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12 March 2012 @ 11:27 am
The Real LJ Idol: "The Happiest Place On Earth"  
The Happiest Place On Earth
real lj idol | week 18 | 1710 words
Take inspiration from a current LJ Idoler.

~~O ~~O ~~O

Not everyone was lucky enough to work at the Magic Kingdom, so Bob was pleased that he got hired. The interview had gone well, and the benefits were good. He figured this could be a whole new chapter in his life.

Bob started work on a Monday, which at first just consisted of orientation and training. There were dos and don'ts, but all of them centered around each employee doing his or her part to keep the magic running smoothly and invisibly for the park's thousands of daily visitors.

After a week, he had a sense of the most of the low-level behind-the-scenes jobs, and how to conduct them in the most unobtrusive, efficient way possible. He knew the backdoor routes through most of the park, and where things like janitorial supplies were hidden. He knew the general structure of various shift routines, and how to keep from getting behind.

The atmosphere was cheerful, if loud. It wasn't just the customers—various areas had their own backgrounds of theme music (the teacup ride in Fantasyland could make a grown man weep, and there always seemed to be something playing in the vicinity of Liberty Square). Still, it was part of the package, and overall, that package was pretty good.

There were free beverages at break time, and an assortment of small snacks ranging from fresh fruit to pretzels and cookies. Bob went for the coffee and chocolate-chip cookie every time. Where else could you get warm cookies for free, on a daily basis? Was Disney World an awesome place to work, or what?

For the time being, Bob was a cleaner—one of those guys who went around with a dustpan and broom and cleared away old napkins and spilled popcorn in the blink of an eye. It wasn't the most challenging job he'd ever had but he kept his area of the park relentlessly tidy, and he took no small amount of pride in it.

The pay was decent, at least until Bob's roommate announced he was moving back to Philadelphia.

Well, I probably don't really need a two-bedroom apartment anyway, Bob thought. I could find a one-bedroom or a studio closer to work, save some money.

It only took him one day to find something suitable. He gave the landlord notice, and started packing boxes in his spare time. The change felt freeing somehow, as if he were casting off useless, old habits. Well, why not?

Two weeks later, the landlord had a new tenant who was ready to move in early. Bob didn't mind—he'd already packed most of his stuff, and could be out within a day. He phoned the manager at the new apartment complex to see if something was available earlier.

The number had been disconnected. Bob drove over to the building, which was festooned with Condemned banners.

Damn it! Now he was stuck. He had to find someplace else to live, somewhere that wouldn't bankrupt him during his slow crawl up the company ladder. His old landlord had nothing to offer him, and new places just weren't coming open.

His move-out date got closer and closer. It seemed as if he should be more bothered about it, but he was doing all he could, and work kept him awfully busy. He'd just have to make do.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the Post Office would not deliver mail to your car—not even if you parked it at the same place every day. That seemed kind of unreasonable, but you couldn't fight the system. Bob decided that a post-office box was good enough. He wouldn't be getting as much mail as he used to, anyway.

He showered at work and took his meals at a mini-mart. He jumped at the chance to fill in on other people's shifts, because there was nothing going on back at the car except reading by flashlight and sleeping.

The company interpreted it as initiative, which they valued. They promoted him to one of the supervisor positions for the janitorial night-shift.

Bob liked working days better than nights, but the promotion was good. By the time morning came each day, he made sure the Mouse Kingdom was gleaming. When he picked up his paycheck two weeks later he also realized he could afford a wider range of rental prices on apartments. By the end of the week, he had a new place to live. The monthly rent was low enough to free him from needing a roommate, and from being vulnerable to that roommate's potential midlife-crisis whims.

Everything was smooth sailing until he got so short of breath one day that he went to see the doctor.

"Pre-diabetic," the doctor pronounced. "Your weight is up, and you're headed for a host of serious secondary problems. You need diet and exercise, and you've got to cut back on the sugar immediately. Nurse Simmons will come in and talk to you about nutrition after I'm done."

Bob tried to take the news in. His pants had been getting tight around the middle, but he'd been so busy. Who had time to focus on things like that?

