A Guy, a Girl, and 366 Straight Days at Disneyland
IF, LIKE Jeff Reitz and Tonya Mickesh, you go to Disneyland often—very often—you know that asking for a roast beef melt made without horseradish, as opposed to a roast beef melt with horseradish removed after the fact, will require a ten-minute wait at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. You know that, if conditions are right, you may ride in the wheelhouse of the Mark Twain Riverboat and help steer. You know that if you want to see records of the number of times you’ve entered the park you must visit Disneyland City Hall. Because you do want to see those records.
“Sometimes it’s fun to pull something out of your pocket,” Reitz told me. “It was the two of us and one of our other friends one day, and I’m like, ‘What you do you guys wanna do?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Okay. I’ll pick the first attraction, and then you guys get to pick.’ I said, ‘Follow me,’ and I led them right through the castle, and there’s a walkthrough in the castle, it’s a diorama-type setting of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and they’re like, ‘Hold on a second, this isn’t a ride.’ I said, ‘It’s an attraction.’ And it is. Most of the rides here in Disneyland are attractions. There are only two actual rides. Like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”
That is something else you know.
Reitz and Mickesh are friends, not a couple, who go to Disneyland every day. They do it because, at the end of 2011, both received holiday gifts of a $649 annual pass to the park, and both had no job. Mickesh had worked for 18 years at a Santa Ana-based company called Financial Statement Services, Inc. until she was let go in the late spring. As the months of unemployment dragged on, Mickesh grew despondent. Then she shared an idea with Reitz: resolve to go to Disneyland each day of 2012. That way, life, preferably in the form of a job, would be sure to get in the way of the plan. “You know how when you go to a restaurant and you order a meal, and it doesn’t come and doesn’t come?” she explained to me. “But you get up and go to the bathroom, and it comes.”
It worked. In April of this year, she found a full-time job as an assistant operations manager at Dekra-Lite, a design firm specializing in Christmas light decorations, and, occasionally, Halloween. It pays less than her old job did, but it covers basic expenses. Now, in order to stay faithful to her daily-Disney pledge, she drives 14 miles from her house in Lake Forest to Dekra-Lite in Santa Ana, 10 miles from Dekra-Lite to Disneyland in Anaheim, and 15 miles from Disneyland back home. Reitz, for his part, has been less lucky with employment; he gets by on temp gigs. They help cover the child support payments he must make for his teenage daughter in Alaska, where he was stationed as an Air Force firefighter in the 1990s.