When you think of the Happiest Place on Earth, your first thought probably doesn’t land on the parking lot, and to be honest- mine doesn’t either. I spent six months driving trams, directing traffic, and parking cars. Real magical, right? As long as we’re being honest, I’ll admit that I pretty much hated the parking lot when I first started. I mean seriously, how was I supposed to have any kind of positive guest interaction when I’m busy making sure I don’t get run over by cars or preventing people from running straight into the tram lane? Some of my time there was stained by the rude and entitled nature of the people I come into contact with, but let me clarify: I may have experienced the anger and frustration more often than not, but there are at least five moments between me and a guest that I can look back on that made my entire program worth it. Thanks to amazing co-workers and a group of other college program peers that meshed well from the start, I look back on that time joyful for the opportunity. I’d never change that I accepted the offer to spend a semester at Disney and I’ll never regret the experience. These are in no particular order, but just as they came to me when I made my original list. Every moment will be cherished and kept dear forever. So, without further ado, my Top Five Guest Moments!
1. 1. As part of my spiel, I was allowed add in a few jokes or lines of my own, so at the very end as guests were exiting my tram I would say something along the lines of, “We hope you have a good night, and a great big beautiful tomorrow!” (Do you recognize which ride that’s in homage to?) One of my last nights, I was making the rounds on the Heroes side of the parking lot and we had reached our last stop at Mulan and Rapunzel. There were about 50 guests on board or so, with one of my last rows being occupied by a large family. As we approached our stop, I was delivering the end of my spiel saying something like, “Alright everyone, Mulan will be to your right and Rapunzel to my driver’s left. Thank you again for being our guest today, we hope you have a great rest of your night! Drive carefully, and we’ll see ya real soon!” As soon as I had said the last sentence, a little boy, no older than 7 or 8 who belonged with the family in the last car stood up and shouted, “Hey! That’s Mickey’s line!” His whole family began to chuckle, and I was surprised that he was so quick witted about it. So I said to him, “Oh man, you’re right! But you know what? Mickey is my boss and I asked special permission if I could use it just this once!” to which the young boy said, “REALLY? Mickey is your boss??” I was able to spend just a moment more saying goodnight to them, but having the young boy get so excited that Mickey was my boss was absolutely adorable. As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of another time that another young boy and his family sat in the very back row of the last car, nearest to me while I was spieling. I was asking him and his sister about their day, what they enjoyed the most, and if they would ever come back to visit. The young boy pipes up at this point and says, “Oh yeah! When I get old enough I want to work here! I want to drive the trams just like you! And we live in Orlando so I’ll be really close to home!” The excitement and innocence in the boy’s response was so encouraging to me. At least one kid thought I was cool!
2. 2. One of the positions in the lot was something called Jack’s Point. At the end of the night, when everyone is exiting, the person at Jack’s Point is in charge of making sure that everyone walks around the tram lane instead of through it, for their safety and our efficiency. At this post, you get to carry a light wand, something that to a kid, looks very similar to a light saber! So I was at Jack’s Point one night directing traffic and giving directions, when a young boy carrying a large light up lightsaber toy walked past with his father and I overheard him say, “Why does she have a lightsaber too?” I didn’t hear his dad’s answer, but I jumped in and asked if the boy would like to have a duel. He of course was incredibly excited, so we circled each other and play fought with our “swords.” He of course, eventually won and I fell to my knees. The look on his face alone was more than enough to make my week, but to see his parents smiling too was heartwarming. Knowing that I had supplied one last magical moment for that family was the highlight of my night.
3. 3. By far the funniest guest interaction I had was in the parking lot. It was late in the day, probably 6:30 or so, and we were parking Mulan. I imagine this had to be around March because I remember it being very busy and we were parking on the Heroes side, which doesn’t happen often late in the day. Each “row” in the parking lot can hold two rows of cars, one right behind the other. We call these the single, first row, and the double, the second. I was walking down the line, parking the single and if I recall correctly I had just had a guest nearly clip me with their car, so I wasn’t in a fantastic mood. Suddenly, this car pulls into the space I’m parking with the windows rolled up, but the music is blaring. I’m getting a kick out it because the man in the front seat wasn’t having any of it, while the ladies in the car were having a blast. There was a lull in traffic, so I was able to stand there for a minute and hear what song was playing: Adele’s Hello. Of course I started singing along, and at some point I made eye contact with the driver. She immediately rolled down the windows to the car, cranked the stereo even louder, and we sang- very passionately, I must say- the rest of the song to each other. Guests passing me on their way to board the next tram were laughing, I was trying to keep it together myself, and when the song was over, the entire car erupted into applause as well as one of my coworkers who saw the whole thing. I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear, and it made my entire night. This moment in particular sticks out to me because this is the first time that happened to me when I can recall thinking, “This is why I’m here. This is what makes this job worth the frustration.” I still laugh every time I imagine this moment!
