I’m well aware that a lot of things had to happen in a particular way for the following story to have occurred. But they did, and the story is true in every respect.
Sometimes, if people go an extra mile… and the universe aligns in a particular way… things do work out. All of which allows me to present to you A Tale (tail?) of Two Mickeys!
Our story begins with our humble vacation rental, located on the edge of a forest near the great kingdom of Walt Disney World in Central Florida! In this area, vacation rentals are referred to as Villas.
This past fall we received an urgent email from a guest who had departed the villa a few days prior. She, along with with her family, had returned to the kingdom where they live; England.
She was wondering if we could possibly locate something left behind after their departure.
It just so happened that when her email arrived, my wife and I were on our way to Florida ourselves for our annual maintenance and inspection trip. Of course, I replied to her immediately, asking what we should be on the lookout for.
Her answer was two Mickey Mouse plush dolls, purchased in Walt Disney World.
They belonged to her granddaughter, who’s name is Halle.
Halle was quite upset to realize she had left her precious and much loved souvenirs behind, and most likely would never see them again.
I asked our guest where her granddaughter thought they might be, in order to make it easier to locate them at the villa.
Her answer came back: In the bottom of a plastic bag, full of brown packing paper, that may have been thrown into the outside trash container as they were packing to leave!
She feared the bag had been mistaken as trash and tossed out.
So now, Halle was home in England, and her Mickey Mouse dolls were still somewhere in Florida! And everyone was quite upset about it.
Things did not look very good for a happy ending to this tale.
The guest sent another email, asking if the two Mickeys could actually be found… Was there any chance we might have another guest from England who might be staying soon that would be so kind as to bring them back with them?
We do have a lot of guests from the UK, but I felt it was a slim possibility. Getting a guest involved in the task would present some challenges… as our guests’ bags are always stuffed to their weight and size limits when they are returning home overseas. (Orlando shopping is often a big part of their trip!) Our UK guests are generally a very congenial bunch of people however, so I thought it could be at least worth asking some of them. But that was getting ahead of ourselves.
First things first… Dumpster Diving!
When we arrived in Florida, it was some time after midnight, and I was very tired after a day of packing and another day of airports and planes. My wife Donna insisted we go straight to the villa (not the one we were staying at) from the airport and attempt to rescue the plush toys (‘stuffies’ in modern lingo) immediately. She was worried that if they were in the trash container, the longer they were there, the more likely it was that they would become dirty, contaminated, and absorb the smell of trash. Or animals could get at them. She insisted that we find them if possible and make them safe right away.
Straight to the villa we went… and first checked inside, as the cleaners had not yet been there (I had asked them to hold off their cleaning). Thankfully the guests had left the villa in good shape, so it was easy to quickly search, and there were no Mickeys to be found inside.
So there we were… spending our first night in Florida in a year, outside in the dark… next to the scary jungle that surrounds the property, (Well it IS scary at night! Amongst other creatures we have bobcats and bears(!) that come by all the time!) ready to dig through a large roll-out trash container in search of our goal. When I pulled it on to the driveway and opened the lid, things did not look good.
What greeted us was the site (and smell) of common villa trash, including left over food (which had been rotting in the Florida heat for a few days) and coffee grounds, and the general mess that results when our local raccoons enter the container and start tearing bags open looking for their next treat. There was retail packaging, waste from the kitchen and bathrooms, and drink containers spilling everywhere.
Carefully, we started picking through the items and bags and removing them from the container, piling them on the driveway as we made our way down towards the bottom of the container. It was a smelly, messy, disgusting job… (I never recommend dumpster diving) and I did not hold out much hope for success as more trash piled up outside the cart than was in it. I confess… Donna was absolutely the more willing of the two of us to keep plowing through the mess. I wanted to come back in the morning and search with the benefit of daylight, but she persisted! Her determination and willingness to plunge into tough jobs is something to behold.
I’m sure we looked pretty strange spreading garbage everywhere… thank goodness the neighbours couldn’t see us.
With my phone as a flashlight, scanning each layer as it was revealed, Donna kept pulling things out until we finally spotted something hopeful at the bottom of the container. A distinctive colourful Disney Parks bag, with packing paper sticking out the top! With my longer arms, at my wife’s urging, I bent down into the container to the extent of my reach, grabbed the bag with the very tips of my fingers and pulled it up and out. Now I was the one starting to take on a distinctive smell!
It didn’t look like the bag I had retrieved could possibly have two Mickey Mouse dolls in it, but it matched the description. My heart sank as we pulled multiple pieces of crumpled paper out of the bag… and it looked like all it contained was paper. I couldn’t see how two large Mickey dolls could possibly be in it. But then… to my surprise… at the very bottom, there they were! Two beautiful Mickey Mouse dolls, and amazingly they were as clean as the day they came from the park. One was the traditional Mickey Mouse plush doll and the other was similar, except wearing the celebratory outfit created for the Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary.
