Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

LDS Youth in California

Due to circumstances largely beyond my control, I was recently compelled to spend a day at Magic Mountain, the Six Flags amusement park north of Los Angeles. The pain was mitigated by the presence of my family (most of them), plus a book to study during some of the waiting in line (working on written Chinese right now). While I must admit that several portions of the eight minutes and thirty-four seconds of total ride time during the lengthy day were enjoyable (to the extent that having internal organs shifted violently to new locations is enjoyable), it's not my normal top choice for how to spend a day.

One of the small things that made the day more interesting was running into a group of four LDS teenagers next to us in line. These kids stood out in several ways relative to some of the other groups we had encountered. They were not making out or trying the latest "dirty dancing" moves while in line. They were not smoking, swearing or discussing objectional topics. They had not permanently disfigured themselves with Satanic graffiti on their skin. They were not dressed like sluts or gangsters. And then I overheard some interesting terms in their jovial conversation. The word "scriptures" made me suspect that they were LDS. Then the young man in the group mentioned a physical fitness chart - ah, a Boy Scout working on the physical fitness merit badge. I was almost sure they were LDS. Then came the clincher: "seminary." I asked if they were LDS - of course they were. They were from San Diego. Very nice group of kids. Wish the park were full of such people!

In contrast, we were adversely affected by a group of about 10 teenagers, all very healthy, young, vivacious, and largely clean cut. Could have been from a church group, perhaps - one of them had on a shirt proclaiming faith in Christ. Nice shirt - and I complimented the young man on it. But there was something puzzling about this group of healthy, happy teenagers: they had all come to the handicapped line in the most popular ride, "X," and they had handicapped passes allowing them to cut in front of many other people who had been waiting for about two hours to get on board this intense and largely senseless ride (just a hint there that it wasn't my favorite). I wondered why the park employees were treating these healthy people as handicapped and giving them special privileges - privileges that added about 15 minutes to our wait in line, since our entry queue was the one being held up for these kids to board.

On my way out, I asked a park official at Guest Relations and learned that it's park policy not to question anyone's claim to being handicapped. Anybody who comes to their office and asks for a handicapped pass is given one. Those kids knew about that politically correct loophole and had obviously chosen to exploit it en masse. Morally handicapped, clearly, but I doubt that they had any other legitimate claim to special treatment. Sure, I guess we are all handicapped in some way, but these kids were cheating. Quite disappointing. I sure hope none of them were LDS.

As an adult, I notice that I care more than ever about the behavior of teenagers. They are the future of our society. How pleased I was to encounter wholesome LDS youth who appeared to be living their religion and could shine as examples of decent peope. How disappointed I was to see a group of future businessmen ready to follow the paths of Enron executives.

LDS youth, your example mattters. And to those of you who are living your religion, you are making a difference. And the world needs you!

10 comments:

Mormanity said...

Below is a comment received by e-mail from Sarah Marie Parker-Allen
(http://lloannna.blogspot.com):

Just a quick thing:

I used to work at Disneyland. About a third of the way through my time there, the park's management discontinued the ordinary assistance pass program, in favor of a "if you're in a wheelchair, and you come up to each attraction and tell the Cast Member in charge that you're disabled, we might be nicer to you" method. I suppose you can probably tell how many Guest complaints I got (in a store operations job) thanks to this policy, from the way I just described it. The old system was exactly like the Magic Mountain system you describe -- if you came up and asked for a pass, they gave one to you, no questions asked. It was a not-quite-front-of-the-line pass; you and up to five (sometimes six) party members could go to the special assistance queue, and you'd almost certainly get on a lot faster than if you'd stood in line.

