If that sounds like the title of a reality show, it's because Cami Scovotti's college program at Walt Disney World played out like one. From unstable co-workers to drama queens and jilted suitors, the pixie dust in this story packs a punch.
The "Earning Your Ears" series chronicles the experiences of young people from around the country and around the world who leave home, often for the first time, to live and work in Walt Disney World or Disneyland for several months, or even longer.
Each book in the "EARS" series makes you an honorary cast member as the author takes you behind Disney's pixie dust curtain to learn things the Mouse would prefer you didn't know, and what no guidebook will tell you, including how the theme parks operate from the inside out and what Disney employees do when they're not wishing you a magical day.
Former Disney World Cast Member Cami Scovotti shares:
If you've ever wondered what it would be like not just to visit a Disney theme park but to work in one, the "Earning Your Ears" series is your E-ticket!
[To learn about forthcoming books and everything there is to know about the Disney College Program, please visit us on Facebook: Facebook.com/EarningYourEars.]
About Earning Your Ears
Sixteen chapters of Disney College Program goodness!
I love publishing EARS books.
When I started the “Earning Yours Ears” series back in 2013, with Amber Earns Her Ears, I figured it would be a one-and-done. But Amber’s book was not only popular, it was inspirational, too. Others who had taken (or were taking) the Disney College Program wanted to share their experiences.
Not everyone, unfortunately, can write an EARS book. For every twenty pitches I receive, one makes the grade. What amazes me is the diversity: no two stories are alike. And what amazes me even more is the hope and the wonder and the potential that each Disney College Program participant brings. Forget about the cynical accusations that Disney uses college program participants as low-wage labor. There’s more to it.
Cami Scovotti, the author of this book, told her interviewer that she’d accept a role in Housekeeping. The interviewer was a bit surprised: Housekeeping is the least favorite role and involves the most work—plus the full-time Housekeeping cast members are notoriously nasty to college program temps. It didn’t go well for Cami.
But she didn’t “self-term”, or voluntariliy leave the program, and instead got herself “recast” into a role at the Magic Kingdom. And there her adventure truly began, not so much at work, but back at her apartment, where roommate drama reached fever pitch.
No other EARS book that I’ve published reads so much like a pilot script for a new reality TV show. The cast of characters includes unstable co-workers, jilted suitors, and guests whose stories will bring tears to your eyes. Cami’s story is equal parts pathos and pixie dust.
I publish EARS books because it feels good to publish EARS books. I don’t sell a huge number of them. They do well, but the authors aren’t relaxing on yachts. Most have gone on from their Disney experience to the real world of making grades in college and worrying about what kind of job awaits them and whether they’ll be earning enough for a mortgage and what they really want to do with their lives.
For a few months, however, none of that matters. They’re making minimum wage for menial labor in a sea of others doing the same thing. And they love it. It’s their childhood dream come true. Whatever role Disney had played in their lives, they are now part of it. Like Amber and all the rest, Cami’s on stage, as Disney likes to describe it, and making the same kind of magic that once was made for her.
So why, really, do I love publishing EARS books? If you read enough of them, you’ll find life itself encapsulated: the uncertainty of whether you’re good enough to make the cut, the transition from what you’ve known all your life to something new and quite grand, the settling in to work and friends and routine, the responsibility of being on your own and having others rely upon you, and finally, inevitably the winding down and the departure. All of this, in just a few months.
I could publish 100 EARS books and still not run out of unique tales about the Disney College Program.
Cami’s story is one of them.
The “Earning Your Ears” series chronicles the experiences of young people from around the country and around the world who leave home, often for the first time, to live and work in Walt Disney World or Disneyland for several months, or even longer.
They are given “roles” to perform, from working in a Disney restaurant or shop to donning a costume and becoming one of the Disney characters who appear in the parks.
Each book in the EARS series makes you an honorary cast member as the author takes you behind Disney’s pixie dust curtain to learn things the Mouse would prefer you didn’t know, and what no guidebook will tell you, including how the theme parks operate from the inside out and what Disney employees do when they’re not wishing you a magical day.
The EARS series currently includes six books, with a new volume published by Theme Park Press every few months:
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like not just to visit a Disney theme park but to work in one, the “Earning Your Ears” series is your E-ticket!
