee thrilled) to take me to Vista Way and pocket the $21 cash.

When I arrived at the apartment complex I didn’t even recognize it. I was last there 23 years ago. At that time, it was a brand new complex. Now, it’s the oldest of the bunch and about 3x bigger. The college program has also exponentiated. When I checked in in 1989, there was a line of maybe 10 people. As I pulled up, waiting outside, was a line of about 100. And I was EARLY. The shuttle driver dropped me off, helped me with my luggage and was on his merry way, with just a little more cash in his pocket. I stored my bags and joined the queue. After chatting with the lady handing out temporary name tags, I learned that there were about 500 College Programmers checking in that day and only about 30 Culinary Programmers.

As we moved through the line, and into the building, I was impressed with the organization. It was efficient. We did our initial check in and then moved around where we went through some legal paperwork. Then there was an over 21/under 21 station, then into housing where we were able to request which complex we’d like to live in and how many rooms. I initially requested Patterson Court, the newest of the complexes but only 3 bedrooms were available. That would mean 5 roommates, something I wanted to avoid. At first the one-bedroom hope seemed thwarted but then after I jokingly explained that I was old and wanted a quiet, drama-free apartment, the gal walked away and checked with a supervisor, who was able to release a one-bedroom at Chatham Square. YES!!!!  Even though Chatham isn’t as new as Patterson, I’ve heard good things about it.  It was an okay sacrifice to only have one roommate.  Only one chance for crazy.  I was then sent to pick up my key, sign more legal work and then inline to have my housing ID taken.  That’s another big difference here.  The security.  In 1989 there was none.  Zilch.  Anyone could stay with you, anyone could get on the employee vans, anyone could be snuck into the parks.  Now it’s a tighter ship.  Now there are apartment inspections and housing IDs that must be shown when you board a bus (though I’ve already noticed some drivers not checking).  Now there are checkpoints at the apartment complex entrances and no cars allowed without a permit.  In fact, today I have a 2- hour housing meeting that is all rules and nothing but rules.  As an adult, I love that but I can imagine the kids feel a bit more annoyed with the structure.

Anyway, after getting my housing ID, I headed out to a bus that was taking us to Central Casting.  Another new thing.  I had never been in that building.  It’s beautiful.  Truly.  Here we spent about 2 hours going from one department to another.  First there was a lecture on the Disney Look.  It’s big here.  Then we were on to Training Coordinators who finished off our I-9 paperwork and gave us our training schedules for the next few days.  This took a while as they are adjusting to a new system.  Then we set up for direct deposit or payroll cards.  Finally we were around to background checks and finger printing.  Working the finger printing machine was a cross-dressed man who reminded me a bit of Norman Bates at the end of Psycho, though his hair may have been real.  Disney…. we won’t let you men grow a goatee or wear earrings or spike your hair.  But gosh golly if you want to dress like a woman, feel free.  Just make sure that your earrings are no larger than quarters and your fingernail polish is French manicured.  I have to admit, though.  I’m proud to work for a company that is okay with that – even if I suspect he wouldn’t be allowed outside of the Central Casting.

After finger printing was done, we were back on the bus and headed back to Vista Way to pick up our bags and catch another bus to our assigned apartments.  When I arrived at Chatham, I was happy enough with the way it looks.  It’s very Floridian and huge but nice.  I went to my apartment – a one-bedroom that’s about the size of a postage stamp.  Plain, white walls, blah.  This doesn’t bother me though – and so far I was the only one here.  I went to the bedroom and began unpacking my bags.  When I opened the bag with the coffee pot, it was apparent why it had been delayed.  There was a nice little note from the TSA about searching it.  I’m okay with searching but they had destroyed it.  Everything was a mess and my little jar of Truvia had been opened but not well closed.  Little white granules were all over everything.  I totally understand why an x-ray would have necessitated searching – a Keurig might not look like a Keurig when scanning.  I’m even okay with the delay.  But I’m not happy with the state they left the bag in.  Annoyed to say the least.  Nonetheless I finished unpacking and there was a knock at the door.  When I opened it, I was surprised to see a grown woman standing there with her bags. My new roommate, Claudia.  She was like a gift.  Turns out she’s 42 and from Mexico City, though she’s been living in Illinois for 14 years.  She’s just finishing up at Le Cordon Bleu Chicago.  She left a husband and 5-year-old son (Maximiliano) behind and is just so sweet.  We hit it off immediately.  I’d like to kiss whoever set that up at the housing office.  When she arrived she also mentioned that in the parking lot, a kid who was moving out had offered to sell her a TV for $15 and he’d be along to deliver it soon.  Now I wanted to kiss her.  Sure enough in a few minutes there was a knock on the door and a young man brought in a big, clunky television.  It used to be in one of the resorts and he bought it from Disney for $15 when he moved in.  Jackpot!

Once we were unpacked, we needed to go to Walmart.  There are a lot of things that you need and that are not provided.  And we were hungry.  It was now 2:00 p.m. and aside from a granola bar and a bag of skittles, I had had no food since Whatburger at 8:30 a.m. the day before.  So we walked to the bus stop to catch the Walmart/Publix/Post Office bus.  It’s a fairly long bus as Walmart isn’t really close but that’s what we’ve got.  I won’t complain about buses – I’m just so thankful they offer them.

At Walmart we stocked up on food and supplies and ended up with way more than we should have been carrying.  But between the two of us, a large laundry basket and Claudia’s rolling dolly we finally got it all home.  By this time it was almost 6:00 and we were starving.  We quickly whipped up a roasted chicken, broccoli and rice and really tried not to scarf it down.  After dinner was cleaned up we set up our wireless internet and settled in for the night.  Yesterday was supposed to be a running day for me but I just didn’t think I’d had the calories or rest to pull it off.

At bedtime, we found out the biggest downside of all to these apartments.  The mattresses.  Actually, they’re more like blue plastic pads.  Mattress isn’t the right word.  They’re terrible.  They’re hard (painfully hard), they make noise every time you move.  In less than 15 minutes, I could feel my back seizing up and was forced to migrate to the couch.  Not great but better and I slept like a rock for about 8 1/2 hours.  I’m going to have to buy a good mattress topper if I want to move back to a bed.  But I’m going to have to wait until the next trip to Walmart – and maybe the next paycheck to do it.

All in all it was a good day but so physically and emotionally taxing.  Today is mostly a day off.  I have a housing meeting at 10:00 but that is the only thing on the schedule.  Not sure what we’ll do after that.  For now, I’m going to post this and go for a run.  Hope I don’t get lost.

Thanks for following.  This post was long, I know, but so was my day.  They probably will be more brief from here on out.  I miss so many of you.  Come see me in Florida!


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