This is not a love story.
It’s about the beauty of strangers and the beast that lives inside me.
Today I decided to take my family to Disneyland. Yeah… I know… some of you are holding your breath right now, and for good reason. PTSD and crowds don’t mix well, but I was willing to try. Things started off rough before I even got into the park.
At the gate there was a TSA style check point. They searched everyone’s bags on a long table then sent you thru. I was ok with this part, it didnt seem to intrusive and the line went quickly. Just after that there was a second stop point where they make you empty your pockets and go thru a metal detector. This secondary check point seemed a bit more through and I could feel my anxiety start to build. As I empty my pockets I seemed a little perplexed at the level of security they had for the happiest place on earth. I emptied my pockets and an officer named Tom began to question me. I had in my pocket a small multi-tool that had a knife, screwdrivers and bottle opener. As you look at the contents of my pocket sitting in the tray, the multi-tool still covered in yellow paint from the weekends build, my cell phone, extra battery pack, camera from Kevin Mugi, miscellaneous change and dollar bills, car keys, and carabiners. I must have looked like a small Sherpa with the contents of my pocket sitting piled in the dish. Tom asked why I had brought a knife with me. I didn’t know why and stammered for an answer, my anxiety now rushing into a full panic. I tried to explain the multitool was something I always carried and had just returned from a build in Mexico. “I always carry this Kershaw multitool. I use it almost daily. What is going on here I thought” as the line of questions began to make me feel uncomfortable. Tom must have sensed my anxiety as I stammered to tell him about the Kershaw. As I stumbled over my words I began to get angry. “A pocket knife … really? This is what they are concerned about! This is a safty issue, not that they strap you into a metal cage and shoot you down a hill at 30 mph… thats safe, but the Kershaw, now thats dangerous.”
I now began to ask the questions. Pointing out the obsurdity of their rules. During this time Tom remained calm and polite. He answered all of my questions in a professional nonconfrontinal manner. He completely put me at ease because he did not challenge my opinions on the matter, but instead reminded me that they do their best to provide a safe and fun environment for all guests. That these rules about knives and selfi sticks, glass and gun shaped toys were all designed to improve the overall Disney experience. He explained in detail the dangers of each banned item and never wavired in his polite and professional demeanor.
At the end I agreed to return to my car and drop of the Kershaw. As I walked back to the car I was reminded that Disneyland is a private park open to the public. They can put what ever rules up wanted and I had the choice to either follow them or not enter into the park.
As I made my way back to the check point, I looked for Tom. He waved me thru and I again emptied my pockets. As I did I thanked Tom and explained how difficult just coming here was for me and how my anxiety skyrocketed at the check point. I also told him that it was his polite and non-confrontainal attitude that was the key to me not just giving up and leaving the park. I really didnt want to disappoint my family by not going to the park with them. I asked if I could pray with them and thanked God they had handled the situation with such grace.
I walked away feeling confident. One of the other guards had told me that if I really appreciated Tom I should go tell a “Plad” about my experience and they would recognize Tom for a job well done. A Plad is like a customer service specialist/ supervisor from what I can tell. I made my way to City Hall and told one of the Plads (her name was Sam) about Tom. I told her about my anxiety and how ORH works to help veterans struggling with ptsd lead normal lives. I also told her that Tom should be teaching others how to interact with guests, because if he could defuse me while in the beginning of a panic attack he could defuse anyone. Sam then proceded to give me a disability pass that would allow me to go on the rides without standing in line. I would still have the same wait time as everyone else, but would not have to physically stand in line. This was such a blessing. There were these little green stations throughout the park where you could sign up for a ride and they would give you a time to be there so you could get on.
It was @ this first green station that wr met Channing. She was a bubbly young gal who was more than happy to assist us and give ride recommendations. We told her about our experience so far and how well we were treated. We saw her again later in the day and she helped us find all the Starwars attractions we were looking for. We found out her Dad was a veteran and we shared ORH with her then invited them both on one of our next trips.
Over all Disneyland was a 10 out of 10. I couldn’t have asked for anything else, and if I did I am sure that they would have accommodated me.
Thank you Tom, Sam and Channing, for making this a day to remember.