“Thank you for calling the Walt Disney Travel Company! This is Britt, how may I assist you today?”
My very last call of the day began just like every other call I had answered. The woman on the line wanted to book a suite to celebrate her children's birthdays. After reviewing our options, we found the perfect room, tickets, and activities to make it magical for the soon to be 6 and 8-year-olds.
Agreeing to the price, I began to gather the names of each guest that would be staying with us. Mrs. Jessica Barnes, Mr. Brandon Barnes, Miss Isabelle Barnes, age 6… “and the 8-year-old’s name?” I asked.
“Folie, F-O-L-I-E,” Jessica responded.
I smiled as I typed it. “What a beautiful and unique name!” I moved my cursor to the drop-down box where we select a title for each person. With clear gender-specific names so far I had filled these in for the previous guests based on my gender assumptions.
“Thank you! It was originally Felicia, but they are non-binary, you know, gender fluid, and Felicia was a bit too feminine for them. So we use Folie and go by they and them.” Clearly, Jessica had told this story many times, to a variety of people, and the rehearsed words rolled off her lips effortlessly.
I hesitated... “So, our booking system requires us to enter a title for each guest on the reservation…” I began.
Jessica interrupted me. “Oh, that’s okay. They were born biologically female so you can go ahead with Miss,” she said, sounding a bit defeated. Her voice had lost the enthusiasm it previously held as we planned their family’s trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.
This wasn’t the first time I had encountered a shortfall in our system and now that I had the opportunity to make an impact I was determined to save this experience for them. Plus, they would be celebrating Folie’s birthday and as our hotels sometimes put special surprises in place, the last thing I wanted was a “Happy Birthday Princess” card awaiting them, leaving their day spoiled from then on.
I quickly searched through my list of options, and replied, "Actually, we have a few non-gender specific military and religious titles. Typically we use them for adults, but I wonder how Folie would feel about Captain.”
I heard Jessica gasp and then could hear the smile in her voice as she turned away from the phone and asked in the background, “Folie, how do you feel about going by Captain while we are at Disneyland?”
Her question was met with a squeal, an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and a series of giggles shared between the two of them. Jessica returned to the line. “I can’t believe you would suggest that. We love it. That’s amazing and perfect.”
There it was. The joy was back in her voice. I began reviewing our standard policies with her and began to wrap up the call. “I just want to thank you again. Folie is so excited to be a Captain for their birthday. You know, it’s so hard doing anything in public, constantly explaining Folie’s preferences and having to comfort them when someone just doesn’t get it.”
I assured her that it was my pleasure to find a solution for them and that until our booking system changed and the titles were no longer necessary I would happily be creative with our options. It was a small, simple act. It didn’t require any extra time or work on my part, it didn’t cost the company any money, and yet it made a world of difference for Jessica, Folie, and their family.
The call lasted fifteen minutes, but the lesson will stay with me forever. As I made my notes and began to pack up my things for the night I smiled. Moments like this are what make me proud to be a Disney Cast Member. It was an important reminder that a few seconds of time and a little compassion and creativity are all it takes to show someone the humanity that we all deserve. Thanks to Captain Folie, I will remember that every day.
*names have been changed for privacy