Ed note: If you haven’t yet read ‘Dear Disney’ the following post won’t make much sense. Please click HERE to read the backstory.
Luau and I had just left an advocacy meeting and were heading into the supermarket together to pick up a few things for dinner that night. It wasn’t exactly how I’d pictured spending one of the last days of my two-week vacation from work, but with the rain pouring down, there weren’t a whole lot of more inviting options.
I didn’t recognize the area code when my cell phone rang, so I was somewhat wary when I answered. Wariness was quickly washed away – replaced almost immediately by gratitude and hope.
“I’m looking for Jess,” the voice on the other end of the phone said, “My name is Joan and I’m calling from Disney.”
I waved to Luau, a few steps ahead of me in the parking lot. When I had his attention I mouthed, “Disney.”
He led us to a bench in front of the market. I was glad I was sitting down as I took in Joan’s very first words.
“Jess, we just want to let you know how very sorry we are about what happened when you were here with us. I watched the video and was just floored.”
I didn’t mean to cry. For God’s sake, Jess, get it together. But I couldn’t help it. The thing is, I’ve been around the block a few times. I can smell bullsht from a block away. And this wasn’t it. Her sincerity was unmistakable.
Before she could continue, I jumped in. “Ma’am,” I said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but I simply have to say this. I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the way that you began this call. It’s so easy to get defensive when something like this happens and well, the fact that you started out this way, well, it means the world to me. Thank you,”
“Oh, my gosh, well, thank YOU,” she said in response. I’m not sure how many times she thanked me for bringing the incident to their attention. I lost count. SHE was grateful to ME.
She asked me to help her pin down the approximate time of our visit to Donald so that they could be sure to have a constructive dialogue with the specific cast member involved. As we talked I thought of a conversation that I’d had with a reader on Diary’s Facebook page who had pointed out that many of the comments on the post had called for fricaseed duck. I felt compelled to tell Joan what I had written in the comments following that conversation – that I in no way wanted her to think that I sought or was hoping to see any kind of punitive action. I told her that my greatest hope was, as I’d said in my letter, that they would use the incident as an opportunity to raise sensitivity. She assured me that they were of like mind and would do exactly that.
Joan and I talked for a while. I rambled on about what a wonderful time we’d had, how warm and gracious and tremendously accommodating nearly everyone else had been along the way, how grateful we were to Disney for making such a concerted effort not just to welcome our kids but to really understand them. I’m fairly certain I sounded like a blathering idiot for much of the conversation, but Joan was too gracious to let me know.
She assured me that the gesture in question was NOT remotely in keeping with the Disney way of thinking. She repeated being ‘floored’ by the video and so glad that we’d caught it on film so that it could be shared. She told me that it was going straight to the head of the character division so that they could use it as a learning tool department-wide.
Before we hung up she told me that she loved Katie’s nails and that her daughter would have gone crazy for them. It took me a minute to figure out what she was referring to. And then I understood. She’d come here and read Diary.
I got off the phone truly believing that Disney really is everything we all hoped that they were. That their compassion and concern for our kids run deep. That they desperately want every guest to leave with nothing but magical memories. And that they respect and are grateful to and for their guests.
I got off the phone feeling like I’d been heard. Like we’d all been heard. And knowing that in some small way, our voices had made a difference.
I got off the phone hopeful. Hopeful that while we work so hard to give our kids the tools to function in a world that is so foreign – and often even downright hostile – to them, there are people in positions of influence who are not just willing but eager to find ways to meet them halfway.
I got off the phone with hope.
Thank you, Joan – to you and all your colleagues who work so hard to make the magic real.
Ed (other) note: As promised, I’ve created a page containing some info on Disney’s Guest Assistance Card and some tips for finding our favorite characters. Click HERE to read more and to add your input for other travelers. Thank you!