Note: This is a work of fiction based on a particular episode of a particular podcast. Any similarity to actual persons, living, dead, or fictionalized in 80s movies, is purely coincidental.
My name is Len Testa. I’m an investigative theme park journalist. You’ve probably read my stuff if you’ve ever tried to get on Slinky Dog Dash on a holiday weekend.
Recently, a reader alerted me to an inconsistency in my reporting about Disney’s Riviera Resort. I don’t like being inconsistent. I headed over to the Riviera, trying to pass for a DVC Elite member. I didn’t wear a Mickey fanny pack or sprinkle pixie dust in my hair; that’s too obvious. Act like you’re doing point calculations in your head constantly and you fit right in.
“I’m thinking about purchasing points at Riviera. Can you tell me what kind of a room is 8347?”
“May I get your name, sir?”
She types into her terminal with confusion gradually sweeping across her face. She’s three years out of the College Program. She didn’t ask for this.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Stromboli. We don’t have a room 8347.”
This is where it got strange.
“I’m pretty sure you do, because I just saw it.”
“Okay, let’s go look.”
The castmember was taken with my confidence. You even hint about throwing a few hundred DVC points around and you command some respect in this place.
We go up to the third floor and walk all the way down the hall. It’s the last room on the left. Sure enough, it exists. We peek inside and it’s a Standard View Deluxe Studio.
We walk back downstairs and she looks again in her computer.
“Nope. Doesn’t exist in our inventory. But let me check something.”
She retreats back stage, then returns moments later.
“It definitely exists and it’s definitely a Standard Deluxe Studio.”
I thought there were two systems at Disney that didn’t agree. Apparently, there are three.
I tried to book the room for that night, but the castmember wasn’t having it. I booked the room next door instead as a cover, but I had every intention of spending time in 8347.
I stepped outside and called Walt Disney World Reservations under the shade of the Skyliner.
“It’s a magical day at Disney World. This is Madeline. How may I help you?”
“Yes, hello Madeline. Jim Hill lost the reservation number for room 8347 at the Riviera this evening. Can you link that room key to my magic band?”
“Strange. It’s not allowing me to access that.”
“That’s okay. If you can just link the rooom key to my magic band…”
“And I’m sorry — who are you?”
“I’m Jim Hill’s boss.”
“Who’s Jim Hill?”
This was going nowhere, but I wasn’t out of ideas. You try to follow the rules when you’re in a kingdom run by a 92 year old mouse and his band of genetic oddities. Sometimes, to get the story, you need to create your own magic. That’s why I slipped an Epcot map between the door and the lock when the castmember and I left room 8347 earlier.
I decided to stay the night in room 8347. I felt like I was on a trail. I wasn’t sure to what. Time shares are historically a sketchy business. Rooms that don’t exist sound like a loophole worth unwinding. Unlooping. I don’t know. That’s what editors are for.
When I returned to 8347, it was clear that Mousekeeping also thought the room didn’t exist. A fine layer of dust coated the flat surfaces and the shampoo bottle gave off a faint sea marine scent, but was bone dry.
The TV seemed only partially configured, only receiving the hotel stations. By the third loop around Wild about Safety, Timon and Pumbaa had lulled me to sleep.
I woke up with a start — probably some skyliner cars had crashed into each other again. I threw on my favorite ringer-t and my park hopping shorts and went to see if the Riviera breakfast brought any new twists on the Mickey waffle.
“Good morning, Mr. Stromboli. Heading to breakfast?”
It was the cast member who booked the room next door for me.
“Just a quick bite, then off to try to get a boarding group.”
“A boarding group, sir?”
“Yes. For Rise of the Resistance.”
“What’s Rise of the Resistance?”
Castmember training has gone way downhill.
“It’s the newest ride at Hollywood Studios.”
“You mean MGM Studios? I wasn’t aware something new had opened. Between you and me, Catastrophe Canyon is still having some issues.”
I suddenly had a sickening feeling and looked around the lobby. It felt like the lobby itself was swirling around me as I took note of several dismaying observations. The teenage girl with acid washed jeans. The dad wearing hammer pants. The posted ticket prices that seemed impossibly reasonable. Somehow, room 8347 had done something.
To Be Continued…