What’s the cleanup needed after a “Code V?” What about a “Code H?” Those terms and many other secrets of keeping Disneyland clean are revealed in a book by two former members of the park’s custodial staff, titled “Cleaning the Kingdom: Insider Tales of Keeping Walt’s Dream Spotless.”
The book, by Ken Pellman and Lynn Barron, takes readers on a detailed tour of what it takes to be a “jani” (a self-endowed nickname for the janitors at Disneyland – though now they are called custodians) at Walt Disney’s original Magic Kingdom. They paint a romantic vision of what is essentially a dirty job keeping things clean at a place visited by nearly 15 million people each year.
That cleaning involves some discovery of the bad bathroom habits of many people, and the same for the horses. In the book are tales of cleaning up after a load of horse droppings on Main Street, U.S.A. (The aforementioned “Code H.”) and where that foul-smelling material is later deposited. They even say that the device used in picking it up and moving it to the back areas also starts with the letter “H” and is called a “Honey Bucket.”
They unload tales of their many “Code V” encounters – meaning someone vomited – ranging from cleaning up inside a Star Tours cabin, where it gets all over the floor after a ride, to finding popcorn boxes filled with the foul-smelling stuff in flower beds.
But the authors also talk about the pride instilled in them and many other janitors at keeping the place clean – whether it’s cleaning up a pile of human waste in an out-of-the-way corner or just sweeping the sidewalks. “That’s the way we felt. We, too, worked hard to keep the park clean, not just because that was what we were paid to do, but because we believed in Walt Disney’s vision…. We wanted to keep it clean because we had enjoyed a clean Disneyland and we wanted others to have that experience, too.”
The details of how things are cleaned, how trash is picked up and how it is kept that way could be a guidebook for many operations, including city parks and civic centers. There are details on cleaning every boat in Pirates of the Caribbean each day after the park closed; specific methods used in cleaning up hydraulic oil spills on the Indiana Jones attraction; even how to deal with the health hazards of cleaning up human blood after someone gets injured.
There are also details on sweeping up confetti and “pan and broom” techniques for sweeping up paper trash without losing stride while patrolling as assigned area.
“We found the most effective one for us was stepping on the edge of the paper with the toe of one foot, and using our other foot to crinkle the paper, which would then no longer slip under the lip of the pan. The other technique involved using the pan like a fan by putting it down quickly, then catching the paper with the broom and moving it into the pan.”
The same pan would also be used to scrape gum or candy off the walkways.
One of the things the authors point out is that unlike workers in other divisions, such as the attraction hosts, the custodial staff could work anywhere in the resort – from inside an attraction sweeping the lines and loading areas, to backstage, to cleaning the restrooms – and how many times they are the first ones on scene when something happens, such as the time one of the old Mike Fink keel boats capsized, throwing park guests into the Rivers of America and leading to the ride’s immediate and permanent closure.
Anecdotes are spun about some of the high jinks during a day cleaning the kingdom, such as the time a custodian got mad about a member of the security staff who parked a patrol vehicle in front of a trash compactor, making it nearly impossible to dump full trash cans. That custodian decided to wreak revenge by hosing down the vehicle, including the seats since the windows were open.
One of the most amusing chapters, titled “Whistle While You Work,” is about the camaraderie and fun that the “janis” would have with one another on the job – including impersonating one another, elaborate pranks and strange calls on the radio:
“Adventureland, you have an ice cream spill in the Aladdin’s Oasis waiting area.”
“10-4. What flavor?”