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Thursday Treasures

August 4, 2011 by Albert Gutierrez
Hi, My name is (not) Jacob. Have a Magical Day!

In 2005, I was on the Walt Disney World College Program. In the span of seven glorious months, I managed to wear a costume representing every land of the Magic Kingdom, sold my fair share of popcorn, ice cream, cinnamon glazed almonds, and frozen lemonades, pushed and pulled a great deal of soda wagons, and gained a few back-up names. When I wasn't Albert, I was Jacob. When I wasn't Jacob, I was Ivan. And on rare occasions, when I wasn't Albert, Jacob, or Ivan, I was Skippy. But Jacob was always my favorite.

It all started about a month or so before the 50th Anniversary Celebrations would begin. 2005 was Disneyland's 50th Anniversary, and all the resorts were commemorating this event by getting new name tags. Instead of proclaiming "Where Magic Lives" and featuring the cast member's home town, the 50th Anniversary name tags listed the five resort locations and the tagline "Happiest Celebration On Earth." Our department, Magic Kingdom OutDoor Foods (MK ODF), received a box full of name tags for everyone, and this box included name tags of cast members who were no longer working with us.

For awhile, we kept those tags in a basket as the "emergency" name tags if anyone ever forgot their own. Initially, that worked out fine, as everyone preferred their own names, and having spares available would be helpful. Amanda lost her name tag and used "Kevin" (yes, Kevin) for a week while a new name tag was ordered from Costuming.

I remember Jenny left hers at her apartment and was "Miranda" for a day. I always kept my name tag in my locker, as I generally changed from street clothes to costume before work, and back again after. But sometimes, I'd have a spare costume at my apartment and if I worked the dreadful 7 am stock shift, I'd come directly to work in costume, sans name tag. Rather than go all the way to the locker room simply for a name tag, I'd take one from the basket. And thus, Jacob was born.

At first, I only used "Jacob" whenever I didn't want to head to my locker. But soon, I started alternating regularly between "Albert" for vending and "Jacob" for stocking. It added variety towards my days, and everyone in the department already knew "Jacob = Albert" anyway. He became my go-to name so often that the managers eventually just let me keep the name tag rather than always returning it to the basket.

Although my fellow cast members knew that "Jacob = Albert," the guests didn't. This wasn't really an issue, as I didn't see a need to correct a guest if they called me Jacob (e.g. "Jacob, where's the nearest bathrooms?" or "Excuse me, Jacob, do you guys take the Dining Plan?"). As far as they knew, that was my name. However, there was one memorable occasion that I always remember, because I ended up being neither Albert nor Jacob that day. I was Yakub.

It was a hot summer day and I was in a workaholic mood. The faster I worked, the faster my shift would end, the faster I could just relax in the Learning Center and watch Robin Hood for the hundredth time before going home. I was nearing the end of my shift and just arrived at a popcorn wagon with one last stock to do. The vendor needed to restock on drinks and ice, and so I started re-arranging their drink wagon in order to restock it and add more ice.

I had started scooping ice from one slot in the wagon and dumping it into another in order to clear room to add the new drinks. Nearby, I suddenly hear a guest asking, "Hey, Jacob, can you put some in my bucket?" I forgot I was wearing Jacob that day, and continued scooping, having no idea the guest was referring to me or to any ice. This confused the guest, so he asked again, "Jacob, can I have some?" I still had no idea he was talking to me, and in my head I'm thinking that some kid is not giving their dad some popcorn. The guest mutters something to his wife, maybe he's saying the name wrong. I then hear, "Yakub? Hey, Yakub?" It was pronounced exactly as it's spelt.

Hearing "Jacob" pronounced as "Yakub" sounded so strange that I had to look up to see who it was. The guest was so relieved that I actually looked up, that he smiled and said, "Did I say it right?" Thanks to my sunglasses, the guest doesn't see my eyes dart down quickly to my name tag. The light bulb goes off. Oops. I was Jacob today. Wanting to save face and not make the guest feel bad that he asked for me three times, I tell him "Yes, you got it right."

"I've never heard it pronounced that way before," the guest tells me. "That's pretty cool."

"It can be either way," I say to him. "Yakub is an Eastern European variation of pronouncing Jacob." Writing about it now, it's actually quite believable as there are "J" names in other languages that don't actually use the "J", like Juan or Johann. But at the time, I was lying through my teeth and hoping the guest wasn't Eastern European. "Most everyone calls me Jake," I continue. "I'm only Yakub when my parents are mad and call me by my full name." This gets a laugh from the guest.

"Hahaha, I know that feeling!" He completely forgets about the ice, and goes off on his way. "See ya later, Yakub!" I wave bye to him and resume my work. After that, I knew to make sure to always check which name I was using in order to avoid situations like that. My Jacob name tag now sits proudly next to my Albert name tags, along with my Ivan name tag (which got far less use, and stems mainly from a joke from the BBC sitcom "Coupling"). Sadly, I don't have an official Skippy name tag, but that's another story for another Thursday Treasure.


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