Thursday, September 13, 2007

musings on safari

Someone asked me (via Facebook. If you're under 25, you should get an account if you don't have one) the following question today:
PS- have you ever had the uncontrollable urge to just
kidnap your bus full of tourists and drive like a
maniac through the safari and then off the property?
i bet you will now. ;)

So I've answered in a roundabout way and reposted parts of it here. Portions are left out, just because I could get terminated if the rest wound up in a public forum. Enjoy!
Let me tell you a little about Safaris.

We drive about 2.2 miles around the reserve EVERY 20 MINUTES, and must immediately redouble our enthusiasm to pick up another bus of hot, sweaty, tired and sometimes cranky tourists who may or may not speak English. There are things you develop to keep from losing your mind out there, as we will sometimes go 3 hours (upwards of 7 rounds!) without a break. Most of that involves screwing around with the guests or out other Cast Members at the docks, but occasionally your mind wanders. I've planned my dinners in my head while driving (and spieling, and watching for animals in front of my truck, and continually looking in my rearview for humans standing up [remember, all of this at the same time]); I've known myself to say a silent prayer for patience; in between rounds, I'll just use my mic as a soundstage, belting out classic songs before picking up new guests. Stand By Me, Hakuna Matata, Lean On Me; whatever...I'll sing it.

Try as we might to avoid it, we will sometimes screw up animal facts (did you know: the warthog uses its razor-sharp tusks to dig into the rock of the earth, and the elephants like to use them as scratching posts?)

One particular day, at the end of many many rounds, when a woman STOOD UP TO GET A PICTURE OF CROCODILES, I practically shouted her down by saying "Ma'am they will straight up eat you; they use their jaws to crush the bones of their prey with more than 2,000 pounds of force!" I had to turn my mic off and laugh into my sleeve after that one...because honestly, who says 'straight up eat you!"?

Many of my animal facts are also worded in such a way that they become word jokes, understandable basically only to me and someone else on my truck paying very close attention. "Of course, they'll eat about 100 lbs of grass and leaves every night...they are hungry, hungry hippos." That's not engineered for a laugh; it's just for me.

When Kilimanjaro Safaris first opened, the drivers were mostly people from Kenya & South Africa that were legit safari drivers who didn't understand the whole "stay on the ride path" mantra, and there are still remnants of their presence in carved up earth where they would just drive off to get a better look at an animal.

As far as driving my guests off property, I'd love to just dump some of them off right with our rhinos, and see how they fare, but mostly you're just glad to get a new bunch after 20 minutes. It's also true that our trucks have governors in them, so they don't get much past 10 mph (and that's a GOOD truck). Occasionally I'll rock it around the poacher scene and try and get some folks wet from the geysers that shoot up along the side, but that only goes so far before you run the risk of literally tipping the truck.
Kilimanjaro Sararis rules, and I wouldn't trade the position for anything else at Disney right now. It just happens that madness starts to creep in after 6 hours on a truck. The next time you hop on a safari truck, have a little patience for the driver that may have been there since the opening of the day.

Until next time, I remain your friend,
~Bobby Perrotti