To learn about forthcoming books and everything there is to know about the Disney College Program, please visit us on Facebook:
Cami Scovotti grew up in Loveland, Colorado, and was going to school in Fort Collins, Colorado, for Hospitality Management, concentrating in Hotel Management. However, after working with the Make-A-Wish families at Disney and volunteering at Give Kids the World as a character performer, she discovered her passion for helping children with disabilities, and so will be returning to Colorado to pursue a degree in Occupational Therapy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
How hard can it be to make a bed and tidy up a hotel room? Really, really hard.
I met the other CP housekeepers at base the next morning, and we were all terrified about being on our own for the first time. We had packed our All-Star lunch boxes full of snacks and water because we were worried about not having the time to take a lunch break.
On the first day of ramp-ups, they give us 9 rooms to clean on our own; after that, it’s 11, and then 13, 15, 17, and finally 18. We were ultimately required to clean 18 rooms per day as a Housekeeping cast member, and the ramp-up process was how Disney prepared you for it. The first day of 9 rooms wasn’t terrible. It’s a shock, however, going from cleaning rooms with another person to doing it by yourself, because you realize that it actually takes twice as long to clean the room as you had thought. Throughout ramp-ups you have to find your own routine for cleaning and discover which way of doing things is fastest for you. That’s mostly what the first day is for.
At the end of my first day, when I went to turn in my key and my board to my leaders, I met Wyatt standing outside of the office. I had seen him around several times, knew that he was a CP, and was dying to talk to him. To be honest, I just wanted to be able to talk to somebody here. All the other CPs were located at Music, so meeting Wyatt was like an answered prayer. He had started the program a week before I did, and was on his 15-room ramp-up day (compared to my 9-room first ramp-up day). Wyatt was really smart, that wasn’t hard to figure out, but I was surprised by how observant he was. He knew a lot more about me than I would have guessed, for someone who had never talked to me before. We were talking about cars, and I told him, “I drive a Kia Soul. Hamster car.” He said: “I know. I watched you and your friends load up in your car after work yesterday and I made fun of you for driving a Kia.” I was a little irritated that he was making fun of me when he didn’t know me at all, but I was so thankful to have another CP to talk to that I let it slide.
On my third day of ramp-ups, I was given 13 rooms to clean, with 9 of them check outs. I was so overwhelmed when I saw my board. One of the housekeepers who liked to talk to me, a Jamaican named Opalyn, sat next to me on the Pargo that morning as we headed to the resort. She looked at my board and said, “Oh, baby. This is a hard board. Are you sure you can manage?” I told her I was going to try my best, but she just shook her head. I ended up being over an hour late to finish work that day, I hadn’t yet figured out how to do that many check outs that fast, and none of the other housekeepers were willing to stay and help me finish my rooms. My leader, Keven, finally came to the room that I was cleaning at 5:30 and helped me finish and then gave the rest of the rooms to the PM shift. I was upset and embarrassed. Keven told me that I was fine for now, but I can’t keep being late if I wanted to keep my job.
That was the first time I went home and cried after work. I sat on the floor in my bedroom and called my parents, and I just couldn’t stop crying. I had done so well at not getting emotional or crying about anything through the entire two weeks that I had been in Florida, but the dam had broke and I couldn’t stop the waterworks. “I’m just so tired,” I kept telling my mom. “I was not expecting housekeeping to be so hard. What if I can’t get myself to be fast enough? They’re going to fire me and send me home!” I was such a mess. It didn’t stop, either. For the first week on my own, I would come home and cry and sleep. I didn’t even eat for that first week; I was too tired to cook. One day I got home at 5:00, fell asleep at 5:15, and didn’t wake up until 7:30 the next morning to go to work. I was that tired.
The week gradually got better. One of my leaders, Lon, inspected the rooms that I had cleaned and assessed me on them. Usually, he would just say, “I don’t really have anything bad to say. There was a thing here and there, but overall good job.”
One day I asked Lon what exactly he was looking for when he went into a room and how assessments were scored. He said that once a week we get things called QA Assessments (QA meaning Quality Assurance). The QA people went to every resort on Disney property and inspected every single room to make sure they all met company standards. They would assess one room from each housekeeper per month, and would grade that housekeeper. Essentially, when they went into a room they were looking for things that research showed our guests were looking for when they went into a room—clean mirrors, vacuumed floors, no cobwebs in the corners, the presence of a Bible in the night stand drawer and whether it had been vandalized by previous guests, what the beds looked like when they were made, and so forth. Each thing they looked for had a point value, and you were given a percentage score based on how many points you lost.
