When you’re the Happy Couple, confronting negativity can be challenging: Confront it, and the bubble may burst. Rock the boat, and it may capsize. When you don’t have a script to follow or a role model to emulate to deal with unexpected downturns, finding your own voice for getting what you want without incurring the wrath of cast members or your mate can seem insurmountable. But with time and experience, you begin to realize that the bubble isn’t really as fragile as you think and the boat is likely more seaworthy than you’ve given it credit for. By learning how to turn the negative into a positive, you can actually improve your overall experience instead of just piling on the negatives by pretending they don’t exist.
As the Happy Couple, we were ill-equipped when we first encountered a Disney downer that couldn’t just be brushed aside. Unfortunately, what few references we had to draw upon were not so much options as behaviors to avoid. My loving in-laws, for example, liked to swoop in on the hotel concierge or restaurant maître d’ and staunchly voice their unhappiness, which more often than not, would be rewarded with complementary food or drink or a room upgrade that exceeded their original price point. They soon discovered that if they complained, they were rewarded, and that was who they became: complainers. Despite all the benefits we could potentially reap, that just wasn’t who we wanted to be.
At the other extreme were my parents. My mother would want to see if we could get a room that wasn’t next to the hotel laundry, but my father would be quick to bark, “Don’t make waves—do you want the hotel to hate us?!” Then an argument would ensue and, in the end, everyone was unhappy and no one got what they wanted.
Between our two sets of parents, we found ourselves hapless and helpless in the face of adversity until life—and Disney—finally provided the impetus we needed to find our own way: we had a Disney fight in our Disney hotel room.
We’ll Call This The “What More Could Possibly Go Wrong?” Breakdown:
We had just gotten to our room at the Wilderness Lodge Hotel in Walt Disney World and were instantly thrilled to have the perfect courtyard view facing the Magic Kingdom. Only not everything was perfect: We couldn’t seem to turn off the AC and the room was quickly turning icy. Still, we began to unpack and in doing so discovered that one of the dresser drawers wouldn’t stay closed and was actually interfering with the narrow living space. In an attempt to warm my hands under the tap, I discovered the hot water in the left sink didn’t work and my frustration was starting to mount. It was hard to believe this was a room at a Disney hotel, much less one of the Disney Deluxe hotels. Instinctively, my partner went into damage control mode: 1) “Maybe the AC just needs to be twiddled with.” 2) “So we won’t use the top dresser drawer.” 3) “Well, there are two sinks—just use the other one for hot water.”
Only, I wasn’t going for it. The room was so cold the sliding glass door was fogged on the outside, and as chronic over-packers we needed that third dresser drawer. Why would we accept half a sink not working at a resort hotel when we wouldn’t accept that at home?
“If you want to deal with it…” my spouse shrugged with determined apathy designed to discourage further action.
Clearly, I was on my own with my petty complaints. “Fine.” I became defiant—and really peeved. Enough so that I was motivated to act. I picked up the phone and pressed the button for the front desk. Nothing. I tried again. Nothing. I pressed the button for room service. Nothing. Laundry. Nothing. I dialed my husband’s cell phone. Nothing. The phone didn’t even work!
“All right, so the phone isn’t working.” Mr. Denial was prepared to sweep yet another shortcoming under the carpet with the broom of logic. “We never use the room phone anyway.”
I all but growled, “We are now!” It was a line that would have been funny had either of us been seeing any humor. “Do you happen to have the number for the front desk?” I added, bringing insult to the injury.
His silence was answer enough and I was incensed. Team “Us” had fractured into factions and I was suddenly and unmistakably on my own. Unlike my better half, I couldn’t just ignore all the problems—and particularly the arctic room temperature, which all my overpacking hadn’t anticipated—and I snorted a final “Fine” and resolved to confront the issues one way or another. That’s when I noticed the omission of an ice bucket and my head spun off its axle with outrage and disbelief. How could Disney fall short in so many ways within such a relatively small space? Still, the worst part was my husband’s unwillingness to deal with it—together or at all.
For Every Problem There’s a Solution
The friction between us could’ve zapped a bug. We had never before been so at odds. Seriously: never. We were in as much disbelief over that as we were with our Disney disappointment, which my beloved wanted more than anything to deny away. We needed to reunify and that could only happen from a state of calm (his preferred state), not drama (my default setting).
