Good workers manage a crisis. Great workers prevent them.

I learned that lesson working on Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. As many fans might know, Disney will not dispatch ride vehicles when there is a crying child in them. On Thunder, crying kids led to down times, because if a train stays in the station too long, the train behind it on the track cannot take its place in the station, triggering a “cascade stop” across the entire ride.

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Good employees know how to clear the train in the station and restart the attraction. Great employees know how to stop kids from crying, preventing the ride from going down in the first place.

Disneyland’s best cast members are watching you long before they ask how many people are in your group. They are looking for worried kids, potentially pregnant bellies and anyone who looks like they might do something foolish on the ride. A few well-chosen words with the right people in the queue can prevent countless down times or, even worse, accidents.

California’s new regional stay-at-home order is a gut punch to Southern California theme parks, attractions, restaurants and hotels that had been working to earn some money and keep workers employed during this pandemic. But if the order helps prevent a deadly overrun of the state’s intensive care units, it will have been a smart and necessary action.

Managing a pandemic might not seem anything like running a Disney theme park ride. But the value of preventing problems rather than waiting to manage them applies to both. The only way that America’s travel and tourism industry gets all of its former employees back to work is for this pandemic to end. And the only way this pandemic ends without costing the lives of hundreds of thousands more Americans is for people to prevent additional infections.

Working on Thunder Mountain, I quickly lost count of the number of parents who asked me to “just this one time” make an exception for their too-short child to ride. But maintaining safety requires not bending the rules. It’s the same with this pandemic. When too many people get together “just this one time,” transmissions continue, infections spread exponentially, and soon state leaders have little choice but to close more sections of the economy as they look for any way to slow that spread and prevent future cases.

Managing this pandemic is not someone else’s job. It’s all of ours. The more people who ignore that in this latest order, the more friends, neighbors and family we will lose until we get this job done.



By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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