When traveling through Walt Disney World, we all face frustrations. On vacation, it’s quite easy to give into the frustration. I’m no expert on Disney, but I do watch people quite a bit. Instead of facing the frustration with anger – try flipping over – and greeting with a friendly face. On a Disney World vacation in 2013, we decided to embrace the joy. It paid off tremendous dividends. Why? Multitudes of reasons. Usually Disney Cast Member Magic. Why should you? Easy.
You’re not that guy. Let’s face it, kids. We’ve all been somewhere. A place that someone has exploded all over a Cast Member. And trust me, I know how getting riled up and letting loose on some defenseless person can really make you feel good. Frankly, it sometimes does let off some of that steam. And often, you might win that battle – and get what you want. But you’ve sacrificed your level of dignity – and perhaps the dignity of people in your party without even knowing it. I was on a bus on the way back to our resort, and for whatever reason, a left turn light wasn’t working. The driver waited through five lights before moving slowly out into traffic, and going around the block to get to another entrance to the resort. A person on the bus started loudly complaining about the speed of the trip – and her kids became more noticeably embarrassed. When the bus arrived, we waited for the guests to get off the bus, and thanked the driver profusely. We compared the driving of the Disney drivers – SUPER SAFE to the Mears drivers – MUCH different. While we lost a few moments, we all exited happy.
Cast members have seen it all – and face fierce guidelines. If you’ve done your research, you probably already know the four guidelines that cast members follow. I’ve heard about the wide circles that give large freedoms to cast members when solving problems. But they also face tremendous pressures delivering that dream vacation. Instead of taking advantage of that – extend your hand and offer back that smiling face.
Ask. They know. I am a big believer in the expertise of Cast Members. Especially support personnel who might go otherwise unnoticed. I stop and talk with custodians. And servers. And busboys. When I don’t know what to order, I ask, “What’s your favorite?” Especially on something like desserts – when nearly all can be good. Ask what the server likes. From a logical perspective – you’re asking an expert. From a respect perspective – it empowers that person. From a selfish perspective – the other person might want to give back.
When you are kind, karma tends to pay you back in kind. I want the best to happen. And I know that it often doesn’t, or can’t. But if everyone watches out for everyone, things tend to really move for the better. If nothing else, I have the confidence that I have done the best possible thing. When we were in Hollywood Studios, we noticed some cash lying on the ground. Discreetly, I picked it up, and showed my wife. It was over twenty dollars. A twenty was on the outside, and it had more cash in the little pack. We watched around the area for ten minutes, wondering if someone else would look for it. No one did. So we approached two Cast Members, and told them that someone had lost the money, and we asked them to take the cash, and turn it over to lost and found. I am not a dolt. I absolutely understand that probably one of two things happened. If the Cast Members had scruples, they turned the money over to Disney – and no one ever claimed it. Disney made a profit. If the Cast Members were unscrupulous, then they split the cash. But that meant that one or both of them would have had to cross that trust line to each other – over something like twenty bucks. Either way, if it happened to me, I’d like to think that the money would have been turned in.
