Theme park cast member stories: The most difficult question, ever
Published: May 26, 2009 at 11:00 AM
Move a crowd of people off the street and behind a Magic Kingdom parade barrier? Maybe, but with a strong voice and a stronger attitude, that's really no big deal.
Calm a crying child before he stops the line at load? Also tricky, but a warm smile and kneeling down to a child's eye level do wonderful things.
Wiping up a "protein spill" after said child finishes that ride? Disgusting, but less so once one discovers that invaluable substance, "Vo-Ban."
No, this single most difficult thing a theme park employee has to do is...
Ask a women if she is pregnant.
If she says 'yes,' hey, not only have you done your job well, but maybe you also just prevented a horrible incident that could have compromised her pregnancy.
But if she says 'no'... oh my heaven, hell hath no fury than a woman mistaken for a pregnant one.
I'll always remember one soul-destroying exchange I witnessed at Walt Disney World's Big Thunder Mountain load platform:
"Excuse me, ma'am, but are you pregnant?"
"PREGNANT? No! What are you saying, do I look FAT?"
"Um," (awkward pause) "actually, I was saying that I thought you looked, maybe, pregnant."
At this moment, every other operator on the platform looks away, trying to shrink behind the nearest stanchion, or, ideally, into a hole in the floor.
"I AM NOT PREGNANT! Oh my God," the young woman then buries her head into the friend's chest and sobs. "they think I look fat. Let's get out of here!"
Then they cross over the train and out the station, as the poor cast member who asked her the question looks like he'd just as soon throw himself in front of said train.
Bad times, all around.
Still, you've got to ask. The consequence of letting an expectant mother on some rides can be horrific. (Insider tip: When rides bar pregnant riders, it's not just because the ride's normal operation is too rough for an expectant mother. It's because of what might happen should the attraction shut down in mid-ride. Trust me, you do not want a pregnant belly anywhere near a lap bar when a roller coaster hits a safety brake.)
I never, ever wanted to be that cast member, as humiliated asking the question as that poor woman felt having to answer it. Which is why I felt the weight of the world lift from me one day as I discovered an impromptu solution.
A maybe-pregnant, maybe-not young woman was walking down the platform at load. As she walked closer, and the moment of truth approached, I turned to the pair of teenage boys in front of me and asked, in a booming voice with a huge smile on my face...
"Are you pregnant?"
They looked at me like I was nuts. But I didn't wait for an answer. I then asked the elderly ladies behind them the same question.
"Are you pregnant?"
She just laughed. To the burly biker dudes behind them,
"Are you pregnant?"
They laughed, too, as the woman-in-question finally approached, laughing along with the rest of the platform.
"No," she said.
Soul-crushing moment averted!
I kept asking down the line for that entire train, just for appearances. That became my SOP for every potential pregnancy then on: ask *everyone* around the woman in question if they were pregnant, so that the woman would not feel singled out.
Many times, I saw a panicked look on the woman's face as I approached, and I knew that she would be answering 'yes.' When that happened, I stopped the schtick, changed to an earnest expression of concern and explained, "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry, ma'am, but we can't allow expectant mothers to ride. Here, please come stand right over here," as I would help her across the train to the unload side and changed my expression to a wide smile, "and you can wait for your group while they ride."
Never failed, and no one ever complained.
Please share your incredibly awkward pregnancy-related theme park stories, in the comments.