It was a boon to unscrupulous persons of all stripes of course (Cast Members and Annual Passholders loved trading stories of Guests who would rent a wheelchair and get a pass and then spend the day having their kids trade places in the chair, or bands of unruly teens running from special assistance queue to special assistance queue,) but it was also one of the only expedient ways to respond to millions of "non-apparent" disabilities
(ranging from amputated toes to autism to back problems to heart ailments...) with sensitivity. I think the Walt Disney Company (and specifically the Guest Relations department) is getting a very painful lesson in trying to judge disabilities by appearance alone; it'd sure be nice if you could tell that people were "healthy" by looking at them, and I'm not entirely certain that people being happy and cheerful at an amusement park is the best possible metric for determining whether or not they deserve special assistance. They're trying to sort out a way of doing this differently; most of the theme parks in Southern California and Florida are wrestling with it (this is the third type of system I've heard of; I believe Magic Mountain was one of the ones which tried the "doctor's note" approach but it was obviously problematic for the Guests who were just in need of avoiding stairs and didn't think they'd need certification of
something like that.)

It's probably a 60/40 thing: there's a better-than-average chance that the kids you saw were just exploiting the system. But I can think of a half-dozen very angry Guests I've been yelled at by who'd want the chance to remind you that there could very easily have been a quiet(er) kid in the background of that group, praying that s/he could get a chance to sit down *soon* because even all that reconstructive surgery won't change the fact that his/her legs flat out hurt after 10 to 15 minutes of standing. I can think of three young adults I know who'd fit that profile -- they're fine, up until that point where they have to stand up or walk up and down stairs for any length of time. One of them loves battling much younger and more physically whole people with light sabres in parking lots but has to abandon everyone at the first sight of a staircase -- and still won't wear sandals because of the scars.

At least, I thought the point should be made. ^_^

Sarah Marie Parker-Allen
http://lloannna.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I was just at Disneyworld, and they have the new "Fast Pass" Program, where you don't hsve to wait in lines if you are staying on campus. It lets you get a ticket for a certain time, go do other things, and come back at the time you want to ride. It's elite.

Renee said...

I'm glad you don't pass judgement on people based on appearances...that would be un-Christian.

Of course if the Prophet says two earrings bad, then one earring must mean good.

Amy said...

I can kind of see on both sides of the issue here. I visited Disneyland a few years ago, and I saw a much higher percentage of people in casts than I usually see in the general population, and they were all using wheelchairs (and the vast majority were teenagers, in small groups). After they broke their legs, did they think that it would be an ideal opportunity to visit Disneyland and get to the front of the line much faster, in their wheelchairs? Also, my own mother(I'm embarrassed to admit) brought her handicapped Visiting Teacher with her, so that Sister E. could sit in her wheelchair and get them all to the front of the line easier.

On the other hand, I have a 23-year-old sister-in-law who has Type 1 Diabetes and congestive heart failure, and rather weak leg muscles. She can't stand up for very long and sometimes has a hard time getting around. But she is young and slender, and "looks" very healthy.

Mormanity said...

OK, I'm sorry if I'm being a bit judgmental. For one or two people who "looked" healthy, it would be understandable. But this was a group of about 10 friends, all of similar age. Seemed odd.

Anonymous said...

they must have been white and delightsome...

Dan said...

LDS Youth are definitely different just in their desires. But, teenagers are different no matter what group they come from. While these other youth may have been playing dumb jokes, LDS youth do the same in a different way. We work with a lot of youth on our site, and they constantly make me laugh at some of the dumb things that they do too.

http://www.peerhelpgroups.com/blog.php

Anonymous said...

My son has severe Autism and we have attended several of the parks over the years. I noticed that there are many people out there who are willing to pretend to be disabled to get into a shorter line for rides at a theme Park.

I guess the only solace is knowing that these people who pretend to be disabled for a shorter wait will have a much longer wait when and if they reach the "Pearly Gates"

Anonymous said...

Amy has anyone ever said your sister may have a mitochondrial disease?

Anonymous said...

This came up when I did a search for disneyworld handicapp passes. My daughter has severe pulmonary hypertension but looks like a very normal healthy child. The disease is non-curable and life threatening and causes shortness of breath, dizziness and leads to congestive heart failure at an early age. But, she's still a teenager and needs to have fun. She doesn't want to ride around in a wheelchair and cause attention to herself, but it would probably help her - although I've been told that they're first come first serve and usually run out very quickly. I hope that people aren't rude to us when we use assistance such as this (handicap passes through lines) so that she can enjoy a few hours at disney like everyone else - while she still can. I also hope others aren't abusing the system so that the benefit isn't taken away from those who truly need it.