Friday, November 9, 2012

Tales from the Firing Line: The Day that Broke the Sealion's Back

It's that time again folks, Happy Friday!
Time for another episode of "Tales from the Firing Line" which is random and crazy stories of what it's like to work for a theme park, including all the stuff they normally won't tell you!

Tonight's Tale comes again from my own personal experience. 

The Day that Broke the Sealion's Back
No, Not a REAL Sealion. It's a a joke on "The Straw that broke the Camels Back".

  Now I worked in Park Operations at Seaworld (Stadiums, Exhibits, Shows, Ect) and I'll start off with my personal nightmare situation story. The one that made me throw in my towel and switch departments. This is by no means the only problem I'd had, this is the final conclusion of a series of serious problems I'd personally encountered and gone threw while working in Stadiums. For the last month before this story begins, plenty of crazy problems had been happening that everyone was getting blamed for but naturally had zero control or zero to even do with. 

  I've included a nice little map of the area so you know what area's I'm talking about in the story below! It's a little hard to understand unless you can see it, so.. See It!
Sealion and Otter Stadium (New Picture then when I worked there)

 This all begins one blazing hot afternoon in June, we're in the middle of pure summer rush and we're completely packed with people to the point we're spiking our park capacity nearly daily due to Journey to Atlantis being now open. Even to this day I'm not sure HOW these events came to play out the way they did, technically it shouldn't ever have happened this way but we all know how that goes!
 This one morning I was the person in charge since I was the one with the more seniority in my area this day, I've been with Sealion and Otter nearly 3 years at this point. I had the opening shift, When I arrived I realized I had to open both of the areas (Sealion and Otter Stadium and Pinniped Point) since no one else was scheduled. This rarely happens but has a few times in the past, not really a big deal. After opening I find in my charge are three people I don't know, all brand new. Not even broken into how things work, their very first day into the crazy train that was working Stadiums! Two of these people acted (to me at least) like they didn't speak a lick of English and the third was simply just a lazy idiot.

..Imagine, If you will...

  I corral all three of these newbies and pack them into our tiny office inside of the old Penguin Encounter building to explain to each person what they're job is and what they need to do. I'm thinking this may work since it's really only ONE show before the next shift shows up and they've also been in the area awhile so they know how things work. It can't be to bad right?! 
  So I take them from the office around the stadium, explaining where each person needs to stand and exactly what they have to do and when they need to do it. Putting the two folks who act like they don't speak English at the easiest positions which don't really require much work.. Info Host and Wheelchair Ramp where all you have to do is point people to the side entereances and only allow in parties with wheelchairs, Simple yes? I ask if they understand, they just kind of nod at me so I leave them at their positions with everything all set up to go. Lazy-Idiot who at least appeared semi-competent was stationed across from me at Pinniped side, where all they had to do was block off the stairs until the show began then swap over the rope so people would then go UP the stairs as well as keep watch of the show with me. The trainers would do the rest! Seeing as I was the only one with a Cart License (Golf Cart) I had to be on Drivers side to remove the cart after the trainers drove it in.
 Everything starts fine, or so I thought.

 Suddenly I notice not a single guest is coming around the sides as they should be, Now I'm get worried.

 Leaving my rope in position, I quickly run around to the Info Host position at the front of the stadium find the girl at the main ramp was gone, completely gone. No where to be found! 
Quickly, I threw the rope up that directs people to either side of the stadium and then haul ass back around to my end, trying to keep both positions running somewhat smooth. 

From here things went to hell in a gift wrapped hand-basket delivered directly to Satan Himself..

  I notice people with strollers in the wheelchair area, SHIT! I run over then up the stairs and tell folks that I'm sorry but no strollers are allowed in the stadium while apologizing. They complain a good bit but quickly move back down to park them while I'm re-breifing this new idiot who now "suddenly" decides that they do speak English, of the NO STROLLERS, ONLY WHEELCHAIRS rule.

  Things now appear to be running smoothly. I jog back around and check the Info Host Position, The rope is still up and we've still got time! I double check on the Idiot and the Other Idiot, Ropes where they need to be, people are going where they need to be going and low and behold No Strollers! EXCELLENT!

....then my radio goes off.

"222, this is 221. We need you to come close our show, we're full"
*Translation* This is Whale and Dolphin calling Sealion. Close our shit cause we're full and also don't have a lead or supervisor around!

  I can't move, there is simply no way to get over there right now! My own show is filling up at a rapid pace and I'm falling to pieces trying to do two positions at once while keeping an eye on two more! So what do I do? I call for help! Naturally given the fact all of our supervisors on shift at this point have super powers that allow them to out sneak a stealth bomber... and not a single damn one of these said supervisors are answering their radios. 
Big. Damn. Surprise... NOT.
 I jog over and grab my phone and call Whale and Dolphin back that way, making the snap decision I tell them just to close it without me and call it into Operations Control, to say that I said to close it due to no supervisors answering their radios.  I just can't leave my own with 3 new people plus the fact I was going to have to close my own show in less then a minute anyway.. that I'd take the blame for it later if one of them dared to say a word to me about it. Afterall they could answer their damn radios for once!

 During the entire five minutes this call and decision took my own show fell apart around me. The girl who was suppose to be working the Wheelchair ramp had now also disappeared as completely as my Info Host did. People are now everyplace they shouldn't be! All in handicap seating, half a dozen strollers up there, they are standing on the cross-way that is for animal use only... They are sitting in the aisles!

