ON THE JOB TRAINING
The basic itinerary for our week has been set. The few dining reservations that we needed have been made. It is time for the task that all NDMs live for – designing a strategy for conquering the theme park.
I gather my three mouseketeers into our living room. As a NDM, one of the responsibilities I hold is to teach my children the various facets of living The Disney Driven Life. Among these, vacation planning is paramount, and this is a perfect opportunity to begin instruction in this crucial life-skill.
I line my troops up in military fashion for inspection. They are a young bunch, but they come from good stock. Being my own offspring, I know the Neurotic Disney gene is somewhere in their composition. It is up to me to lay hold of whatever Disney instincts each child displays and nurture these inbred inclinations until they blossom into undeniable characteristics of Disney neurosis.
The little mouse that shows the most promise is Margeaux. She is my mini-me. From physical appearance to dramatic temperment, this one is almost a carbon copy of her NDM. She already shows organizational abilities that should serve her well in vacation planning. Her Disney trivia is nearing perfection due to regular pop-quizzes to which I subject her. And–on occasion–she even mentions concepts for theme park rides. As I look her over in my line-up, I surmise that she is definitely going places. Margeaux is one to watch.
Next in line is Miller. I suspect that this little guy will be my toughest case to crack. As most little boys do, Miller holds his daddy in high regard and tries to imitate every move. Since Joel, my husband, only shows an amused tolerance for Disney, this puts me at a slight disadvantage where Miller is concerned. However, since I began my indoctrination early on with him, I have made impressive strides. He has developed a solid interest in Buzz Lightyear and Captain Hook. Plus, when Miller does get caught up in a moment of Disney whimsy, he has been known to gather the money he’s received for chores and present it to me in support of our Disney habits. A tiny smirk appears on my face as I look Miller up and down. He is not a lost cause, but there is work to be done.
Elle is last in my brood. She cut her teeth on Disney due to the obsessive Disney nature of her NDM and influence of her siblings. As a result she puts all topics of conversation within the context of Disney (whether it is their proper context or not). It occasionally makes for amusing misunderstandings that always cause Joel to shake his head in dismay (such as referring to her immature breasts as “Minnies” rather than “ninnies”). This reality is paired with the fact that she is the most dynamic personality of the group. The fresh discovery of all things Disney along with her expressive nature is a powerful combination, and I find she has the ability to force all other family members to join her in uninhibited giddiness or despairing gloom as she learns the inner-workings of a NDM family.
“Well,” I begin my pep-talk as I pace back and forth in front of them, “as y’all know we are going to Walt Disney World.” My composed infantry erupts into chaotic silliness, whooping and hollering while “getting jiggy with it.” “ATTENTION!” I yell. My undisciplined company looks at me quizzically, and they settle enough to allow me to continue. “There will be a time for celebration, but this is not that time. This is the time where we buckle down and get to work. There is a lot of preparation that needs to happen before a family can go to WDW, and everyone has to do his or her part. Today our job is to devise a plan of attack. Can I count on you to make productive contributions?”
Margeaux looks slightly stressed by my battle cry, but she obediently salutes me and shouts, “Yes, m’am!” Miller raises his eyebrows and looks at Margeaux with a confused expression. He doesn’t quite understand the meaning of my speech or his sister’s response, but he figures he better comply. His chubby little hand goes up to his forehead, and he says with some uncertainty, “Yes, m’am?”
All eyes turn to Elle. Everything that just occurred has gone completely over her head, but she detects the serious tone of the moment. Her little brow is wrinkled in determination. She is going to participate like the big kids, and she’ll put all the pieces together later. “Yes, m’am,” she bellows. Then she slaps her forehead with her tiny palm in an attempt to salute.
“Let’s do this, ” I command. I take my place on the couch with my map, notebook and pencil. Then I motion that my little brigade should gather around my feet on the floor. They position themselves appropriately and look to me for instruction.
“The first step in conquering a theme park is to define the attractions that you must see no matter what. That way if something goes wrong and everything cannot get done, there are some priorities in place to help make wise decisions,” I begin. “Do you understand?” Margeaux nods her head, but Miller and Elle shake theirs in a negative response. I try again, “Mommy just wants to know what you want to do most when we go to Walt Disney World. OK?” Everyone chimes in with, “OK.”
“Elle, we’ll start with you,” I initiate. “What do you want to ride or see the most?” She replies with absolute resolve, “Dumbo!” I try to explain, “Oh honey, we can’t go see Dumbo. Dumbo is in the Magic Kingdom. We are going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What would you like to do in Disney’s Hollywood Studios?” “Dumbo,” she declares.
Clearly Elle has not grasped the concept of Walt Disney World being a segmented entity. I realize that I must back up a little to address this misunderstanding. “Elle,” I remark with a tender tone, “we are going to Walt Disney World, right?” “YES,” she shouts. I continue, “Well, did you know that Walt Disney World has a lot of different parts inside it?” Her eyes grow wide, and she shakes her head.