Continued in "Cami Earns Her Ears"!
Does he want to pose for a picture or eat your brain? A run-in with Zombie Tigger beneath the Magic Kingdom.
The Halloween parties might not be so scary, but Tigger is. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tigger, he’s always been one of my favorite characters, and he was one of the most memorable characters from my first day in the Magic Kingdom. But now Tigger is really memorable, though the feeling he brings are ones of dread, not love.
One night I was walking through the Utilidors during a theater shift on my way to the Christmas Shoppe. On my way there I have to pass by the Crystal Palace break room, which is no big deal, since I pass by their break room all the time. The Crystal Palace has character dining with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger. Every now and then I see them sitting in their break room, but they always keep to themselves; character performers are like that. But this night I found Tigger standing in the middle of a Utilidor hallway by himself. Just standing there. I remember thinking to myself, “What is Tigger doing out here? Why isn’t he in his break room?” But I chose to ignore it and kept walking in his direction. That was mistake number one. Even when a Pargo came down the hall and I watched Tigger try to climb on it as it was moving, I still chose to still ignore it, thinking, “Tigger is just being a troll today. Okay.” That was my second mistake.
The third mistake happened when Tigger saw me. I was hoping he wouldn’t, but he did. He saw me and he stared. A cold, hard stare as I continued to walk toward him. When I got about ten feet away from him he put his arms out, as if to invite me in for a hug. My naive, magical self thought, “Oh, how cute! Surprise meet and greet with Tigger! Yay!” So I started toward him asking out loud, “What are you doing down here, Tigger?” Tigger didn’t change expression or move at all. Though it was strange, I kept approaching.
When I got about three feet away from Tigger, he began to move his arms up and down slowly. I didn’t know what he was trying to get across there, but that’s when I made my final mistake. I chose to try to hug him anyway. Saying out loud again, “Are we doing a slow motion hug? What’s going on, Tigger?” When I went to put my arms around him, my face immediately in front of his, he let out the most terrifying and horrific growl that I have ever heard. The growl scared me so badly, mostly because I wasn’t expecting it, that it caused me to scream and then immediately start crying. Tears poured down my face.
I ran, but Tigger chased. He wasn’t running, but had switched into full-on Walking Dead mode. He was limping, had his arms in front of him, and was growling like a zombie as he chased me in circles around the hall. About this time, I noticed that the men who were driving the Pargo from earlier stopped to watch the show and were laughing at me, yelling, “How could you be afraid of him? It’s just Tigger!” In between sobs I called back, “He’s trying to kill me!”
I continued to run and Tigger continued to chase. At one point I was yelling at Tigger “Stop it! You’re ruining every childhood memory I have ever had! Stop it right now!” That’s when I ran into a wall, which Tigger pinned me to. He had both paws on my head, holding me against the wall, his face inches from mine and growling, just growling. I remember in my head thinking, “This is it. This is how I’m going to die. This cast member has snapped and he’s just going to snap my neck and they’re going to find me dead down here and nobody will know and there will be no fingerprints either.”
I looked out of the corner of my eye. The men in the Pargo had left. It was just me and Tigger. Now, this was not my proudest moment ever, but I accepted my death. I just closed my eyes and waited for him to kill me. Instead of snapping my neck, Tigger instead gave me a giant kiss on the forehead and then ran into his break room and slammed the door.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and began to walk away, still in shock about what had just happened to me. About 30 seconds or so later I heard way-too-loud footsteps behind me. My heart dropped, I turned around to see the orange-and-black giant behind me again. All I could do was yell, “TIGGER! WHY!?” His response was dropping his arms to his sides and running back into his break room. I sprinted to the end of the hall to the staircase before he could come back. I ran into a Merchandise cast member who was about to go down the same way I had just came from. She asked if I was okay, noticing that I was trying to wipe the tears from my eyes. I just told her “Be careful going back there. Tigger has gone mad.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Tigger. Tigger has gone crazy and he’s trying to kill me.”
“Uh, okay. I can’t tell if you’re kidding or…?”
“Not kidding,” I told her, still wiping my eyes. “Just be careful going down there.”
I can only imagine what was going on in her head. I wonder if she met the zombie version of Tigger or if I was the only one to be so blessed. Either way, it’s almost a year later and I still can’t look at Tigger the same way.
Continued in "Cami Earns Her Ears"!