Posts Tagged With: Essays

An Office Behind Toontown

I always have worked best under deadlines.  Which is why I’m excited to have one for Blue Gentian now (entering it into the Other Half contest).  It intellectually feels weird that I will re-write 4 more chapters and then call it done.  I’ve been working on this thing for 5 years now.  But creatively, it feels almost done.  I’m even sorta proud of it.

Is it wrong to admit you like your own work?

I have just 3 weeks for those chapters, so I’m plugging along at a rapid pace.  No thought space for the blog, just for fires in churches, archers in empty buildings, a dancing queen, and a surprise murderer.

So, to tide you over is this essay I wrote a bazillion years ago about my job at Disney, as an assignment for my very first creative writing class.  I’ve been gone from Disney for 3 years and I’m sure it’s all different there now.  But this is a good approximation of how it was, or how I remember it was.

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AN OFFICE BEHIND TOONTOWN:

My desk is exactly three feet wide. There is just enough room for me to tuck my legs underneath the gray plastic top. I have managed to stuff a small space heater below the desk because it is always cold and I sit underneath the air conditioning vent. Between the computer and the large black conference telephone that sits on the desktop, there is room for nothing else on the surface. I brought in a lime green clock from home and hung it on the wall next to my computer screen. It is a personal item, with its cheerful tick and scrolling black numbers, and therefore it is illegal.

My desk is shared because I am a Costumer’s Assistant. The lady who trained me three years ago made it very clear that assistants don’t get their own desks. Still, I am the only occupant of this tiny island of plastic countertop. I know this because my papers are always where I left them. The stack of unfinished paperwork and the notebook with my “to do” list covers the top of the black telephone. Shiny fabric swatches that glitter in the fluorescent lights litter the base of the monitor in the same heap as the day before.

The walls around my clock are surrounded by white papers detailing how to make Costume Style Numbers, showing the Fiscal Calendar, lists and lists of phone numbers. Just above the desk are two cabinets, one on top of the other. They are packed full of empty binders. The bottom one also holds paper trays, staplers, and all the things that would be on the desktop of there was room. Behind me is a large walkway. People who don’t even work in the office go strolling in and out, staring at the Excel forms that are always open on my computer screen.

I ship costumes and fabrics to China sometimes, which requires me to leave my desk. When an order is ready to ship, I print out the checklist of everything I’m supposed to send. Then, I walk through the costume warehouse, down the concrete stairs, and into the shipping bay. Boxes stacked on pallets obstruct the middle of the room, and the walls are covered with metal racking. I go to the fabric holding rack and I count everything on the checklist twice.

The person in shipping used to save me boxes, but there’s a new girl now.

She has decorated the shipping desk with puffy stickers and her pens are planted in a lurid red cup of clay that her daughter made. The keys to the receiving bay currently sport a Hello Kitty key ring. She got rid of the boxes because they were too much clutter. Now, a box of just the right size and condition is almost impossible to find. I end up peeling off a lot of stickers and scratching out a lot of names with a thick black sharpie. Sometimes the shipment is several rolls of fabric and I don’t have to worry about a box at all. Instead, I have to drag the clear plastic bags full of cloth around and pretend I am strong enough to handle them.

My life at Disney is governed by rules, by sheets of paper that say can or can’t.

I wanted a special nametag, and so I filled out the application for a language pin.

I had to go in and take a test in the fancy yellow building where only the executives work. I walked into the hot pink lobby and climbed three flights of sprawling stairs. A man in an office with a gigantic window that looked out on a tree lined courtyard quizzed me in sign language. Once the test was finished, he handed me his business card, and a small blue pamphlet with glossy pages titled “Guest Services for the Hearing Impaired.” He informed me that I would receive my new nametag in two weeks.

Four months later, it arrived.

It is exactly the same as everyone else’s nametag, except that it has a little gold plaque at the bottom where two white hands have been inset.

The hands spell “S” and “L” in American Sign Language.

I was thrilled to have that name tag. I pictured myself strolling through the park on a sunny day. As I passed by the path near the Matterhorn, a family poring over a map, brows furrowed, would look up at me and notice the shiny white letters beneath my name and they would smile. Gesturing in perfect American Sign Language, they would ask where they should have lunch. Matterhorn is near Tomorrow Land, and the Pizza Port has great food, I would suggest. They would beam as they strolled off to Tomorrow Land and they would have a wonderful lunch because of me. It would make their entire Disneyland day.

