I did the Disney College Program just last summer in Florida, and this story definitely spoke my language.
When I first signed up, I was told I would be in Quick-Service Food and Beverage (read: fast food). I expected as much--during the phone interview, the lady mostly wanted to talk about the year and a half I worked at McDonalds. I was accepted in November 2009, but I was never told my real position or even the park I'd work in until I got there in late January 2010. After reading over the paperwork, I figured as long as I got any QSFB except the outdoor food stands I would be able to tolerate it. I hate the heat.
On January 28th 2010, I was told I'd be working in Outdoor Foods in the Magic Kingdom. Great, I thought. Not only did I not get Epcot (which the park I was hoping for most), but I also got the job I was most hoping not to get. And not only that, it was quite literally the least desirable job of all. Whenever I went to other parks and told cast members I worked in MK ODF, their first reply would always be, "Oh, I'm so sorry."
After a while, though, I came to love it. The other people who worked in ODF were all just a bit crazy, which you really have to be in order to work under those conditions. The work was hard, the hours were long, and the conditions were frequently downright miserable, but still we had to keep our smiles on and give every guest a magical experience. I quickly became very good at greeting people, and learned all the ins and outs of the park.
One of my favorite guest experiences was with a little boy, named Nick. See, adults often got on my nerves with their tendencies toward general stupidity, but kids never bothered me. They were just kids, they didn't know any better--and more importantly, they weren't mine. Anyhow, one night after the fireworks Nick's mom came up to my stand to get some food. I asked her, "How are you tonight, ma'am?" She said she was alright, but her son wasn't doing so good. Naturally, I asked her why.
She explained that he was 2 years old, and he had convinced himself that you could go up into the castle and explore all the rooms up in there--which obviously isn't the case. I mean, I don't even know if Phil Holmes himself (the VP of the Magic Kingdom) could have arranged something like that at the time. So I said I was sorry to hear that, and finished up the transaction.
Later, she brings Nick to me. She says to him, "Here, Nick, this lady works here. She can tell you what you can do in the castle." Oh God, I thought. All of this boy's hopes and dreams now resided on my shoulders. His eyes were locked onto me as I explained how you could walk through the middle and look at all of the neat mosaics in there, and then go on through to Fantasyland and ride the carousel. But as I explained, his expression changed into the most distraught look I have ever seen on a child. It was as though his world had just shattered in front of him.
So I stopped talking, and asked him "Hey Nick, do you like ice creams?" Ne nodded. Then I asked him, "Do you like Mickey Mouse ice creams?" He nods again, and his face brightened just a bit. "Would you like a Mickey Mouse Ice cream?" He nodded again, his expression changing this time to one of excitement. At that point, his older sister next to him pipes "I want one too!"
So the family left, happily clapping and cheering for the ice cream they'd received, paid for on Mickey's dime, just for them.
I guess that's why I liked it so much. I was allowed to give things out for free when I saw fit, which is very close to my nature. I love food, and I'm very aware that food is something that can comfort in ways that words just can't even come close to. ODF's "Magical Moment" policy is just about the simplest of all the food and beverage divisions, making placating angry guests a relatively easy process.
The eight months I spent there in Florida were some of the best I've ever had. Granted, some of the worst days I've ever had also took place there (that was a roommate problem, had nothing to do with the parks), but I don't regret a moment of it and hope I can go back someday. On a daily basis, I danced along with parades, waved to characters, laughed with guests and cast members, and generally made people happy. I had a front row seat to the fireworks and electrical parades almost every night I worked. One day I gave Donald Duck an ice cream sandwich, and another day Buzz Lightyear came by and got two strawberry bars.
So, needless to say, I highly recommend the Disney College Program to anyone who has the opportunity. It's hard work, you deal with a lot of irate people in the most undesirable of circumstances, and sometimes things can get downright terrifying. But then, you have one of those magical moments, and none of that really matters anymore. You have infinite access to all the parks and discounts for just about everything on Disney Property--not the cast member exclusive stores.
And if you do it and happen to land in MK ODF, tell Barbara that Caitlin says Hi, and that I still have the forks.