Well, he'd just have to do as the doctor said. He went home and cleared all the junk food and sweets out of his apartment. Then he went out for a walk.

It was hard passing up the treats at work, but he brought in carrot sticks and celery for break time and sandwiches for lunch. He felt a little grumpy from time-to-time, but diets would do that to you, and he noticed that his clothes were getting looser.

Sometimes, he took off his name badge and went out for a stroll during part of his lunch or break. It felt good to stretch his legs, and if he kept to the back ways enough it was less crowded. He mostly just saw the Cast Members and crew.

Minnie waved to him one day, behind City Hall.

"Hi, Minnie," Bob said. The characters weren't allowed to talk—it spoiled the magic—and he had no idea who was actually inside the suit. But a friendly face was always welcome, even one made out of foam. It did the trick. Even the birds in the trees suddenly seemed to be singing louder.

The good feeling didn't last. Each day seemed more hectic than the one before, and Bob started to ask himself whether large-scale janitorial service was really what he wanted to be doing with his life. Was this honestly where he'd hoped to be?

A week later, he was out walking around after the park closed and he spotted Mickey up ahead. Bob was feeling curious, so he followed Mickey for a while. The Mouse went about his business, wandering down Main Street and looking in the windows, and stopping to polish a mailbox with his handkerchief. Bob thought it was strange that he didn't take the head off—it had to be hard to see through the eyeholes—and what about the gloves? They were huge, foamy and clumsy. How could anyone even pick things up with those gloves on?

Bob wondered who was wearing the Mickey suit. He spent most of his time in Frontierland, where Mickey rarely made an appearance. Bob had met a few of the people who did Cast Members there—two of the Brer Rabbits, and one of the Brer Bears. But no Mickey.

Maybe this was someone new, who was trying to get a feel for the character. Not a bad idea, he thought. Not a bad choice, either—the costume was classic Mickey all the way, right down to the red shorts and the yellow shoes.

Mickey turned toward him then, and Bob suddenly felt as if he were intruding. He waved as casually as he could, and headed back toward the supply office. He still had the rest of his shift to finish.

He meant to ask some of the more senior employees whether they'd ever seen anything similar, but it was a busy night. The next day, he went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment, and the news pushed the whole thing farther out of his mind:

"You're no longer pre-diabetic," the doctor told him. "Your blood pressure has dropped, too. Whatever you're doing is working, so stick with it."

Bob had lost twenty pounds by then, and he liked the exercise. It helped him deal with the occasional rough day at work.

The following day was one of those: two people called in sick for work, and the park was filled with angry Fast Pass holders and frustrated maintenance people after Splash Mountain broke down late in the day. By break time, Bob felt he'd earned a cookie. Not all the cookies, nothing crazy like that, but just one wouldn't hurt him.

It tasted every bit as good as he remembered.

The rest of the day ran smoother. Bob pitched in on the cleaning crew, and he heard rumors that Splash Mountain would be ready by morning. By the end of the week, one of the day supervisors had quit, and Bob applied for the job and got it. Things were definitely looking up.

He thought he saw the shadow of giant mouse ears near the Crystal Palace one night, when he was leaving after one of his final night shifts. But he decided he was imagining it. The park was full of Mickey Mouse hats anyway—they were sold in practically every single store.

The morning of his first day-shift was beautiful. Florida was entering its best season, and the air was soft and not too muggy.

There were already plenty of customers in the park as Bob headed toward Main Street. He passed crying children being led toward the exit by their parents (the little ones always cried when they left) and families that were just coming in. You could spot the kids who were there for the first time, just by the wide-eyed wonder on their faces alone.

Bob smiled and continued on, his steps light and his head high. Life was good. This really was the Happiest Place on Earth, and he was thrilled to be part of it.

It was all truly some kind of special magic.