Complete and total FUCKING CHAOS.
 Fucking Chaos that I couldn't stop. I ran over to Pinniped side and closed that enterance, putting up the "Closed show" rope after closing off my own. I could at least control THAT much! Then ran  into the middle of the stadium promenade and began issuing orders, halfway screaming at people to move to where they needed to be. To clear out of the aisle and find seats.. Naturally not a damn one of them would listen. At this point our Mime sees whats happening and disappears for a few moments then suddenly reappears with two of the trainers in tow.  They couldn't believe what their  eyes saw, one little girl completely alone and trying  her damnedest to get this show under as much control as possible. Even I have to admit, it could have been a lot worse.

  One of the trainers came up and asked me point blink where the hell everyone was? He'd never seen things get this out of control. At this point I'm terribly close to tears as I explained what happened. How these two new people had just disappeared from the front of the house and the other side was also a new hire but was helping at least.. only when I looked over to point them out.. the lazy-idiot has also gone missing too! 
  I'm completely ready to loose it now.  The trainer is totally shocked, he told me to wait he'd get some help and then quickly ran into the back of the house. A few moments later two trainers appeared on stage with microphones on and told everyone they HAD to move off various areas in order for the show to start. That the employee in front of tank would show them where to go, moments later the one trainer reappeared to help me clear the biggest parts the mess, the people in the asiles and on animal cross-ways. With a little bit of help we quickly got things under control again at least to the only point we could. During this I quickly ran around front and got the Info Host rope with the "CLOSED SHOW" sign up and hauled ass once again back to my own side as well as the other making sure the ropes and signs where still standing. I was closing my own show without bothering to call it in, Operatios Control and Management would be getting an ear-full later anyway if the Trainers didn't get to them first!

  Getting back to the front I gave the Trainers an "All Clear" and my own show finally began, fifteen minutes late.
 At this point my first competent fellow employees shift began. Needless to say they where shocked and nearly died seeing the mess.. and this was the cleaned up version! They quickly agreed to watch over the show and call into Operations Control that we had closed the show. This gave me the time to get over to Whale and Dolphin to officially "close" their show also. Thankfully they where packed to the gills but not nearly as chaotic as my own was, signing off I started back to Sealion only to get a call that Shamu needed help to close a show. Naturally they're calling over to Sealion thinking we're fully staffed!


  Calling back I let them know we're in the middle of our own closed show and highly understaffed. We simply didn't have anyone we could send over to help. The lead hopped on the radio asking what happened, I told them to call over on the in-park phone lines because this didn't need to be said over the airwaves. Explaining the chaos that happened she was shocked also, unable to believe it happened. 

  Finally my own show is over, we survived! With another experienced person there we get things emptied out quickly and calmly with zero problems. The place was completely trashed to say the least, far more of mess then we normally deal with even with a capacity show. Wait! One of our missing people just randomly walks into the stadium, It's Lazy-Ass! 
  Myself and Other employee quickly give Lazy-Ass the third degree, apparently Lazy-Ass needed a drink and a cigarette so he went ahead and took a break cause it 'looked like I had it under control'. I was livid beyond words, the other employee quickly took charge of Lazy-Ass and they both got to work "Big Stuffing" (which is when you clean up the bigger pieces of trash left over in the stadium) while I went storming off towards managers office and operations control.  At this point I am in tears, tears of raging anger.  Our other two missing people? Gone. They never showed back up, we can only assume they didn't like what the job was and just left completely.

  Management attempts to blame ME for not having better control or training people right. Naturally I go off the deep end at them, leveling blame of them not answering radio calls for help from all THREE stadiums. For assigning only ONE area trainer (me) to open and then giving us three new people to run a show. Things go around and around, blame me for closing a show.. blame them for not getting out of their air conditioned offices to do their jobs. Finally one of the Animal Trainers from Sealion comes in and also begins reading Park Operations Management the riot act. It's the one who saw things where out of control and helped me. Finally management gets the fact they screwed up by "all going to lunch together for a 'meeting' and should have been around" (at least that's what they said) and that I wasn't to blame as I did the best I could.
  See in the hierarchy at Sealion back then, Trainers ruled All. They could override management on anything that could fall under "animal welfare" from closing a show to refusing to do a show. This trainer explained if I hadn't had as much control as I did they would have refused the show and cancelled it. This quickly changed managements tune although they still attempted to level blame on myself, but by this point the only blame I was accepting was telling Whale and Dolphin to close their own show since I couldn't get there which naturally they threw the most severe punishment they could at me.. a write-up (which was entirely undeserved, the trainer even lodged complaint about this with his own management, it would later be over-turned). 

I'd had It. Completely had it.

 I was done with this level of bullshit. I finished up my shift and let my other employee know what I was up and to pass it along to the rest of the crew. On my way out, I walked over to Human Resources and put in my transfer request that very afternoon going so far as to wait around and explain to the lady who represented me what happened and why I needed to leave as soon as possible. Another appalled reaction, she had me fill out a full complaint form and walked me over to the Vice-Presidents office to turn it in herself. Walking back she told me that she'd make sure my request went threw before my next shift. Calling into Operations Control as we reached her office she gave me the next day off, with pay citing a "Bad Work Experience" to get me into my 'weekend' then signed off on my transfer.

  By the time I returned three days later and still madder then hell at what had happened, I was now listed as Merchandise/Games.  I swapped out my green and teal colored fish print shirts for the brown/orange color of merchandise and started across the park to my new area where I wouldn't ever have to deal with the current incompetence.

I was finally free!

  Needless to say I loved it in Games, there where some truly great people there who I now wish I'd never lost contact with. I stayed in that area for another year before I found a new opening within the park that really appealed to me, shortly after transfering to the new department life became complicated and I had to resign from Seaworld entirely. Looking back I can say it was fun and one wild ride.. but I can safely say I'd not go back to it unless it was simply just for fun and not a matter of making a living!

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