Theme park cast member stories: An unexpected gift
By Robert NilesIf you pressed me to name my favorite perk I earned working at Walt Disney World, I'd have to say... the free tickets. When I worked full-time at the Mouse House, I had a pass that I could use to sign in a certain number of family and friends 12 times a year. But even working seasonally, Disney issued us free tickets twice a year - around Christmas and the Fourth of July.
Published: April 11, 2010 at 11:43 PM
As a single person with no kids (back then), I got two tickets each time. But these were no ordinary free tickets. They were one-day park-hoppers, then unavailable to the general public. And not only were they good at all the Walt Disney World theme parks, they were good at Disneyland, as well. (Which prompted just about everyone to wonder if we could run around to all the Disney World parks in the morning, drive to Orlando International, hop a flight to LA and bag Disneyland the same day, on the same ticket. Of course, we figured, anyone who could afford the plane ticket probably could have afforded their own Disney tickets anyway.)
I hoarded these tickets, amassing a decent pile over the summer and winter holidays I worked while in college and graduate school. They came in handy for a broke journalism graduate student, too, as they made excellent wedding presents for the many friends who got hitched when I was in my mid-20s and had no extra cash to buy decent presents.
But one of my fellow cast members didn't wait to make a gift of her tickets. She was in school, too, and had collected quite a few free tickets as she'd been working at Disney since high school. After our shifts had ended in the Magic Kingdom one July day, we'd ridden the monorail over to Epcot for a cast-discount dinner at Epcot's Le Cellier Restaurant. (This was back in the days before Priority Seating, when it was possible to get a table at Le Cellier without weeks of advance notice.)
On our way back, she'd struck up a conversation with a couple of kids about their day at Disney. They were having a great time, and were gushing to my co-worker about everything they'd seen. After a few moments, they started pestering their mother if they could stay another day.
"No, kids," the mother explained patiently. "Our tickets are up today, and we're going to go to the beach tomorrow."
As she said this, I saw my co-worker reach into her purse. She pulled out the free tickets she'd just gotten and - to my shock - handed them over to the mom.
"I work in the Magic Kingdom," my co-worker explained. "And Disney gives us free tickets every now and then. I don't need them - I can get into the park for free whenever I want - and it seems like your kids are having such a good time. Here - I want you to have them."
The mother looked stunned. "No, I..." was all she could get out.
"I insist," my co-worker said, as the kids squealed.
The monorail arrived at the Magic Kingdom, and my co-worker got up to exit before the mom could refuse. "Thank you," the mom said to my co-worker, who simply smiled in return. I collected my jaw from the floor and ran after my co-worker.
I was going to ask, "Why?" but when I saw the smile on her face and the joy she exuded... I had my answer.
Sometimes, you find the greatest joy not in what you get or what you achieve, but in what you do for other people. Even people you do not know, and who never would have expected it.
Read more of Robert's cast member stories at themeparkinsider.com/stories.
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