That time I dropped my wallet in a snake-infested lagoon at Disney World

If you asked me what purse to carry when traveling, I’d tell you to wear a small bag on a cross-body strap, and keep it close to your body.
I’d tell you to only carry the essentials on your person, and to keep some cash and scans of your pertinent ID and documents in all of your pieces of luggage.
This would be particularly good advice for Disney World, because you’d want to have your hands free for rides, food, and taking pictures. If you were smart, you would follow my advice, right?
Wouldn’t it be nice if I also followed that advice?
I stood in my hotel room at Coronado Springs Resort, planning for my day at Animal Kingdom, I considered my wallet options. I took a bunch of random cards and extra lipgloss out of my cute little leopard clutch, and only left the essentials:
debit card, credit card, work purchasing card, drivers license. I had a $25 pre-paid Visa, so I kept that in the wallet, figuring it could help with souvenir purchases for the kids. One bright pink lip-stain, about $100 cash, and my external phone battery charger. I considered not taking a wallet at all, but I wanted a place to carry the charger, and a place to stash my sunglasses when the sun went down. The phone? Rarely would it leave my photo-trigger-happy hand, but I could fit it in the little leopard clutch when I wanted to.

Disney's Animal Kingdom selfie at the entrance

Ready to start a fun afternoon and evening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

Fast forward to the GLORIOUS tree of life at Animal Kingdom. There’s a little out-of-use dock that provides a perfect photo-taking and general viewing platform for the tree.IMG_4824We were trying to identify all the animals in the tree, taking pictures, when… splash.

Pam said, “Hey! I think something just dropped!” We looked down, surprised to find water just below us. And there was my little leopard clutch floating right there on the water.

Before I could even comprehend what just happened, it drifted under the cement ramp of the dock, out of site.

Disney Parks staff jumped in to action. They sought lights and grabby hooks and nets and explored every option for finding my wallet.

Unfortunately, the space it fell in to was only 2′ wide, but more than 10′ deep.

mind the gap!

Mind the gap!

The bed, we discovered after prodding it with several long sticks, was several more inches? feet? of sloggy mud. My wallet was irretrievable. Staff worked for about an hour before coming to this conclusion, and I had a hard time accepting it.

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I finally had to accept it when the top manager cast member guy (I’m so sorry I can’t remember his name, he was so gracious and kind) said, “We’ve explored every avenue, and we have nothing left to try. Nobody can actually go in the water, so there’s nothing else we can do.”

I asked if that was because of bacteria? Because I’d be willing to risk bacteria. It was around 3:30 p.m., and I was due to get on a plane at 6:00 the next morning. Without identification or any money or any access to money. If only my MagicBand would work out in the rest of the world beyond Disney. “Well, bacteria, yes,” he said, “but more importantly, the dangerous water snakes and potential for alligators.”

Oh. After five days at Disney World, I had seen enough of Florida wildlife to believe him.

Just an alligator. In the water. Right there.

Just an alligator. In the water. Right there.

Now I am firmly committed to not letting setbacks ruin my day or experience. It’s a rare moment when I feel actual despair, helplessness or hopelessness. That moment was one of those times. I couldn’t see, at that moment, how I was going to get through the next 24 hours. I cried.

A public safety officer reassured me that with a bit of paperwork, the TSA would let me on the plane. A kindly guest experience angel of a cast member (I believe his name was Frank but I apologize if I’m remembering it incorrectly) told me, “Don’t worry, Krista. We’ll have you smiling before the end of the night. Trust the Disney Magic.”

I told him it was going to take a lot of drink tickets, which made everyone laugh. Another kind cast member told me, “You can count on one thing. Before tomorrow, there will be a net right here to cover that gap. We’ll call it the Krista net.”  I managed a smile, then Frank and I started the trek to the guest relations office.

As we were walking along, making small talk, I fought my way out of the place of despair. I didn’t just watch my son get dragged under a car (my barometer for all bad things), I told Frank. Yes, he said, and we’ll get you the paper work you need and a little Disney Magic to help you out. Everything will be fine, he said. [Thank you, Frank – you really made my day!]

Frank led me in to the “VIP Lounge” at Guest Services.

Here is Frank, navigating to the online form for filing a police report.

Here is Frank, navigating to the online form for filing a police report.

There, he got me cold water, and helped me fill out a police report online to officially report my missing belongings. With a print-out of this, I had a documentation for the TSA explaining why I didn’t have any identification.

Then, to my great surprise, a cast member walked in and handed me cash. Money. Real, green 20 dollar bills. “For traveling tomorrow,” he said.

I nearly burst in to tears, I was so grateful.

“See?” said Frank, “I told you to trust the Disney Magic!”

Disney Magic, indeed.

By the time I rejoined my friends, I really was ready to enjoy my evening. They made it easy, though. They saved me a seat at the Lion King show. Bianca bought me a wristlet phone holder. So I wouldn’t drop it into any lagoons. Amy and Tanya won prizes at the carnival in Dino Land for me to take back to my kids. And everyone shared drink tickets with me! Truly great people, and I am grateful for all of them.

When I went through security at ORD the next morning, I showed them the paperwork from the police report, my hotel bill showing my name on it, a spare business card, and my conference badge. The TSA agent had to call in to someone, and they interrogated me, basically over the phone. The database person on the other end of the phone would ask the agent for some piece of info, he would ask me, and relay the answers. They finally decided that I was who I said I was, but I still had to be thoroughly searched, as did my belongings. I had an intimate-relations moment with a female TSA agent, then I was on my way.

I can’t express enough how grateful I am for the kindness and care expressed by the Disney Parks cast members. I was blown away by their willingness to try so hard to retrieve my wallet, and by the concern they showed for me. It’s the magic that Disney is known for, but that doesn’t make it any less surprising or impactful. I only wish I had written down everybody’s names so I could thank them all personally. I hope this message finds it’s way to all of them so they know what a difference it made to me.

THANK YOU!

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