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. By learning how to turn the negative into a positive, you can actually improve your overall experience instead of just lumping the lumps by pretending they don’t exist.
As the Happy Couple, we were ill-equipped when first we encountered a Disney downer that couldn’t just be lumped and looked past. And unfortunately, what few references we had to draw upon were not so much options as behaviors to avoid: Mark’s parents, 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 became 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 Amy’s parents: Amy’s mother would want to see if they could get a room that wasn’t next to the hotel laundry, but Amy’s 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 WDW, 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 verging on icy. Still, we began to unpack and in so doing discovered that one of the dresser drawers wouldn’t stay closed and was actually interfering with the living space. In an attempt to warm her hands under the tap, Amy discovered the hot water in the left sink didn’t work and her frustration was mounting. It was hard to believe this was a room at a Disney hotel, much less one of the Disney deluxe hotels. Instinctively, Mark 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.”
Amy wasn’t going for it: 1) The room was so cold the sliding glass door was fogged on the outside. 2) As chronic over-packers we needed that third dresser drawer. 3) 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…” Mark shrugged with determined apathy designed to discourage further action.
Clearly, Amy was on her own with her petty complaints. “Fine,” she was now defiant—and really peeved. Enough so, that she was motivated to act: She picked up the phone and pressed the button for the front desk. Nothing. She tried again. Nothing. She pressed the button for room service. Nothing. Laundry. Nothing. She dialed Mark’s cell phone. Nothing. The phone didn’t even work!
“All right, so the phone isn’t working,” Mark was prepared to sweep yet another shortcoming under the carpet with the broom of logic. “We never use the room phone anyway.”
Amy 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?” Amy added the insult to the injury.
Mark’s silence was answer enough and Amy was incensed. Team “Us” had fractured into factions and Amy found herself on her own. Unlike Mark, she couldn’t ignore all the problems—and particularly the arctic room temperature, which all her overpacking hadn’t anticipated—and she snorted a final “Fine,” resolved to confront the issues one way or another. That’s when she noticed the omission of an ice bucket and her 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 Mark’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. Never had we been so at odds. Seriously: never. And we were in as much disbelief over that as we were with our Disney disappointment, which Mark wanted more than anything to deny away. We needed to reunify, and that could only happen from a state of calm (Mark’s preferred state), not drama (Amy’s default setting).
We both knew that if Amy 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 on the balcony looking at that view (which is why Amy was quick to notice the lack of an 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 Mark was unconditionally defending Disney against Amy’s seeming 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 Amy’s unhappiness was toxic to his psyche. The more upset Amy got, the more defensive Mark became.
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 a safe zone make. The goal was to be respectful and be heard. Here’s how it played out:
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. Probably it’s no big deal to just replace the phone, and maybe there’s even a simple fix for the drawer. We should at least see. And I’m happy to do it,” Amy offered herself 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 Mark wouldn’t be okay with that, given that Amy not only wasn’t threatening to puncture his pixie-dust bubble, but at the same time was volunteering to do the dirty work.
An agreement was 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 lump the frigid air temp. “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 a guest 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 a) the Disney spirit could remain in tact, and b) we could continue to like ourselves and each other. In the end, we were assured that all malfunctions would be remedied by 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.