This has never happened.

I like to attribute this to the fact that I never actually stroll through the park on a sunny day. I don’t do anything but sit at my desk and fill out paperwork. And ship things like fabric and costumes to China.

The man in the office doesn’t care that I don’t ever use my nametag as it’s intended.

If I want the plaque, I have to take the test. Those are the rules.

My boss e-mails me a list of eight different sample costumes that need to be shipped to China this morning: 1. Jelly Fish Girl, 2. Chimney Sweep, 3. Main Street Piano Player, 4. Department Store Santa, 5. Mardi Gras Showgirl, 6. Scuba Diver, 7. Thin Pirate, 8. Jungle Stilt Walker. China will look at them, paw them over, ask how many we want, and then give us a price for making them.

This can only happen if I send them to China in the first place.

I print out the e-mail list to use as a checklist. Then, I pull all the costumes off their racks, and throw them in a pile on the concrete warehouse floor. Once I have every single item of clothing on the paper, I pick up the heap and cradle it against my chest. The lump of clothes stops just below my chin. I walk down stairs to box it up, label it, and give it to the girl in Shipping and Receiving.

She prints out all the paperwork that I have meticulously crafted for her.

It has to be detailed and correct or it won’t pass Chinese customs. A box without the proper paperwork is in purgatory. It can’t go back to the United States, but it can’t arrive in China either. Instead, it waits for months in the damp warehouse on a foreign pier.

With the correct paperwork, Rocky takes it to the large shipping distribution center at Disney.

They weigh every item inside the box, note the weight on the paperwork, and then send it to China.

This is where I end and begin, in a cycle of boxes and papers, rules and regulations. The contraband clock on my wall ticks. The letters on my nametag gleam. I tape the brown box closed, I hand Rocky the paperwork. She takes the box to the shipping center and I climb the stairs back to my desk. I play my part, a cog in the works, governed by papers. I open my e-mail and the journey starts again.

Categories: Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

LeGuin’s Steering The Craft

IMG_20150805_214658I downloaded Ursula K. LeGuin’s Steering The Craft this weekend.  I thought I was getting a little bit of a how-to on writing, some good advice.  You know, something like Steven King’s On Writing, or E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel. That wasn’t what I got at all, and it was the best discovery.

Steering The Craft is much more like a workbook than it is like a how-to book.  In fact, LeGuin’s writing is so much like being in class that I feel like I’ve actually decided to take one.  Her clear narrative voice feels like she’s talking straight to you, and the exercises are fun and just challenging enough to make you think, but not daunting to complete.  So great.  Bonus points for her rampant feminism.  I appreciate that SO MUCH.

I mean, “The grammarians started telling us [that using ‘their’ as a singular] was incorrect along in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.  That was when they also declared that the pronoun he includes both sexes, as in ‘if a person needs and abortion, he should be required to tell his parents.'”

How can you not love that? Such a well thought out burn.

Not only that, but I give myself so much grief over my work (agonizing over whether it’s publishable quality, flogging myself to find the right word, giving another pass at the imperfect draft that feels like it will never be perfect); it was amazingly nice to just write and not worry about it.  I found the fun in the words again.

I’m only about 1/3 of the way through, but I thought I’d post some of the exercises as I finish them.  They’re vignettes, so I would imagine they aren’t publishable.  But even if they were, I’m not sure I’d want them to be.

This one is from Exercise 2, in which I was supposed to write a paragraph of 100-350  words entirely without punctuation of any kind, even paragraph breaks.  For those who are counting, this is about 190.

Quick Change

A sock a shoe a buckle slips over her ankle and a voice on a speaker calls a cue but the zipper broke and she’s gonna miss that cue for sure listening to the other guy fumble around with his lines while the three costume girls fumble with safety pins and come up short like the guy is doing vamping to the audience trying not to say um and trying not to be silent but she’s trying to be silent and so are the costume girls as one stabs her finger with a pin and a bead of blood gets onto the expensive costume they rented and their teacher will be so mad but there isn’t anything any of them can do now except try not to get any more on the dress and get the actress pinned as fast as possible they fumble again and the back of the dress gapes the actress struggles through the black drapes of the wings anyway with her back cheated away and her fingers crossed and the guy breathes a sigh of relief because there’s finally someone else there to do some talking

I think it sorta works.  I’ll be posting more soon, so stay tuned.

Categories: Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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