Monday, August 24, 2015

Lost & Found at Tokyo Disneyland

Just returned from a journey of multiple theme parks in humid Florida, and the experience was so jarring that it opened up a memory I've long forgotten.  I figured I'd document it here in the lab as the worthy depository for all my RAMs.

There's a reason rides at these parks are called "attractions" - its mechanisms are designed to remind you of sex (if you're old enough to know). The loss of control, being tossed about in the dark,  that moment of exhilaration as things accelerate, squeezing eyes shut at the intense definitely draws a parallel. Some rides you want to go on again as soon as it's over, and others you regret utterly. Some are just, well, meh. But I digress.

Once upon a time, I had a summer job working the lost & found at Tokyo Disneyland. I think I was a freshman or sophomore at university at the time.  A close childhood friend of mine lived near the area, and she had an interesting living arrangement- she had her own apartment and her parents lived 2 doors down.  We thought that a summer job at the "Happiest Place on Earth" might be fun, and since our families were close, it wasn't difficult to get permission for me to crash at her place all summer.  We went to cast orientation, and since both of us were bilingual (we met in SF around 5th grade), we were assigned to the Lost & Found so we can accommodate non-Japanese speakers. This was prior to smartphones, so people needed to leave handwritten messages at the Lost & Found  (i.e. Meet you at Cinderella's castle at 4pm), and people definitely left behind a lot of stuff. Wallets full of cash, keys, camera cases, purses, tags, hats, passes, etc.  I was a bit disappointed to be in this position, because I really wanted to wear the outfit of the Disney Tour Guide . I mean, you get to wear a cape, riding cap, a kilt skirt, and on top of that, carry a little riding crop with a bell on it to point out the sights!  Sadly, this was limited to full-time employees, and was also a much coveted position. So instead I wore the cardboard-colored floor length skirt and unsexy matching suit jacket and catalogued all the lost (and found) items daily. My favorite part was writing letters to children. Tokyo Disneyland would ship back any items that had names and addresses on them, and usually, if it's a child's item, we would add a little note along with it, with something along the lines of "Thanks for visiting! Mickey (or Pluto, or Peter Pan, or some princess) found this by the (insert ride or landmark) and wanted to make sure it's sent back to you. Come again soon!"  on Disneyland stationary.  It was fun to come up with 75 or so different ways to write letters every day (I love letters) and pick out the right stationary and stamps and envelopes. More often than not, the children would write back thank you notes which were pinned on the wall of the staff room.  My friend and I would rush out after our shift using Twilight passes and ride the near-empty rides in the dusk, watch the moog enhanced electrical parade, and ogle the fireworks eating ice cream. It was a good (albeit super long and hot!) summer and I have fond memories of hanging out in the backyard of Disneyland with off-duty princes. I once ran into Mickey himself, and he shook my hand. It was soft yet firm, like having your hands enveloped in marshmallow (although probably less sticky).  The most difficult thing is keeping the magic alive, every day, every night, and I have to admit they did an amazing job. I'm glad to have been a tiny speck of it for a short while.

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