Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Whadda You Gonna Do?

When I worked as a cast member, I would often spend my days under the port cochere welcoming guests to the Boardwalk Resort.  I got to watch all the comings and goings, wish everyone a magical day, hand out Mickey stickers, trade pins.

Sounds great, right?

Only...surprisingly...it wasn't always.

There were definitely days when the heat and the humidity and the standing-for-eight-hours-on-concrete and the complaints/gossip/drama of fellow cast members would really get to you.

Talking to guests never got old...but they were all on vacation, rushing to the parks or their dinner reservation, so they didn't exactly have time to stand and chat.  That did, however, make it all the more special when you DID get to have a fun conversation with a guest.

One of my favorite memories is of an old man - he lived in the Orlando area, and we would often see him coming in to have stroll on the Boardwalk, always armed with his umbrella.  And one evening, at the end of an especially trying day, he stopped to chat.  A friend of mine, a college program girl, was also out on the curb that night, and we had so much fun talking to this fellow.

He was telling us about all sorts of random things  - Disney, Florida, his life, his family.  I can't remember half the stories now, but it was obvious that he had had some trials and hadn't let them dim his optimism.  He explained that the reason he always carried an umbrella was both to be prepared for an unexpected Florida shower and because his mobility wasn't so good anymore, and he preferred the umbrella to a cane.

Both of those are potentially negative circumstances - it's not so nice when the skies open up and drench you, and it must not be nice to have difficulty walking - but the man was so cheerful.

"When you live in Florida, sometimes you're going to get caught in the rain," he said. "But whadda you gonna do?"

"Whadda you gonna do?" seemed to be his catchphrase - he said it after  literally every other sentence.  Any mention of a drawback or a setback or an unfortunate circumstance would be followed by a smile and a "Whadda you gonna do?"

I don't think that sweet old man even realized what an inspiration he was being.  My college program friend and I, for the rest of the time we saw each other at work, would often, when a frustration or an annoyance cropped up during our days, turn to each other and say, with exactly the old man's cheerful inflection: "Whadda you gonna do?"

In fact, I STILL say it to myself all the time - whenever I'm feeling discouraged by things beyond my control.  I told the story to my family, and they often say it too.

The thing is that the old man's attittude wasn't one of passive acceptance.  He obviously hadn't let difficulties stop him during his life.  But there are a lot of frustrating things about the world that can't be fixed in a day - or that you can't do much to influence at all. He clearly didn't let those get him down.  I love that.

It wasn't so much 'Keep Calm and Carry On' as it was 'Keep HAPPY and Carry On.'

And the question, "What are you going to do?" wasn't even a rhetorical one: the man seemed to have the answer right there in his attitude.  You're going to do your best, and when you encounter something you can't change, you're going to smile and not let it worry or sour you; you're going to put up your umbrella when the showers come and just keep on going. :)