Training begins with empty trams and veteran drivers. They walk us around explaining how each car handles and what to look out for on the tram route and at dispatch.
Dennis is the head trainer, and we quickly learn he’s no fan of Iris. “Iris is a stooge for management–he can’t even drive a truck! His job is to fire drivers who cause trouble.” Dennis is also the shop steward for the trams and represents the drivers in contractual disagreements and grievance procedures.
“The tram is powered by a gas engine located in the power unit at the front of every tram,” Dennis explains between drags of his cigarette. “Always use your mirrors, and remember Glamour trams always have the right away. Don’t make a mistake or Iris will get rid of you!”
As we climb aboard a pair a trams, Dennis continues: “Never use reverse, or you’ll jack knife the trailers behind you.” Dennis takes a seat in the tour guide position of one tram, and Cliff occupies the other. The rest of us sit like tourists, some taking notes.
“Before every tour, always check the studio map for closures and route changes,” Dennis says. “You can’t back out once you commit to a corner.”
“Just remember, there is no eraser on this pencil!” Cliff adds in a gruff, slow tone. “Know where you’re going before you turn any corner.” As the lessons continue, we’re all slowly enveloped by the clouds of cigarette smoke coming from both instructors.
“But if things do go wrong, grab that phone on the dash. It’s a “Hotline to Iris”, and he’ll relay your situation to the garage for Bill and Carly. They’ll be able to respond with an oversized four-wheel-drive truck with a front wall for a bumper. It’s like a tug boat.”
“They will either fix your problem or push you off to the side. The Glamour tram show must go on!”
Other veteran drivers come by to meet the new class of hopefuls. I receive a lot of focus and attention, as does Ted, maybe because we’re already versed in studio lore, or maybe because we look like the ones who’ll be fun to hang out with after work.
I fit that bill it seems. Driver Homo usually gets assigned to one of the plush shuttle vans in the World Wide fleet. He’s very slick, a regular chick magnet, and he likes me. I suspect it’s because I have a fancy beach pad in Santa Monica and he sees that as potentially a good place to party. We talk about who’s hip and who isn’t as he shuttles employees around the lot. Specifically, what tour guides will do favors for the studio connections drivers can provide.
We are not talking a foot in the door, we’re talking your whole ass!
Homo mentions the sometimes weekend-long parties that take place at the hotels on the property. It’s usually tour guides, operations staff, and a few tourists that can’t get enough of this place. And of course, there are the drivers who constantly pop in and out!
“We often rub shoulders with movie stars and rock stars” Homo explains. “I just drove Steve Perry, from the band Journey, and dropped him off at Telly’s bar.”
Telly’s is a great place to mingle after work, named after actor Telly Savalas (Kojak) who lives on the top floor of the hotel. I can’t wait to meet him!
Homo and I quickly become tight, and he introduces me to the “insider drivers,” the ones who do more than drive around. These guys get down and dirty!
I’m game for anything, but for now I have to pass the Glamour tram training.
Training concludes when you prove you know the lot, can safely handle this vehicle with 125 passengers on board, and can safely enter and exit the theme park animations.
Let’s go for a test drive next…
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…page 3