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EDITORIAL: What Disney Has Taught Us About Surviving a Pandemic

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DLH Room Service PizzaDisney always holds the promise and potential of perfection, but often, it’s our resourcefulness in the face of the unexpected that helps us achieve the desired result. Now that we’re living through an unprecedented time of unanticipated circumstances, we’re finding ourselves applying many of the lessons we’ve learned from trying to make the best of our most difficult Disney days.

We gotta eat!

There are times when satisfying our need for a meal—whether it’s in the park or at one of the resorts—can prove formidable. Menus change, dining hours change, the weather changes, and crowd size can exceed all expectations. Each of these factors alone can throw a day or an evening off balance, and when we find ourselves suddenly disenfranchised from our well-conceived plan, whether it be for a meal or small bites with cocktails, we need to be able to pivot as quickly as possible to regain our footing and keep the positive Disney vibe rolling. Still, this can be particularly difficult when we’ve gone too long without nutrition and one or both of us begins to break down. Fortunately, there are measures we’ve learned to take in order to mitigate downtime, and, more importantly, the cranky, snap-at-each-other times.

So, now that our markets are even less fully stocked than a Disney Resort mini-market, we’re applying the same lessons we’ve learned from dealing with Disney’s downside:

  • See the potential in small ingredients that play well with others and grab ’em.
  • Condiment packages can be combined to create an elevated dip or spread.
  • Substituting unavailable ingredients with close-enough’s can lead to new culinary discoveries.
  • Dining out now means eating in, which means submitting those online orders with plenty of lead time in case the place is super-busy, changes its hours or shuts down altogether.
  • Move from where we normally eat in our home to a different room or table—or even a beach mat on the floor—to make the meal feel more special or romantic.

We weren’t prepared for this!

Survival isn’t something we gave a lot of thought to when visiting our Disneyland Resort parks. We only get so much “weather” here, and our longest stay generally doesn’t exceed a couple days. It wasn’t until we started vacationing at Walt Disney World that we native Californians met deadly heat and humidity, torrential rain, bitter cold, driving wind, and fearsome lightning that closed down hotel pools and all the “wet” rides in the park. To say we were ill-prepared for any of it is an understatement. Yet, when this is our annual vacation that we’ve spent most of the year planning for, we’re going to make it the best trip it can be, goshdarnit, because, well, there’s no going home on account of rain.

Disney Wear and MugSo, now in light of so many restrictions and closures, we take the same approach as a Disney day filled with unexpected shutdowns and closures. The monorail might have been quicker or easier, but it’s not happening: too crowded, too long a wait time, or worse—it got stuck somewhere between the Contemporary Resort and the Polynesian. That’s okay, we can walk. Or take a bus. Or a Minnie Van. Or change our plan altogether. Thanks to Disney, we’ve learned that we’re more flexible than we thought, and are more than capable of reevaluating and reconfiguring our plans every day and sometimes twice:

  • We can’t go anywhere, like to a movie, a museum, a beach or a park, but we can take a nice, scenic drive now that there’s no longer such a thing as rush hour. We just pretend it’s Disneyland’s Autopia!
  • When everything is too crowded—or in this case, closed down—there’s still plenty of Disney to be infused through binge-watching Disney+, watching YouTube videos of vintage attractions, and putting together a slide show of our favorite Disney photos and setting them to music.
  • There are a number of Disney recipes for cocktails, beverages and select menu items online and in books. This is a perfect time to try some and see how close you can get to the original (even if some or many of the ingredients have to be substituted): Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup19 Food Recipes and MoreRecipes from Around the World are a good place to start if you don’t already have a Disney cookbook or two.
  • Wear your favorite Disneywear to the home office. The fave t-shirt, cap, or pair of Mickey slippers that weren’t so appropriate at the office will brighten each and every day of being shut in, and all the more when combined with a favorite Disney mug or popcorn bucket.

This wasn’t the plan!

Fastpass or not, a queue doesn’t always move like it should, and by time we realize that it’s not moving at all, we’ve gotten just far enough in that extricating ourselves becomes dicey. We try to stay optimistic. Finally, a few steps are taken, “We’re moving!” we cheer. No, a party of four just abdicated their spot and we all filled in to take their place. At a certain point we just have to accept it’s not working out. We either have to cut our losses and move on, or hold firm no matter what. Sometimes, the best choice is to move on and hope that the next attraction will deliver redemption. And sometimes, that becomes the pattern of the day: cutting our losses and moving on to the next plan that might just work out. No matter what, though, we never lose hope. There’s always another opportunity to turn things around and leave the park happy.

So, now that we’re all living a different life and a different reality each day, we’re bringing our Disney resourcefulness and positive park attitude into every day:

  • We’re all in this together, so it helps to keep smiling at each other and those we’re standing six feet apart from (they can see it in your eyes even if your mouth is covered by a mask).
  • It pays to be patient when things aren’t going as expected and keep a sense of humor, as there will be many who are at their breaking point and can benefit from a positive presence.
  • We never lose sight of the fact that we’re on the same team. We help each other up when the other falters, and we approach each new challenge with a shared desire to make it easier not harder.
  • Moments of tension are a given in stressful situations, and sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and give each other the space and support to breathe and regroup until balance can be restored.

Tink
One of the many reasons we love Disney is the acceptance that people extend to each other, from all walks of life and across great distances. It’s this unconditional kindness and consideration that we miss most of all when we leave Disney. In this dire time we’re all sharing, we’re committed to being our best Disney selves with the ultimate hope that compassion and understanding are more contagious than the pandemic confronting us. Pixie dust has always held the power to heal, and now is the time to believe more than ever that we can fly, we can fly, we can fly.

If you’ve got your own Disney survival tips that are helping you through this crisis situation, please post. We can all benefit from the lessons learned from positive Disney reinforcement.

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