It occurs to me that this concept begs for an illustration, so I send Miller to retrieve one of our Mickey Mouse plush dolls from the playroom. Once Mickey plush is in hand, I start my object lesson. “Here we have Mickey. Mickey has many parts, doesn’t he? He has ears. He has eyes. He has pants. He has a tail. They are all parts of Mickey, and when we put them together we get one whole Mickey. That is how it is is with Walt Disney World. There are different parts like the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but all the parts make up the whole Walt Disney World.” I continue, “Now there are certain things that only go with one part. For example, we wouldn’t find a button on Mickey’s ear because buttons only go on his pants. We wouldn’t find a shoe on Mickey’s nose because shoes only go on his feet. It’s the same way with rides. We can’t go on Dumbo The Flying Elephant because that belongs in the Magic Kingdom. We are going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In the Studios, they have Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Playhouse Disney — Live on Stage!, and the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure. Why don’t you think about which one you like best. Then you tell me your answer in a minute.” “OK,” my sweet cherub agrees.
“Miller, what do . . . . Miller?” I look to the spot where Miller was seated, but he is no longer there. “Where is Miller?” I ask my daughters. Margeaux points her finger in the direction of the playroom. “Miller!” I holler, “Get in here right now, young man!” Miller comes stomping into the room. I reprimand, “What do you think you’re doing?” “I’m bored,” Miller responds, “Well, if you don’t do your part today, you are going to be bored when we go to Walt Disney World.” I am well aware that the statement I just made is not only inaccurate but an impossibility; however, there are times when a NDM will spew nonsense in order to enlist the cooperation that is needed. “Please have a seat,” I request. Miller plops on the floor, and I ask him, “Now what do you want to do most in Disney’s Hollywood Studios?” “I don’t know,” he replies. To help refresh Miller′s memory of some options, I look at my theme park map. “Some things that you might like are Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, Star Tours, Muppet Vision 3-D and Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. Do any of these appeal to you?” My pencil is poised, and I’m ready to record his dictation. But there is no response. I look up from my notebook. Miller is staring out the window. “Miller,” I whine. My cranky call pulls him out of his daydream state and back into our living room. He displays a blank expression and says, “Huh?” I heave a big sigh. This is proving to be more difficult than I’d originally thought.
I turn back to Elle. “Have you thought of what you want to do most,” I ask her. She nods her head in affirmation. “Mom,” Margeaux interupts. “Yes,” I reply. “Do I have to ride on the elevator ride?” Margeaux inquires. “You mean The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror,” I correct, “If you are tall enough to ride it, then you have to ride it once. If you don’t like it, then you don’t have to ride it again.” Margeaux sits in silence and considers the words I’ve spoken, so I focus once again on Elle. “Tell Mommy, Pumpkin, what did you decide is your favorite attraction.” “Dumbo!” she proclaims. I close my eyes and give a frustrated smile. “OK. Thank you,” I tell her. “You may be excused.”
Elle toddles off to the playroom to play while I try to make some progress with my remaining planning partners. “Miller, please stop pulling the threads out of the throw rug,” I fuss. “Mom,” Margeaux interupts again, “I don’t want to ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It looks scary on the DVD.” I try to calm my irritated nerves and rationally explain, “Sweetheart, it’s not as scary as it seems on the DVD. You are in a seat with a big seatbelt. You’re perfectly safe. Did you know that when I was a little girl, Pop-pop made me go on all the rides that scared me? Because he did that, I got used to them. Now I love them. But I never would have liked them if I never tried them.” Margeaux’s lower lip begins to quiver.
Oh dear! This situation is deteriorating at an accelerated pace. I look over at Miller. He is picking at a scab. “Oh! Stop that, son!” I say in disgust. “Stop that now! Gross! Yuck! Eeew! You may be excused! Go play,” I exclaim. Miller gets up and walks off to the playroom.
I am left with Margeaux who looks more depressed than Eeyore without his tail. I know that some comfort is warranted as well as a talk to bolster her courage, but I am desperate at this point to accomplish something. “Could you please tell me what you want to do most at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?” I beg. With the dramatic flair that Margeaux is known for, she bursts into tears. In between heavy sobs she manages to communicate, “I just can’t! How can I possibly know what I want to do, when all I can think about is what I don’t want to do?” With that she throws her sorrowful head in my lap and gives way to a pity party that is reminscent of Alice’s when she discovers her body is too big to pass through the locked door and into Wonderland.
With a sobbing child in my lap, I stroke her hair and wonder where I went wrong. This was supposed to be a simple exercise in Disney vacation training that would help build excitement for our upcoming trip. Instead it became a frustrating experience of torment for all involved. “There must be a better way,” I think to myself. I know I will find it, but in the meantime I think I will stick to designing park strategies on my own.
*for information about Disney theme park strategies contact NDM#1 at firstname.lastname@example.org