The day was going to involve a lot of pool time, a drowning kid and the dreaded news of a Disney deployment. Oh! And did I mention getting Vatted?! But I’ll get to all of that…. It’s just your typical life of a Walt Disney World Lifeguard! Lifeguard in Disney is one of the best Roles in my opinion!
This was what my typical day consisted of during my ICP program!
My Disney Life
The sun is beginning to rise over Orlando and everything is still quiet. There’s still that early morning breeze as the sun is just kissing the ground. I’m wearing a bay-watch style red bathing suit under shorts that are desperately too big. A white collared shirt, tops off the ensemble. I check for the third time that I have my red whistle and polarized sunglasses. It’s just another day in the life of a Disney World Lifeguard.
Getting To Work
I stand at the bus stop by Chatham, waiting for the bus to the resort that I work at. A sunny bus ride in which I will plug in my headphones and listen to music as I soak in the few moments of peace before my double shift starts. I’m honestly just hoping not to get vatted today.
My bus ride is quiet as per usual, and luckily the bus shows up on time today. It’s always hit or miss with housing transportation. The bus ride is always fun because you see various cast members in their uniforms and since we’re all going to the same resort area you can see how much effort Disney has put in to make a cohesive unit. That’s one of the things that really impresses me about WDW, one of many I should mention.
This morning we have an early morning inservice as a team. It’s a hot day, so I definitely don’t mind an early morning swim. Every so often the team will get scheduled to work together to prepare for emergency situations. It’s really our play time in the pool before guests start to make their way to the pool for the day.
Today we’re running through emergency procedures and spinals. Two super important things to focus on considering Orlando’s weather and the amount of kids trying to dive into the shallow end. My mind flashes to the super high amount of kids that don’t follow the rules on the daily.
Running slowly Baywatch-style we rush into the lukewarm water. It smells of chlorine as always and we immediately dive in. We start with a few laps and it’s exhilarating. Swimming is literally one of the only things that I’m REALLY good at and I love it.
Your team at Disney becomes a family. Especially as a lifeguard you have to trust them!
But we spend the whole inservice splashing, laughing, and “playing lifeguard”. It’s one of my favourite parts! Of course we work on our safety stuff too…
It’s the calm before the chaos this morning!
The First On Deck
Everything in WDW is a well oiled machine and we are assigned our position on deck and off for every minute of the day. It’s easy to follow.
As soon as the clock strikes, we grab our red flotation devices which promptly goes to it’s sitting position on my hip. Honestly, I’m a fan of flutter boards as my method of saving people, but we’re under Ellis and the stupid buoyant device is my life. I don’t think it helps me, especially not in 5 feet on water, it just gets in the way. Seriously though. End Rant.
We take our positions around the deck, which is normally 3 guards on deck depending on the number of people in the pool. We have radios to communicate with our other guards, as well as hand signals and just plain old yelling.
The Dreaded Vat
The morning drug on, the morning sunshine was turning to a dull grey. Thankfully I had dried off since the inservice and didn’t feel the chill of the wind. The afternoon storm was coming as were usual in Florida, but the wind was already changing and it was going to be colder than usual.
Then as I stood at the edge of the pool watching the freaky cloud barrel in, I heard an excited scream come down the slide. During my scan of the pool I always anchored back to the bottom of the slide, where kids could easily get pulled under. I’d flick my eyes back 3 times per pool scan, keeping that area secure.
Almost immediately after I heard the splash at the bottom of the pool, I saw it. The dreaded VAT. Only a few feet away I saw my manager grinning gleefully to himself. I basically rolled my eyes, really? Today of all days?
I blew my whistle and jumped in to grab the flimsy piece of fabric off the bottom. I gave my manager a splash and hopped out.
I’d passed! You see you have to grab the vat off the bottom within 10 seconds of it being dropped. If you didn’t you got a second shot another day (obviously they don’t tell you when). If you didn’t catch it a second time you had to go through training again, even then you might lose your position.
Let me give a huge F-U to Vatting. What a stupid system, that causes a lot of undue stress for cast members. Thanks Jeff Ellis.
After being through 3 different lifeguard training programs, I’ve always ranked Jeff Ellis the lowest!
The Storms a Brewin’ Ye Matee!
I got out and shivering went back to my position. This would have been all good had it been sunny. Then we typically jump in anyways throughout the day to avoid heat stroke. We even have scheduled play time with the kids some days.
At this point, I couldn’t wait for the next half an hour to end so I could go to my bag and change my clothes. Thank goodness, for a second uniform. Actually Lifeguards get 5 uniforms as opposed to other cast members who might only get one.
But it didn’t even matter, the rain started pouring down. So everyone got drenched, including those swimming in the pool. Lightning has to be within a few miles in order to close the pool, and honestly as a lifeguard you’re hoping to see that flash of light. It means you get out of the rain, and get to watch the storm take place. This one would be particularly bad.
Let it Rain!
It poured and poured. The day that had started so fun and sunny had turned into a flooding mess. We took shifts guarding the doors under the awnings making sure people stayed out of the pools.
The lightning was causing fires in the areas all around. It never quite got as close as a few weeks earlier when the lightning struck so close that every hair on my body stood straight up in the air.
We waited and waited, watching the bucketfuls of rain pour down around us. The booming thunder. Finally it stopped, sometime between the day crew leaving and the night crew coming in. For a while there were a lot of us. I was one of a couple people who were there all day.
I’ve Seen The Beginning of Wreck It Ralph A Million Times, but how does it end?
People started to trickle back into the pool after the storm and by 930 when the movie started, everyone was dancing with the children’s activities coordinators.
The movie started an hour before our shift ended. I had been at work for almost 14 hours, and my attention was beginning to wane. It was Wreck It Ralph, as it often was. I watched the beginning a million times and didn’t see the end until almost a year later.
I was often designated as the sign off guard! And don’t get me wrong, I loved it. I got to blow my whistle and make the announcement that the guards would be leaving the deck.
It always ended with a phrase I haven’t said since:
“Have a magical night.”
Disney is MAGIC.
Then The Ball Dropped
I was tired, hot and ready to get out of there and head to downtown Disney to enjoy some Disney time.
Then the announcement came. My manager wasn’t happy about it, and I wasn’t the only one.
But I was getting Disney deployed.
I was being forced to go to the place Lifeguards rarely made it back alive from. I would be there for 2 whole weeks in the end.
Where was I going you ask?
I can safely say now, I’ll never set foot in one of those resorts again.
Thankfully I made it back to the amazing people I worked with after that!