Vending in the Happiest Place on Earth

Chuck is leaning over the railing, 20 feet above the water, with a fish dangling on the end of his line. The fish isn’t much bigger than the hook he’s fishing with. It flips half heartedly, as though it knows somehow that he won’t be out of the water for long.

Chuck looks at me, grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve used bigger one’s than this for bait” he stated, deftly unhooking the fish and dropping it back into the water below.

We are under the A1A bridge that goes over the Sebastian Inlet. A large concrete platform has been built for the fishermen to drop their lines from. Most have left for the day. The tide is high, the wind is stiff, and the fish aren’t interested. However Chuck doesn’t want to go home quite yet. He’s found a school of tiny fish around one of the footings of the bridge, and he’s “feeding them shrimp” he says. He is sure that one day these fish will be big enough to keep, and they will owe that in part to the amount of shrimp he’s fed them today.

I mention that I’ve been over at Disney World attending a web developers conference. He tells me he hasn’t been there for years and years. He doesn’t seem like a Mickey Mouse fan, but I ask him if he had fun in the park last time he was there.

chuck.jpg

He laughs an easy relaxed laugh. No, it’s not quite like that. When he used to go to the park, he’d go every day. He and a partner were in charge of 900 vending machines that sold snacks to the employees of the park. His job was traveling from break room to break room stocking and repairing the machines.

I asked him if it was the “happiest place on earth” in the break rooms. I wondered if the employees would gather and gripe like they do at most companies. He told me he didn’t remember it like that. He had good memories of people who were treated well, and nice to be around even when they were out of the public eye.

He pauses his story for a minute, shaking the bait bucket as he looks in. “Looks like they ate all my shrimp”, he says. “Guess it’s time to go home”.

He left the vending machine company to take another job, one that didn’t take him to the Disney properties every day. I asked him if he missed it. He laughs again. No. Hard to miss 900 machines that all have his name on them. Hard to miss hauling the cases of candy, pop, etc. around the park to stock the machines. It was good work he says, but he doesn’t miss it. He’d rather be doing this he says, as he swings his arm motioning to the world around him.

He’s joined by his son and grandson. They head to the car. I think to myself that if I had a choice of feeding the fish with my son and grandson, or working… I might not miss the work either.

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