We placed them in a clean bag to take home with us, and I cleaned up the mess we had made on the driveway, bagging much of it, and then returning it (yuck!) back into the container.
As usual, my wife’s determination had been rewarded, and against the odds Mickey (and Mickey) had been rescued, and they were in great shape! We were tired and happy as we headed to our villa for a long needed night’s rest.
With the dolls found, the next challenge would be what to do with them.
Of course we wanted to return them to their new owner, but as we were about to discover, that would not be an easy thing.
The next day we discussed our options for getting the dolls to England, in the best and least expensive manner possible. I explored shipping options, and after getting rough quotes I even researched if it would just be cheaper to buy new dolls in the UK and have them delivered to our young guest there. This would take some figuring out.
Meanwhile, the grandmother sent more emails, wondering desperately if we had had any luck and what was happening. They were obviously very anxious about the missing dolls, but I held off replying immediately. Without a plan in place to return them, I didn’t want to get the guests all excited only to disappoint them later because no reasonable way could be found to get the dolls to England. The guests had been so anxious, I didn’t want to set myself up for a whole bunch of questions I didn’t have answers to. Besides, having just arrived in Florida there was a lot of other immediate business to attend to!
My Florida property manager, whose name is Gwen, and I spoke on the phone, greeting each other warmly as we knew we would soon be seeing each other for the first time in a year. She apologized and explained to me that we wouldn’t have much time to get together. She soon had to return to England (where she is originally from) for a couple of weeks to tend to some family business. (Cue amazing plot point theme music… Duh-duh-duh!) I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!
Struggling to contain my excitement, I asked if there was any way Gwen could take something to England with her, to get it into the hands of a guest from the UK who had left it behind at the villa. Well… sure she could! She was packing light, would have room in her luggage, and upon arrival could ship the items on the final leg of their journey using England’s efficient and inexpensive postal service, or even arrange to meet the guest and give them to her personally if their location and schedules aligned. Gwen would figure that out when she got there.
The puzzle pieces were miraculously falling into place for Mickey (and his alter ego) to be reunited with Halle at her home in England!
With this recent bit of good news, it definitely was now time to set our distraught young guest at ease. She would have a wait, but she would see her Mickey(s) again!
My wife Donna and I both had similar ideas about what to do next. As we shared our thoughts, a plan formed in my mind. I then shared it with Gwen, our property manager, and she understood immediately what I was trying to do, and was enthusiastically on board in helping out.
At this point in our story, I must point out that everyone understands that Mickey Mouse is a wonderful character, and he has many forms and outfits as need be. Like Santa Clause, he is a universally understood personality, and in truth, as we all know… there is only one Mickey Mouse.
So for the rest of this story, Mickey is a special singular character. In this case, he just had a change of outfit… as we all do.
We decided to let Halle know by email that Mickey was safe and sound, and would be joining her at home in England soon.
But what should we say?
Halle had been so worried! We weren’t 100% sure how Mickey would be reunited with her, but we were confident it would happen. We wanted to let her know this as soon as possible, in a manner that would assure and set her at ease.
What had happened to Mickey after Halle left for England? Was he okay in the meantime?
Mickey couldn’t have been just laying in a dumpster all this time... could he? Of course not! He’s Mickey Mouse! Entertainer to the world!
Instead… Mickey had been our guest, at our vacation villa!
Of course he had been! After all, we’ve been taking care of guests at our properties for fifteen years! Mickey should be no different.
And what do folks do when they are in Florida at one of our villas?
They enjoy themselves!
And they take photos of their special time too!
So… at Mickey’s request, I joined him at the villa and took a few photos of him enjoying himself, just like all of our guests do.
Next, Mickey asked me to compose an email and send the photos to Halle to let her know he was all right, and also to assure her that somehow he would get back to her.
Of course, I was only too happy to help out. The email went like this:
From: Mickey Mouse
Subject: Having a Great Time at Breezy Oak VillaDear Halle,I was SO disappointed when I realized that you had gone back home to England without me. I didn’t mean to stay here in Florida after you left, but I’ve been making the best of it.It’s actually been a lot of fun!
I have been hanging out here at Breezy Oak Villa and having a great time!
I’ve been chillin’ and watching TV.
They have great programs on here!
I’ve been cooking up a storm in the kitchen!
We’re having a big 100th Anniversary Party at the Walt Disney Company and I got all dressed up for it.Here I am relaxing before I go.