You never know what might happen. Years ago, I noticed something amazing about my wife. She has a distinct ability to put others first – nearly all of the time. It’s kind of scary how it really works. She constantly notices others – especially in difficult situations. We watched a couple trying to navigate getting on and off a bus – and we insisted on picking up a diaper bag and a stroller. We never sit on a bus if anyone else is ever sitting. Frankly, it makes us happier to be helping others – makes our vacation a little better, too. But here’s where it gets better. One thing I have always tried to do now is take pictures for other people. See a family with one person taking a picture and the other one standing? Offer. Take the picture. Often, they’ll take the pic for you. Or… See, I was walking through the streets of America, and took a picture for a couple. And the woman offered to take a picture for me. We’d just had one with someone else, so I smiled and declined. She leaned in and asked if I liked characters. “Of course…” I said. She told me she was a cast member – and suggested that I stay around three minutes for the character greeting coming. I’d known about it, and was specifically waiting for it – but this confirmation was a beautiful thing, and great to see. I can’t tell you how many times something like this happened… Over and over again. I am a big fan of asking for opinions. When I can’t make a choice – I always ask. At Tangierine Café, I asked, “Which is better, the cashew or the pistachio baklava?” The cast member chose the pistachio, then asked if I had tried the other. I hadn’t, so she pulled out another slice for me to try – on the house. We talk to anyone who will listen. We struck up a conversation with a Dad and his adorable three year old son. Two days later while waiting for Dumbo, I heard him say, “It’s our friends from Pittsburgh!” We talked for a few minutes, then he asked if we were returning to Epcot. When we told him we were, he turned over his Soarin’ rider exchange pass – telling us that he couldn’t use it before he left. Bonus ride on Soarin’! I don’t know if anyone has stayed at the Boardwalk lately, but Nico, the bus concierge, is a hoot. He tells wonderfully bad jokes – and even will get anniversary couples to get ‘re-engaged’ at the Boardwalk bus stop – complete with commemorative buttons. A few nights later, we ran into him (off duty) at the Star Wars fireworks party at Hollywood Studios, and he joined our ragamuffin group of Star Wars nerds. We had a grand old time. We walked back to our hotel with him – and he told us about a bunch of cast stuff – and why Disney employees all have similar priorities. We even walked back to the bus stop the next day, for another round of bad jokes, and he gave us a Pinocchio ‘cast member’ fast pass when we were delayed for the bus. Funnily enough, we never had to even use the advanced pass for the Magic Kingdom. Our plan for the day was pretty good – and we fast-forwarded through everything we wanted to see – and the things we loved multiple times. It was a day we ended up with a fifth fast pass, but I still have the jump ahead in the line pass.
Joy pays off. On our first visit, we checked out of our hotel, and zipped over to Magic Kingdom, arriving at the front gates early. Unfortunately, one member of our party had lost the entrance ticket. I’d love to hang it on one of my children, but it was me. I skirted to the service window outside the entrance gate, and explained the scenario. The cast member did a quick bit of research, and then told me she’d re-print the ticket. She quickly popped onto her computer. I politely waited. Then, the Welcome Show began. I listened, and worried. The gates opened. My beautiful plan for our first day disappeared. So, I waited. Finally, the cast member returned with my new card, and two skip the line passes for the delay – and my smiling kindness.
Magic happens everywhere. In a strange set of scenarios, we booked our first Disney trip overlapping with close friends of ours from college. When we made the discovery, we decided to spend a portion of our day together – dinner through the fireworks. We accumulated a number of legacy fast passes for Test Track. Since we both had a child too young to ride, we decided to send Moms with kids, and then Dads with kids. My wife and kids loaded through the fast pass line, and were gone for an extensive period of time. When they returned, my wife told the story. After riding, our four-year-old jumped up and down yelling about how great the ride was. When a cast member heard her, she asked if she’d like to ride again. She took Rachel by the hand, and the five skirted back up the ramp, and hopped on the ride again. Incredulous, I took their word. Four years later, our kindness paid us back again. Rachel trumpeted her joy after riding Space Mountain for the first time. As we walked off the ride, a cast member approached us again, and asked if we wanted a second ride. I shook my head, and happily climbed the stairs for another trip.
Kindness is contagious. Remember – you are on vacation. It’s fun! You are spending all of this time to enjoy yourselves. Take full advantage. Smile. Laugh. People watch. All of them. On our anniversary trip this past May, we noticed. Being without children, our eyes were drawn multiple times to people with kids – but most noticeably the people with kids that were not having good times. Fighting, crying, or angry groups. Will things go perfectly? Probably not. But remember ALL THE TIME that this crazy place is where you want to be. And you will be down when you return. And you will want to go back. Enjoy while you can. My favorite story was an odd one. Last year, we were walking into Hollywood Studios. At rope drop – but without the SERIOUS mission to run to Toy Story. I struck up a conversation with a man walking down the center of the park. I found out he was from Pittsburgh, and even was close friends with a former colleague of mine who had retired a few years back. (My wife keeps telling me that I should start blogging about random people I know that I run into.) He asked if I was planning on seeing Beauty and the Beast later in the day. I told him that the kids were entirely in charge of the plan on our last day. Turns out that he was the director for the Beauty and the Beast show – and he gave us passes (with a specific instruction) for priority seating later that day for the show. We sat down front – and enjoyed Beauty and the Beast more than we ever had. After the show, we struck up a conversation, and we chatted back and forth about Disney World and guests. He told us that no matter what – even problem guests – are still guests. And everyone deserved that respect. With that in mind, do good. Be good. And enjoy.