Why don’t I work for Disney any more?
I hope you weren’t expecting a short, simple answer.
I worked at Disneyland twice. It was the greatest time of my life. It’s pretty much downhill from here. So why did I leave?
Because life sucks. The first time I left was in 1997, after 3½ years there. Life had thrown me too many curveballs.
My car broke down on the way to work one day. Oil pressure dropped to zero. I pulled over (driving with no oil = bye-bye car). Got towed to a repair shop, repairman said the oil was OK, but the pump that feeds the dashboard gauge was broken. He replaced it that day, but I missed work. More on the car later.
I was sharing an apartment with three other cast members. One night I came home from work and the locks had been changed. There was a note on the door. They booted me because of a dispute over $20 (I was $20 short for rent after the car repair). I wasn’t listed on the lease, so I had no recourse. The police even refused to help me convince them that I should be able to get my belongings (“I don’t have a special police knock that will make them give it to you” was the cop’s response). So, I went back to Disneyland and sat outside harbor House, where cast members would leave after work. I just sat there, not knowing what to do or where to go. A friend got off work and I spent the night there.
I ended up staying with my fiancee and her parents. Then my car broke down again. The oil pressure had again dropped to zero on my dashboard. I stopped. This time, short on funds, I called the old fiancee. Her dad came out and drove my car to their house (I was in love with his daughter, so I let him do it despite my fears of what it would do to the engine, because I didn’t want to fight the guy I thought was a future in-law). During that drive, a rod disconnected and pierced the engine. Bye-bye car. I could have had the engine replaced, but the lowest estimate I got was $3,000.
The fiancee’s house was about 30 miles from Disneyland, so without a car I couldn’t get to work. I explained the situation to my bosses, but Disneyland is union. The only way my fiancee could have the same schedule as I had would be to have the schedulers break the contract as far as seniority in scheduling is concerned.
So I took shorter shifts (and less of them), giving up seniority. I wasn’t making enough to cover gas to and from work, much less food and trying to save up to get my car fixed.
My parents had moved to Illinois a few years before, and I called my mom, who told me to come home and live there until I got back on my feet. I explained everything to my fiancee and her parents, and said that I already had a job lined up and planned on saving up and being back in six months. This was in October of 1997.
On my last day, I requested (and got) a closing Balloon shift. Selling balloons was my favorite thing to do. I especially loved the closing part, where we would stand along Main Street. I got (again, by request), “The Point” position, in Town Square standing where the trolley tracks separate to go around Town Square’s central area. I loved seeing the kids asleep in their strollers, and would imagine them waking up and wondering if the day had just been a wonderful dream.
She dumped me on Christmas eve (via email), so in my funk I didn’t rush to get back. If you want to read about what happened, you can read a post from last year here. Suffice to say that I no longer had a fiancee.
It took me until 2002 to get back to Disneyland. I hired back into ODV, the same department as before. Because of union rules, I had to start over on seniority. My trainer told me I was the only trainee that ever taught him how to do things better (blowing up those latex Mickey mouse balloons is an art, and even more challenging when they are inside the clear outer balloon).
I worked my way back through the ranks, got my position back as a lead, and was taking on added responsibilities to stand out and move up faster. I was on a fast track, since most of the management had worked with me before.
Then my grandma got sick. Congestive heart failure. I lived with her so I could take care of her medication, doctor visits, etc. I would worry when I would go to work, but she would tell me she would be fine and tell me to go.
Then she wasn’t fine as often. I had to call off work a few times to take her to the hospital to get fluids drained from her legs. It became more and more frequent. Then she was admitted to the hospital, and we didn’t think she was coming home. I basically had to choose between work and family. I chose family.
I would call every morning before heading off to the hospital, not knowing if it was going to be the last day I would spend with her. Trouble is, I was calling and leaving messages, since the offices weren’t staffed yet that early in the morning. Instead of passing along the messages, I was getting no call/no shows on my attendance record (if I’d known about Family Medical Leave back then, I’d probably still be there today).
Then, in September of 2004, I got a letter from Disney telling me that I had been terminated due to attendance policy violations. I went and turned in my costumes (Disney-speak for uniforms) and Disneyland ID.
I ended up getting hired by some of the same managers that were in charge then when they moved to Universal Studios and saw my resume online. Even though they had seen me miss so much work, they hired me to work for them again.
One of them has since moved back to Disneyland (the other, I think, is now in real estate). We kept in touch for a while via email, but whenever I would bring up the possibility of working at Disneyland again, the email would go unanswered. I have a strong feeling that I have “No Rehire” status.
If I’d known that my grandma was going to live until 2010, I would have done things differently. She hung on for a very long time. I don’t regret choosing family over Disney, but sometimes I feel like my dreams slipped through my fingers because of it.
In a nutshell, that’s why I’m no longer with Disney. I would love to go back, but I believe that bridge has burnt. I’m now living in Washington, and it would be very hard to start from scratch yet again. The only way it would even be feasible to go back would be to do so as a manager…otherwise I would be back at the newbie schedule, unable to afford to live anywhere near Disneyland.
And I don’t hold it against Disney at all. I wish I had done things differently, even if I don’t regret my choice at the time. I would go back in a second if they would have me (and if I could maybe afford to live in the area on what Disney would pay me). Over the course of 10 years, I spent a total of 6 working for the mouse (3½ then 2½). And they were the best years of my life.
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