Back at the villa, I’ve been having such a great time…I go out in the backyard and enjoy the tropical plants and weather.(It’s 82º here today. Is it cool in the UK?)
I’ve been hanging out by the pool. I go for refreshing swims…
And then work on my tan on the comfy loungers.While it has been lots of fun here at the villa,(I highly recommend it! 5-Stars all around!)I have missed you.I do want to see you again soon, so I’ve got my plane ticket booked and I’ll be making my way over to you in England just as fast as I can!I’ve never taken such a long trip or flown on a big airplane before,so I’m excited and nervous at the same time.But I will be very happy to see you soon!I’ll write again and let you know how I’m doing.Your pal,
I copied Mickey’s email to Gwen as well so she would fully understand what I was up to. A week later, when Gwen left for England with Mickey along, she sent me a report on their progress. Mickey’s first email had let Halle know that he was safe.
Now it was time to let Halle know that Mickey really was on his way to her!
I helped Mickey send Halle another email, and included more photos:
From: Mickey Mouse
Subject: I’m on my way to the UK to see you!Dear Halle,This is your pal Mickey again…I’m happy to be on my way to you at home in the UK, and so excited to take this trip!
Here I am looking at the departures board at Orlando International Airport. There are so many flights! I hope I catch the right one.
I made it through security. They sure are strict! Do you know how hard it is to get these shoes off?Now I’m waiting for the tram to take me to the departure gate.There are lots of rides in Orlando!
There’s my plane, ready to take me across the Atlantic. I’ll be boarding right away and on my way to see you soon!Wish me luck!Your pal,
Upon landing, Mickey asked me to send Halle another message. I was only too happy to do so.
A progress report
From: Mickey Mouse
Subject: My FlightDear Halle,I’ve landed here in the UK!The trip over on a big plane was very interesting for a mouse like me!My seat was very comfortable. they gave me a pillow, and it was as big as me!
What a way to travel!
They also have these fold down beds to use, but they were very, very hard! They could use a mattress! And the big screen TV was very bright and kept me up much of the night.Oh well… I was awake so I thought I might catch a Disney movie. They gave me headphones but they didn’t fit my ears! (I hear that’s a common complaint…)Most importantly, I’m here in the UK now and getting closer to you all the time! It won’t be long until I see you again!Your pal,
I had a lot of fun helping Mickey out with his communications!
Apparently the flight and ground crew enjoyed having Mickey on board. They loved the story of how he was making his way to the UK to be reunited with his new friend, and were cooperative and enthusiastic in allowing Gwen to get a few photos at the gate and on board.
Mickey makes it home
Once they landed, I left it up to Gwen to work directly with the guest (the grandmother) to figure out the last leg of Mickey’s journey. As it turned out, the best option was to mail them and Gwen did this right away. True to form, the UK post had them delivered within two days to the grandmother, who then took them over to her granddaughter’s home to finally reunite Mickey with his new friend.
Halle and her sister were very excited to Welcome Mickey to his new home in the UK!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
These are worth a thousand tears… of joy.
(Cue the song… “Reunited… and it feels so good…”)
We ask all of our guests to complete a detailed exit survey about their stay with us. The guest was happy with their stay, and then added an extra comment on the bottom. I will always treasure what she wrote:
Robert has gone above and beyond to help us when my granddaughter left her 2 Mickey Mouse dolls at the Villa.
He is an amazing man. Many people would just have said they didn’t find them, but he sent us pictures of Mickey enjoying his holiday in the villa after we had left him behind.
Then he got a friend to bring them back to the UK, who even took pics of Mickey at the airport and on the flight back to us to assure us he really was on his way.
Amazing service! We cannot thank him enough.
So that’s our ‘tail’ of two Mickeys!
As I said at the beginning of this story, a lot of things had to happen just right for this to all work out. The biggest contributor was Gwen our Property Manager, who understood what I wanted to do, but more importantly, how I wanted to do it, and pitched in enthusiastically. Without her help, I might not have this story to tell.
And of course, thanks to my wife Donna, who allowed no time to be wasted and steadfastly persevered through a full container of garbage, and shared my enthusiasm for getting Mickey to his new home. She provided wise ideas and advice along the way, and cared for Mickey after he was rescued from his premature tomb, and until he left for the airport.
I often see people talking about the vacation rental business as an enterprise of real estate investing. I vehemently disagree.
Owning and running vacation rentals is about hospitality, and making people happy… happy that they chose your property, happy that they chose you as their host.
Sometimes it means doing something extra to ensure our guest’s happiness. And sometimes, we as hosts… get to enjoy just as much happiness… or more… than we provide.
In this case, it really was the best of times!