4. 4. I’ve mentioned before that the parking lot is a tough place to be. You have to have thick skin and you have to be willing to go without recognition. I had gone my entire program feeling pretty good about the spiel I had developed over the course of six months, but on my second to last night ever on a tram, I was given some feedback about it. We had just finished dropping off the last of the guests on the Heroes side of the lot, and the family that had been in the last car with me made a point to come back and say to me, “Thank you so much for that! We have been coming here for several years and we have ridden many trams, but that was the best spiel we have ever heard! You did an amazing job!” Guys, I’m not kidding when I say that I almost broke down in tears right then and there. Even writing about it now makes me a little emotional. To go through my day, hoping that some of the guest’s appreciated my jokes and that I was making their day just a little brighter one last time was always my goal, but to have someone come up to me and tell me specifically that I had made their night was humbling. As long as we’re talking about being appreciated, I’ll mention the little notes I received. It has come to my attention that some guests who frequent the parks write notes or put little goodie bags together for cast members as a way to show their appreciation. I had been working in the lot for about 2 months when I received my first note- a young boy, no older than 5 approached me on the back of the tram and said “Excuse me! Excuse me! Here!” and handed me a small piece of paper. On the inside a handwritten note said, “CM, Thank you for all of your hard work! -Caleb & Ava.” Roughly a month later I received another note while I was in the load zone boarding guests. This one had a similar message, but it wasn’t until I got home that I realized the two notes were from the same family, both signed “Caleb & Ava.” By the end of my program, I had collected three notes from this family, and their actions alone gave me hope that we were doing something right.
5. 5. I guess I did save the best for last, because this memory sticks out to me as a time where not only the universe was looking out for me, but I was able to truly make someone’s day better. It was mid-afternoon, around 4 or so, and I was taking a round of guests out to the Heroes side of the parking lot. When it’s not very busy, you end up sitting for a while in the load zone, and sometimes you have to leave guests behind in order to keep the trams moving efficiently. That exact scenario happened to me, and despite explaining that I had to move out of the way of the next tram, the guest was not happy that they could not board mine. As we pulled away, they shouted after me, and for whatever reason, it got to me in that moment. I felt defeated and frustrated, as I was only trying to do my job as I was taught. I held back tears and got through my spiel with much less enthusiasm than usual. As we rounded back up to the load zone, I thought to myself, “It sure would be nice to just have a happy moment today.” As soon as we stopped, a family boarded and sat in the very last row of my car, once again, in the spot closest to me. I engaged with the young girl, since she was wearing a birthday button and I swear she barely let me get a word in edgewise. She was so excited to tell me all about her day, the things she had done, and her little brother “Judie-Patootie.” I learned from her parents that they were leaving Disney, and were headed back to Georgia that day. They had taken Anna-Grace to Disney as a special trip for just her and her parents, but, “Next year we’ll bring Judie with us too!” I was so overwhelmed with happiness to see this little girl so excited about her trip, she clearly had had the best day of her life with us, and I decided to make it just a little bit better. As we approached our second stop, I spoke into the microphone and made an announcement telling the tram that we had a very special princess on board and that it was her birthday. I was able to get the whole tram, on the count of three to say, “Happy Birthday, Anna-Grace” just as we pulled up to their stop. The excitement on her face and the thankful smiles I got from her parents not only made my day and my week, but every time I was down or frustrated with something at work, all I had to do was imagine that moment of pure magic that I gave them, and I felt 100 times better. I hope that little girl still talks about her trip to Disney and I hope her parents will tell her about the Tram Lady who had everyone say happy birthday to her. Even if they don’t, I know for a fact that I made a difference on that one day, and that’s enough for me.
There were smaller moments in between, and even some on my days off that made me smile or laugh, but these were the big ones. The memories that still trigger a big grin and warm fuzzy feelings that let me know I made someone’s vacation just a little better, and a little more magical. If I can provide that, then I know I’ve made Walt proud, and that makes me feel honored to have been a cast member.