Friday, September 4, 2009

Future's Last Ride

To commemorate the two year anniversary of the closing of Back to the Future the Ride, I thought I would re-post the entry I wrote in my old blog to mark the occasion. There are some minor edits and changes since it's original post, but it's generally the same. Some might call this a cop out, but I prefer to call it a "classic". Hell, comic strips, columnists, even podcasts put out reruns every now and again.


My first experience with the ride was in 1991 at Universal Orlando. It was the summer the ride first opened and my family was on vacation. Being an nine year old kid who was afraid of any ride that looked scary - despite having never actually been on one - I was really scared to go on it. My parents convinced me to get in the car, but during my first cycle, my head was down and my eyes were closed the whole time. If not for the more visible vehicles at the Funtastic World of Hannah Barbara later showing how the motion simulation worked, then I might never have gone on BTTF with my eyes open. Eleven years later I was struggling to find a job after moving to Los Angeles, so I turned to Universal Studios Hollywood. I was hired during a mass summer employment seasons and was offered a choice between Van Helsing or Future.

"You're the suckers Doc conned in to his Time Travel experiment."

Choosing BTTF was probably the best decision I could have made. From the start of training, these people became my first real friends on the west coast. It made the transition away from home all the more easy. It was hardly like work at all – between the four minute ride cycles you had down time to talk with, or avoid, those you were positioned with. If you could find just one or two people with something in common, your days would fly by. Aside from that, there was hallway basketball using the garbage cans and the game I made up with one of my co-workers April where you got points every time one of your guests mimicked the dummies did in the safety video. I was always put out at the Greeter position during rain or cold weather because of my east coast weather tolerance. I loved turnstile spiels and hated gigantic groups that didn't know their exact numbers. Even the elastic ankled khaki pants became tolerable. Secretly I hated being a lead because you spent all your time isolated in the control tower, dispatch, or doing walk throughs. The Tower was the loneliest, dark and sad place in the building, and sitting there for two hours straight was torture. All you had to do was watch the surveillance monitors, up to 12 at a time, to make sure that nothing was going wrong. I would have rather dealt with the angriest guest of all time than sit in tower.

"Remember, the future is what you make it."

Some of my favorite moments were being asked to redraw the two pre-show chalkboards on level one and three. Guests would come by while I was drawing and think that I was actually doing some kind of scientific equation (which is what I told them). I got to bring family and friends to the park and lock them down in their ride vehicles, which was both fun and embarrassing at the same time. There were barbeque's and parties. There was a great special event for Microsoft with no kids or lines and lots of free booze – made for an easy night of carefree adults who were just there for fun. Things were pretty similar every day, so when someone famous came to the ride, a lot of people would run to see them. It's hard to tell if more employees would check out a celebrities or just pretty girl. I'd say the girls. When Wrestlemania was in Los Angeles, I got to put several wrestlers in their vehicles, also Wilmer Valderama and Snoop Dogg. Summer new hires would come and go, but we all knew which people would be around for the long haul. I was there for the long haul, going from Lead to Supervisor for the Summer of 2006.

"Have a nice trip, see you next winter."

After my summer as a Dome supervisor, I was promoted off the lot into an office. I had made it out of Future, which was great, but I missed the daily routine just a little and my friends over there a lot. When the announcement of its closing at the end of the summer was made it never really hit me. It just seemed like one of those things that would be down the road some time and never actually happen. Summer flew by, and suddenly it was Labor Day weekend – Future's last stand. Though I hadn't actually worked at the ride in about ten months, the place still felt like home to me. I'd stop by occasionally during the last couple of weeks just see everyone and remember the times that were had. The management "Last Ride" was a really thoughtful thing for the company to do – they knew how much the ride meant to us as well.

Watch your step as you exit the vehicle.
Exit towards the red flashing light.
Enjoy the rest of your stay at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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