My inspiration for this story was impoetry, who got a job at Disney World last year. But every other facet of the story is pretty obviously fictional.

whipchickwhipchick on March 12th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Disney's one of my favorite places to visit, and this was a fun behind-the-scenes peek!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 12th, 2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

One of the hardest things about writing this was the differences between Disneyland (in Anaheim, where we've always gone), and Disney World. No French Quarter in the park? Pirates of the Carribean in Adventureland? That's just crazy talk! Or something. :D
B Man: Castleimpoetry on March 13th, 2012 12:52 am (UTC)
For yay! I love it! And it rings so true to me, as I just discovered my health stats were pretty dismal. Thankfully, Disney actually encourages us to get healthy and provides amazing health education and benefits. You actually get paid a $100 just to get your blood tested to see how healthy you are. And if you're in a healthy range, or you're not and decide to improve it, they'll give you another $200. They offer so many services, it's almost impossible to NOT want to improve yourself to be the best you you can be.

I was a little confused about mentioning Minnie being in a mask and costume. You know all of our characters are actually the characters right? No people in costumes;)

Thank you for thinking of me and bringing a little bit of me...and the magic to your story.

And on my birthday no less!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 01:05 am (UTC)
I saw mention of the Disney health package during my research, and figured it was pretty good (and ideally, preventative). Poor Bob, though-- living out of your car for awhile and eating at a MiniMart will take a toll.

You know all of our characters are actually the characters right? No people in costumes;)
Heh-heh. I see the Disney magic is working on you already!

Happy Birthday! What extraordinary timing! I hope the rest of the day has been going well. :D
(no subject) - impoetry on March 13th, 2012 01:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 02:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
cindytsuki_no_bara on March 13th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC)
for a story about the happiest place on earth, this is really appropriately happy. i mean, even tho bad things happen to bob, ultimately his life slowly gets better. the random mickey appearance is nicely mysterious, too. could be magic!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 02:44 am (UTC)
He kind of rolls with the punches, and he doesn't give up, and in the end... it's working for him!

The random Mickey is all part of the sooper sekrit stuff that makes Disney run, which even the people who work there aren't normally aware of. Watch out for those cookies! ;)
lawchickylawchicky on March 13th, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
Bob sounds like he's on the right track, and who could go wrong in the happiest place on earth. That's MY happy place too :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 04:56 am (UTC)
It's mine, too, though ours is the California one instead of the Florida one. I felt kind of sad, doing the research, to see that Florida never got to have Toon Town. Ours is closed now, but it was really kind of a loony place, especially for the little kids.

Have you taken your kids? My years-ago neighbor was so right about the importance of going when the kids are "still young enough to believe." :)
notodettenotodette on March 13th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
Good luck to Bob! He's got all the right stuff to make it happen.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
He's picked a good place for it, too (and your icon says you know that already).

Plus, that's a company that will treat him well. :)
Vice Captain of the Universesweeny_todd on March 13th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
ooh! I have never been to Disney Land (or any other Disney type place) but I think it would be pretty cool to go :-D
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 04:59 am (UTC)
Oh, you should! I can really recommend the one in Southern California-- the original and still a classic. Plus, the Florida one doesn't seem to have the French Quarter, and that's my favorite area for atmosphere after Fantasyland.

It's a completely different kind of experience, but it's not just for kids!
copyright1983copyright1983 on March 13th, 2012 04:48 am (UTC)
Nicely done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 04:59 am (UTC)
Thank you!
basric: basric Pixie gifbasric on March 13th, 2012 05:34 am (UTC)
Its a lovely story and a nice tribute to impoetry.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! I hope impoetry finds good things at Disney, and that they find the good in him and nurture it well. :)
jeza_jezaro: *squee*!jeza_jezaro on March 13th, 2012 08:28 am (UTC)
I was honestly expecting something gruesome to change the mood of the story. That`s the reason I kept reading >.< But by the end I was happy that nothing of the sort happened, and things are working out for Bob. It`s so ordinary and everyday that it left me with a pleasant feeling.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
That`s the reason I kept reading >.<
Hahahaha! And I don't blame you for it, not a bit.

