The summer before my college internship, I spent a lot of time on Myspace. Does anyone even remember that site? They had a group for future CPs and everyone would say their name, where they were from, and what job they had. The point was to find someone you got along with so that you could room together. I was an operations member (meaning I was the one who told you to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle… “Por favor mantengase alejado de los puertas…”) and I spoke to a few people, but for the most part, I decided to just roll the dice and see what I got when it came to my roommates.
Before I knew it, I started to say my goodbyes. My friends were all very excited for me and promises to send pictures and updates were frequently made. The only pause I had was leaving Peter. We spent that summer together on his boat, fishing (he did most of the fishing. I sunbathed) or at the beach. Looking back, it was one of the best summers of my entire life, but of course there is an expiration date on everything and it seemed as if ours was rapidly approaching. Those Myspace pages also talked about couples who didn’t make it through the college program due to distance and he assured me that we would not be one of them. Part of me was so sure he was right but the other part of me knew him. I knew that he was the kind of guy that strayed if he didn’t get the attention he needed or if he wasn’t physically with his girlfriend. But of course, when you’re in love, you convince yourself that your situation will be different.
So my mother and I began to pack. It was hard to figure out what was important and what you were going to need for the next five months. We were driving down (my first time ever doing that) so I may have overpacked a bit. A week before my departure however, she found out that she couldn’t take the time off. So now, not only was I leaving home for the very first time (I don’t count college since I was literally a 2-hour drive away) but I was going to do it all on my own. I stuffed as much as I could into two suitcases (people on television make that look so easy!) and one very expensive plane ticket later, I was at Orlando International Airport. I was terrified, naturally. When I was younger, I used to travel to Venezuela to visit family by myself for the summer. That seven-year-old thought nothing of it. At 22, however, I was scared to even step off the plane.
Waiting for me at the airport was one of my oldest friends, David, who had moved to Orlando years before. David and I went to elementary school together so we had known each other since we were 9 years old. He also happened to be my first boyfriend so I’ve always had a special place in my heart for him. Right then, his face was the most comforting thing ever. He ended up being the one to drop me off at Chatham Square which was to be my new home for the next few months.
Let me take a moment to explain that if you ever have the chance to live in Chatham, TAKE IT. The apartments are very spacious and it’s QUIET. I had the impression that Vista was seen as the party apartment complex, but I had friends who lived there. They would sign me in and then I’d go home to my nice and quiet apartment. All I’m saying is that you can have both. The apartment was empty when we arrived so I grabbed the room with the walk-in closet. (Fantasy fulfilled right there.) I was rooming with three other girls; I recommend you pay the extra money for less roommates. I know some people who had six roommates and being an only child, I cringe at that scenario.
On the first day, you are required to attend a big housing meeting where they go over the rules with you. (Wouldn’t be Disney without some rules.) Some were common sense rules that anyone who dormed in college would be familiar with, but then there were special ones too. We were not allowed to have overnight guests (this not only meant outside people, but folks from Vista as well) and our apartments would have random checks. Which roughly meant that Mickey Mouse wanted to make sure you cleaned your room (with beds made and everything. Personally, I hadn’t made my bed since I was 11) and if you didn’t, you’d get more than just a “Oh, gee, sorry pal,” and a friendly punch on the arm.
But rules were rules and really, what was I going to do? Can’t start a revolution based on my right to live in dust.
Afterwards, I finally met the three women who would end up being my sole salvation for the next 5 months. I have to preface this with the fact that I know how lucky I was. I left my rooming to the fates and for once, they decided not to screw with this mere mortal. I know a lot of people who hated their roommates. They stayed out with coworkers just so they wouldn’t have to deal with them. I heard stories of fighting and so on. Thankfully, I never had to deal with those things. I enjoyed the short amount of time I had with these ladies.
Rasheida was sharing the room and bathroom with me. She was from Brooklyn and out of everyone there, I ended up with someone from home and that familiarity made her so comforting to me in ways I’m sure she wasn’t even aware of. She was a short little thing, but what Rasheida lacked in height, she made up in personality. She was sassy and opinionated and I loved it. Kathleen seemed very quiet at first but after a trip to The Magic Kingdom together, I came to realize that the quiet girl was melting away and that in fact, Kathleen was quite sarcastic and funny. Now if Disney could take all the characteristics of the quintessential Disney employee and bottle it up, they would subsequently name that potion: Jaclyn. (Maybe Jack for boys?) Jacklyn was from Texas and her smile could make beauty queens jealous. She was extremely friendly and outgoing and of course, she was a Disney Freak. We got along famously.
With my rooming situation taken care of, it was time to find out what I would be doing in the parks. I was chosen to be an operations member and I didn’t really have a preference to what I wanted to do. For those positions, it was strongly recommended that you have your driver’s license. If you’re from New York, you know it’s not always necessary to drive because everything is just a subway stop away. Suffice to say, one horrible road test later, I was still without a license. I was crushed. That is, until I saw my assignment.
You gotta be effin’ kidding me. I had never been SO relieved to fail a test IN MY LIFE. I marched right back to the table and told the lady there was a mistake and never did I actually submit a valid driver’s license. After wrinkling her eyebrows for a few moments as if it were simply IMPOSSIBLE not to have one (we WERE in Florida after all) she said they would reassign me as soon as possible. After some finger prints were taken and a “panel of judges” deemed my look “Disney-Friendly” (I had no visible tattoos, my hair color wasn’t the shade of an Easter egg and I was told to nix the hoop earrings), I was given yet another envelope.
I was working at Star Tours at Disney’s MGM Studios.
My dad was ecstatic. He’s a Star Wars geek. My mom was just happy I got off of parking because the moment I mentioned parking trams, she had horrible visions of mothers seeing their babies run over and kids falling out of the cars due to some very fast and sharp turns. Oh, but of course, that was her “being supportive.” So instead of spending my internship in the parking lots, I was handed a blue light saber and told I was to be a Jedi in training. To be honest, I was a tad bit disappointed. I never shared my father’s passion for the galaxy far, far away, but I told myself to keep an open mind. Before long, I may even like being a Jedi.
The Dark Side however, was very very hard to resist.