Thursday, September 26, 2019

The scary very bad day at the happiest place on earth.

Dear Disneyland Security,

You disappointed me Monday. Thank goodness disappointment is a wound that will heal.

Our visit to Disneyland had been wonderful – almost flawless. Your sunshine, your amazing Halloween decor, and your ability to transport us to the planet Batuu were experiences we won’t soon forget! We were literally smiling from ear to ear and enjoying every moment…

And then, we opted to go watch the preview for this season’s “The Goldbergs” showing in the Opera House. We adore the show – literally laugh out loud at every single episode, and thought it would be delightful to enhance our memories of this trip with the laughter an episode of our favorite TV family traveling to Disneyland would offer.

And we were right.

And then we weren’t.

The repeated coughing in the back of the theater startled us. My 13-year-old turned to see if the gentleman was ok. He stepped over two rows of theater seats to engage with her – asking if she was talking to him. And it was not friendly banter. My husband quickly interceded – gesturing to the screen and urging him to not interrupt with talking.

The man began cursing. He began moving with crazed eyes aggressively toward our row. My daughter was panicked. My son who struggles with anxiety issues anyway, began panicking in his wheelchair. My husband stood to put himself between the man and all of us. 

The man was yelling at this point. Yelling and ranting words that didn’t make sense. He cursed at us. He beat his chest in a “You want to fight me?” gesture. And then he yelled “Who did you vote for?” repeatedly. It was jarring and strange…..his random curiosity about our voting practices would have been humorous were it not for the aggression visible in his eyes and manner.

Wade told our friend Jeff to get security. Jeff sprinted out the opposite door to do that.

The cast member for the show came in. The man – alarmed by Wade’s yelling for security – began backing toward the exit door but he never quit yelling. Never quit gesturing. 

Now here is where you come in, dear Disneyland security. Oh wait, it isn’t. You were not near us. The staff at the theater were left to deal with the outburst. Before the show ended, the cast member returned to tell us to stay in the show to give you time to apprehend the man.

When the show ended, the cast member returned to ask us to remain behind the curtain at the exit because the man was out front looking for us. He was apparently going among the cast members asking for information about us – a family easily recognizable by the wheelchair that goes where we go. We assumed as we stood behind that curtain feeling incredibly vulnerable that you, Disneyland Security, were busy apprehending this man. We assumed that we were waiting for a safe exit where YOU had in custody a man who intended us harm. 

Then a cast member came to apologize (again) and asked us to follow her to City Hall so they could “make this right”. Still, we had not seen you anywhere. I honestly hoped that the cast member was an undercover policeman and caught myself looking for a hidden gun. I was hoping that at last security was with us.

But when we got to City Hall….and were sequestered in a side room, this cast member left us. She introduced us to another cast member…..and she introduced us to you. We made another statement. The fourth time we would explain what happened. You nodded along. Another family in the auditorium had already called you in and made a statement about the episode.

You left us to make calls. We tried to find humor sitting in a back room in City Hall on Main Street at our beloved Disneyland….but we couldn’t finish a single thought that didn’t involve what had just happened. The friends with us were as shaken as we were. We wanted to calm down. We wanted to re-find the magic we had felt just an hour earlier. But we were all completely at a loss for how to find that again.

Guest Service Cast member returned with fast passes. She offered us special parade viewing. We didn’t want either really. What we wanted was to be able to finish our trip without looking over our shoulders for a man who clearly needed help – for a man who clearly needed attention. 

We asked if you had him. You said no. He had escaped down Main Street before you got there.

We asked if there had been video surveillance of the building where you at least had a good visual on who you were looking for. You never answered.

We asked if you would be with us – with these gifted fast passes – making sure we were safe and NOT as vulnerable as we felt. You assured us there was security all over the park ready to assist us. And yet, it had been half an hour at least before we saw you this first time after this happened.

We decided we had to leave Disneyland for peace of mind. We went to California Adventure. We assumed we would be safe there because you were watching for him at the exits – we ASSUMED you were watching for him. But you were not. There was not a single security officer at the exits.

The cloud of vulnerability followed us the rest of the day. We are at least a thousand miles away today and we still feel like we want to circle our 13-year-old and ensure she is safe.

We are fine. No wounds except our feelings. But oh man, I need you to do better. Please please increase your staff if necessary, get the training for your team, do the quickness drills, find the video surveillance. If this ever happens again – and oh man we hope nothing like this ever happens again – you can rush in, securing the man in order to get him help, as SOON as he starts making threats against a family in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Don’t worry I am still wearing my ears. They just are sagging a bit.

 Carol - The Blessings Counter