Theme park cast member stories: At Disney World, someone always knows the score
Written by Robert Niles
The San Francisco Giants winning their first World Series championship reminds me of one of the team's previous trips to the series, this time in 1989, when I was working at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.Tweet
The Giants were playing the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship series, for the right to go on to the World Series. As a recent Northwestern graduate, I was pulling for the Cubs, but it was a family of Giants fans who walked up to the turnstiles at Pirates of the Caribbean that day.
Now, I'm going to take a moment to remind our younger readers about ancient history. Back in 1989, the World Wide Web was yet to become a glimmer in Tim Berners-Lee's eye. Cell phones were car phones - big, bulky and used pretty much just by real estate agents, doctors and lawyers. If you wanted to know a sports score, you either found a television set and waited for an update or, if you were a degenerate gambler, you found a pay phone that would let you make a call to a "976" line and fed in coins until the recorded message got to the score you wanted.
The Giants fans in my queue would have liked to have been watching the game that day, but they'd planned their Walt Disney World visit for months. They hadn't expected the Giants to make it this far - heck, history had taught them well the October belonged to other fans' teams. So they skipped the game for their theme park vacation.
But they still wished to know the score. There aren't any television sets in the Magic Kingdom, but I suppose they guessed that maybe there were some in break rooms around the park. So they took a chance and asked me.
"Hey, you wouldn't happen to know the score to the Giants-Cubs game, would you?"
I was about to say no when I remembered my Disney University training: Disney cast members never respond that they don't the answer to a question. They find out.
But how was I going to find out the score to a baseball playoff game, standing at the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean?
Like any good corporate employee, I decided to kick this question up the corporate ladder. So I called park control.
Normally, front-line cast members don't call control unless they are calling an attraction down. But, hey, I was supposed to get these guests an answer. Disney told me I couldn't say no, so someone at Disney owed me an answer.
"Hello, this is Robert at Pirates of the Caribbean. This is going to sound a bit unusual, but I have a guest here who'd like to know the score of the Giants-Cubs game and I don't want to tell him that I don't have an answer. Do you know where I can get that score for him?"
To this day, I am as proud of the way I phrased that question as I am of anything else I've ever written. I completely inoculated myself and put control in a position where they couldn't tell me to buzz off. A guest had a question and Disney policy was that he gets his answer.
"Ummmm... hold on a second."
I could tell that the control operator was trying to think of a place where he could kick this question. A minute passed, but I wasn't hanging up the phone. While I waited, I chatted up the Giants fans, learning about how they'd planned their trip and admitting to them that as a Northwestern grad, I was rooting for the Cubs. The dad was surprised to hear that I was from Northwestern, and told me about a co-worker who'd gone to NU, too.
Finally, the control op got back on the line. Whatever he'd done to find an answer, it had worked.
"The Giants won: 6-4."
I thanked the op, then told the family. They were ecstatic. The dad shook my hand and thanked me, as the son pumped the air with his fist and leapt down the entrance hall.
Of course, today you'd probably just hop on your cell phone to get an answer to a question like that. But should the Interwebs ever fail to deliver for you, it's nice to remember that at great theme parks such as Disney's, whenever you have a question, they're always someone around who knows the score.
For more stories about working at the Walt Disney World Resort, read Robert's Stories from a Theme Park Insider, available as a paperback and an eBook from Amazon.
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