We both knew that if I went down to the front desk with the lengthy list of issues, the likely resolution would be a different room. The problem was, the location of the room was perfect. It was close to both the elevator and the ice machine, and more than anything, the view was sublime. The second we walked in, we were already imagining having drinks out on the balcony looking at that view (which is why I was quick to notice the missing ice bucket). We were definitely unified on that front, which was a good starting point for a constructive dialog.
The Path to Resolution
It’s not that my husband was unconditionally defending Disney against my attacks (even though that’s what he was essentially doing), it’s that his protective brain was afraid that any negativity would erode the delicate veneer of presumed perfection and my unhappiness was toxic to his psyche. The more upset I got, the more defensive he became.
Recognize your mate’s negativity-phobia as self-preservation, not as a dismissal of your very justified complaints.
We needed to regroup, which we did by heading down to the Territory Lounge and ordering a couple of dry martinis. Then we did what any counselor—or Dr. Phil—would suggest: We adopted a calm demeanor and expressed our grievances calmly and rationally, for notes of hysteria and charged attacks do not make a safe zone. The goal was to be respectful and be heard. Here’s how it played:
Amy: “All right, well, if we love the room, we should at least talk to the desk and see if we can get the AC and the tap repaired. It’s probably not a big deal to just replace the phone, and maybe there’s even a simple fix for the drawer. We should at least see. I’m happy to do it,” I offered myself as the point person. “But if they can’t fix the AC, we should at least find out if there is another room with the same view… just in case. Would you be okay with that?”
It was unlikely he wouldn’t be okay with that, given I not only wasn’t threatening to puncture his pixie-dust bubble, but at the same time was volunteering to do the heavy lifting.
An agreement was thus reached.
- Best case: In the time it takes to have dinner and meander our way back to the room, all the repairs have been made and we’ve even got an ice bucket. Yayyyy!
- Less than best-case: We’ve been assured that in the time it takes to have dinner we’ll be issued a functioning phone and a working hot tap for the left sink. However, the dresser and the AC might have to wait until the following day. Bummer.
We were now weighing the pros and cons, but at least we were are on the same page—mostly. Even if we can get a different, just-as-perfect room, it’s not going to be until tomorrow, so either way we’d have to deal with the frigid air. “It’s not like we’re in the room all that much,” came the voice of pacification, to which Amy wanted to reply, “Fine, but I didn’t think to pack flannel pajamas!” At this point, we were willing to defer all outstanding shortcomings until tomorrow and pool our resourcefulness to create a makeshift ice bucket by lining our unused trashcan with the plastic bag in the closet reserved for shoe-shining service.
It always pays to know your priorities.
It was true we’d be spending less time in the room than out on the balcony enjoying the view over cocktails and nightcaps. Ergo, sucking up a cold room might be an acceptable trade for a great view. On the other hand, if the AC couldn’t be fixed by the next day, the need for a different room would be back in play. We could probably figure out a way to keep the dresser drawer from sliding open, and if need be, we could accept having only one hot water tap. With our fears and frustrations back in check, compromise had become less threatening.
A Final Tip
The front desk is there to help and the concierge will do everything possible to make guests happy. When we finally summoned the courage to approach with our complaints, we did so with a smile and a positive attitude (as hard as that was going in), and we were met with the same in return—it is Disney, after all! Instantly, we felt like we were being heard and that we weren’t terrible Disney people for registering our unhappiness with the room. In fact, we discovered that it’s possible to speak up without being bossy, demanding or sour, so that the Disney spirit could remain in tact, and we could continue to like ourselves and each other. In the end, we were assured that all malfunctions would be remedied by the time we were back from the Park the following day, and if necessary, a room with an equivalent view and amenities would be issued. Happily, this wasn’t necessary.
Most importantly, we learned how to communicate and function effectively in the throes of the rare but inevitable Disney disappointment. We learned that we didn’t have to become people we don’t like being just to get what we’re paying for, and that the magic of Disney is as resilient as the heart’s desire to embrace it. Not only did this experience improve every subsequent Disney getaway, but it’s made us a better Team “Us” in the long run.