I am so sorry, but a family emergency had taken Jungle Is "101" into a "holding pattern" for the last few weeks. It is amazing how a father-in-law's trip into the ICU can cut into your time for posting about Disneyland.
Jungle Fans, please pray for my father-in-law's recovery or send a favorable thought his way. Thank you!
In any event, I thought I'd take a moment to post a quick hello and update.
I sure missed you guys.
How've you been?
Hope you are well.
My thoughts have been with those affected by the devastation of the earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear reactor failures in Japan. Our prayers go out to our many Japanese friends and followers---and all of our cast member pals and guests at Tokyo Disneyland---during this very difficult time.
I must admit it has been difficult, between international and personal disasters, to come up with much to write about here. I thought I'd just take a moment and sit down at the old Royal typewriter and start banging out something, anything, just to show you this blog isn't a permanently frozen screen.
So. Here it is.
A little disjointed.
Stream of consciousness---or semi-consciousness, in my case.
Rather than focusing on the negative, as in the first half of this post, I have chosen to leave you with a positive Disneyland memory that I have scraped from the recesses of my feeble mind.
It is simple.
And, mercifully, not terribly long.
I was on my way across the Hub toward a Thunder Mountain shift. Boots, hat, bandana, name tag.
My thoughts were ahead of me, thinking about clocking in, mentally checking the "in-Park" number of guests as I crossed Main Street, wondering if I'd be in the Tower or start off at Load or Main Entrance.
I almost tripped over a small girl as I started to cross the wooden bridge at the Frontierland entrance.
She was four, no more than five, years old.
Her large blue eyes were wide with terror.
And filled with tears.
She was frantic, and called, "Mommy! Mommy!" over and over.
Her tiny Minnie Mouse shirt was accompanied by jean shorts and little sandals.
Chocolate smudges from a recently eaten ice cream bar surrounded her mouth and speckled her Minnie shirt.
She just about crashed into my knee as she ran in a panicky circle, eyes darting about, breathlessly seeking out her lost mother amid her hot tears.
I stopped short and so did she.
Her chin raised and her eyes followed.
I felt very tall and imposing in my boots and hat as she looked up at me.
I saw the fear and panic wash over her face.
Quickly, I knelt down before her and looked into her eyes.
I smiled and said, "It's all right, we'll find your mommy. See---I work for Mickey."
I lifted my vest and held out my name tag.
She squinted through tears to make out the tiny mouse above my name.
Then she looked at me.
She sized me up and apparently felt that I was a better alternative than wandering, lost and alone, through the vast Magic Kingdom---without her mom!
"This says 'Mike," --- that's my name, what's yours?"
The puffy tear stained eyes stared back.
She wasn't talking.
"I'm going to help you find you mommy, all right?"
A pouting and quivering lower lip made it clear that I'd better find mom fast.
Still kneeling, I looked right at her and told her that moms sometimes get lost in Disneyland, but we always, always find them.
"I'm going to stand up and see if I can find her, okay? Will you stand right here by me?"
She nodded and stood by my leg, my boot dwarfing her lilliputian sandals.
I scanned Frontierland ahead of me. No sign of any frantic mom, dad or sibling.
"Stay right here," I told the little girl.
I slowly pivoted and started to scan the guests moving about the Hub, from the Adventureland entrance, toward the Plaza Pavilion, to the Plaza, to the popcorn cart at the base of the Hub. Nothing obvious.
I looked at the Hub and across it to the Tomorrowland entrance. Where's mom?
Continuing to pan to my left, I saw a group of folks in front of the Castle, along with a balloon vendor and a security guard---near Matterhorn Way. Darn, he's a bit far away. Don't think I can get his attention.
The balloon vendor waved back.
But not the security guard, who continued up Matterhorn Way and out of sight.
Great. Security guards had radios. I did not.
I could sense panic building in my little charge, who began to cry for mommy and have second thoughts about the man in the boots and big hat---even if he DID have Mickey on his name tag.
One thing I learned was to be patient with a lost child and to stay put for several minutes (unless I could flag down Security). I knew that a Big Thunder cast member standing with a crying child at the Hub was likely to get someone's attention the longer I stayed put. I also knew the hazard of moving --- because the mom (and dad, brother, sister or other family members) mostly likely was running around searching for the little girl.
I looked back toward Frontierland and saw a security guard, in his U.S. Cavalry costume, walking outside the Shootin' Arcade. How appropriate, I thought. Call in the Cavalry!
Before I could get his attention, though, to my far left I saw a mom-like figure scurrying out of Adventureland and past the entrance to the Tiki Room. Her rapidly swiveling head and nervous stutter steps as she half-ran, made her stand out from the loping folks in the crowd around her. She had her sunglasses pushed up in her hair and a wild-eyed look that I could pick out from over 150 feet away.
I could hear her crying as she neared the Plaza Pavilion.
She started to head south toward Main Street, but stopped and glanced back my way.
I raised my hat and held it high above my head, waving it like a flagman on the Disneyland Railroad.
She saw me.
She looked down.
She saw Sarah.
Sarah's mom immediately began to run toward us.
"Look who I found," I knelt down and said to Sarah, pointing toward the running woman.
The fear instantly evaporated from Sarah's face.
I stood and watched the reunion between them play out before me on the Frontierland entrance bridge.
"Where did you go??!! Oh where did you go??? Mommy's got you!"
Mom scooped up Sarah and held her tight.
"Thank you!!! She's been lost for almost half an hour! Where did you find her??"
"Right here. She was coming out of Frontierland and was pretty upset."
"Thank Goodness you found her!"
"She wasn't hard to miss, believe me!"
The little eyes looked across to me from her mom's shoulder.
"See, I told you we always, ALWAYS find lost moms here at Disneyland!" A cute little blink, a twinkle of a smile and her face quickly buried back into the shoulder.
The security guard I had seen earlier had now joined us on the bridge.
"All clear. We have mom and daughter at Frontierland entrance," he spoke into his radio.
"We've been looking for her over on the West Side. Glad to see you found her."
"She kinda found me. I was heading to Thunder to start my shift."
"Thank you, thank you!" Sarah's mom repeated. "We were right by the Treehouse and she wandered off. We looked everywhere!! I grabbed a security guard and he got on the radio. You people are GOOD!"
Dumb luck and a knack for kids and dogs.
Still, I was happy to accept the compliment and to see mom and daughter together again.
I headed to Thunder.
Five minutes late for my shift.
The area manager was kind enough to correct my time card --- since she had gotten the radio call about the lost child, too!
All in a day's work, ma'am.
All in a day's work.