But by the end I was happy that nothing of the sort happened, and things are working out for Bob.
He got a glimpse of the real "magic" behind Disney for a bit, and then went back to not seeing it. But it was good magic anyway, and it seems to have helped him as much as it regularly does the park's visitors. :)
theafayetheafaye on March 13th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
I really loved this. I've never been to any of the Disney places, but I hope to one day.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I hope you'll get a chance to go, and to take the kids. It really is like entering a different world-- not just because of the fantastic creation of otherworldliness, but also because people are nicer and better-behaved when they're there (at least, by American standards), and that's practically a miracle all by itself. It's as if everyone is an example for their own children or someone else's, and they moderate their more selfish and self-centered tendencies.

Add a giant Mickey or a random, darting Peter Pan to that, and it really IS magic. :)
Kristenpixiebelle on March 13th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
I liked this. I've only been to Disneyland (once), but I think it would be magical to work there! Then again, it might ruin the magic if I actually did work there. Glad hyping a worked out for the guy, that made me happy.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 13th, 2012 08:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

If I remember, you're closer now (in LA?), so if you haven't been lately you might enjoy going again. I really love the Anaheim Disneyland, and was surprised at how much was different at the Florida Disney World. But the magic and things like Fantasyland are much the same. It's like entering another world, one that's much shinier and loopier than our own.

I almost used your icon for this round, because the goth+pixie division of it is so interesting. But I don't think it would have held a candle to shimmerdream's entry, which also had a nice side of romance to it. :)
shimmerdreamshimmerdream on March 14th, 2012 12:28 am (UTC)
I really liked this. I thought the Mickey would turn out to be something much more sinister, and I was pleased at actually everyting worked out.

I've never been to Disneyland or Disney World. I have been to EuroDisney, but I hear it's not the same thing at all...
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 14th, 2012 12:47 am (UTC)
I know, the Mouse does sound kind of sinister, doesn't he? Partly because he's a giant mouse, moving around the park at night. :0

But from his perspective, he's just going about his business and making sure everything is in working order.

I have no idea what EuroDisney might be like, so I can't say. I've only ever been to Disneyland (in California), and while they've added the adjunct California Adventure park... I really prefer the original. All of the other add-ons are interesting and full of spectacle, but they lack the magic of the original Disneyland.

I hope you'll get a chance to see it for yourself, some day! And Yosemite too, of course, but still. :)
Kizzyxo_kizzy_xo on March 14th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC)
I haven't been to either Magic Kingdom in years. I'd gone to Anaheim first -- when I visited Orlando, I nearly keeled over because it was so huge!

I love the spirit of this -- I think it's difficult to write a truly happy piece without being sappy, and you've done just that :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 14th, 2012 01:33 am (UTC)
I've never been to Orlando, and I both fear it and want to see the Epcot Center there! Plus, I'd like to see how they do the Magic Kingdom differently. The online maps show that there are some differences (no French Quarter in Florida! And Pooh is in Fantasyland there), but I wonder if the veneer is slightly different? And did Florida ever have Star Tours?

I'm glad this came off as happy without being sappy, because I know what you mean, and I'm not much of one for sappiness either.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
hours in the rainnyxocity on March 14th, 2012 01:48 am (UTC)
Mmmhmm. You don't fool me, Mickey and your brain washing cookies. Poor Bob, he almost got away! (or maybe I'm just that twisted and paranoid?)

I was riveted the entire time. Very well told!

Edited at 2012-03-14 01:51 am (UTC)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 14th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
Hee-hee! I'd fall for those cookies too, just like Homer Simpson.

Actually, I'd say that he got a glimpse of the reality for a bit-- including his everyday frustrations. But he's happy and prospering at the end, so I like to think it works out for everyone. And the Mouse has more people to help safeguard his Kingdom... :)
medleymistymedleymisty on March 14th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
Oh, I loved this! So interesting and written with a real feel for Bob, and I love the touch of the Mickey appearances. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on March 14th, 2012 03:45 am (UTC)
Bob seems to me like the kind of guy who deserves a break, and he manages to work his way back from some unexpected low spots foisted on him by reality.

He brings magic in the form of devotion, and receives magic in the form of happiness in return. Not a bad deal!