Sisyphean Disneyland Fan Marks His 2,000th Consecutive Visit To The Happiest Place On Earth™ [Updated]
On Thursday, Huntington Beach resident Jeff Reitz marked a milestone of epic proportions: he made his 2,000th consecutive visit to Disneyland. That's right, Reitz has gone to Disneyland daily since January 1, 2012. Every. Single. Day.
My first thought upon seeing the report was horror. I can barely make it through two hours at Disneyland. The screaming kids, the crowds and the lines can certainly wear one down but, to me, the truly oppressive part of any Disneyland visit is the inescapable, paralyzing certainty that I should be having capital-F fun...and the gulf between all fun I should be having, and my actual mood.
Sure, every day that ends in "y" is technically just another reminder of the gaping chasm between expectations and reality, but nowhere is that un-bridgeability more apparent than at the Happiest Place on Earth™. But what if you could just go to Disneyland every day and know it would make you happy?
What if you could make every day feel both consequential and meaningful because the click of that Disneyland turnstile meant you were adding to your consecutive visit count, instead of just your count of consecutive days spent being alive but not yet knowing your purpose on this Earth? What if hearing the Disneyland music as you walked in was something you enjoyed (as Reitz told ABC 30), instead of an overture to the inevitable depths of your wanting to get the hell out of Dodge? What if interacting with the "friendly cast members" was also something you enjoyed (as Reitz also told ABC 30), instead of something that reminded you of the artificiality of most of your interactions, and the fact that said cast members are getting paid to be nice to you? What if you enjoyed helping other Disneyland guests and teaching them about the park (as Reitz told the Disney Examiner) and that truly brought you joy, instead of having your interactions with other guests being unfairly colored by the fact you are (likely erroneously) projecting your own ambivalence about Disneyland onto them?
"It's amazing that I hit such a milestone, I had no idea when I first started that I'd ever rack up this kind of number," Reitz, a Disneyland annual pass holder, told ABC 7 back in September 2014, when he hit the 1,000 consecutive days mark. The world has been remade and stayed the same over the past 1,000 days, as it does every day. And Jeff Reitz made it to Disneyland for every one of them.
Jeff Reitz, I have nothing snarky to say. Please call me back (the Disney press reps say they gave you my number). Tell me how you do it. Tell me how to live.
Update [4:15 p.m.]: Jeff called me back! Here is our interview.
Congratulations! Can you tell me a little bit about how this journey started?
It started off as kind of a joke between friends. We decided to use it as a positive. On New Year's Eve 2011 Disney ran a commercial about getting an "extra Disney day." They talked about the leap day 24-hour day they were having in 2012, and a friend and I who were both unemployed—we had passes that had been gifted to us for birthdays and Christmas—were only planning on going on January 1st. When we were there we were joking around about how it could be an "extra" Disney day if you don't use the others. So, we decided to go for all 366 days to claim the extra day. Along the way, we thought about it and decided why don't we do this. We decided to use it as a positive. It forced us to get up and out of bed, and not sit around the house moping about being out of work. We had to get up, get out, get some fresh air. Walking around the park and talking with other guests and cast members, you're working on your networking and communication.
You work at a hospital now, is that correct? How do you make time to still go to Disneyland, even after a long work day?
Yes, at the Long Beach VA. And it's just that—I come over after work. I get off at 4 p.m., so I get to the park at 5 p.m. or so. It's no different than people getting off work who go to bars or happy hour, or some people go to the gym or do whatever. It's the same kind of thing. I come here. If I want to drink, there's Downtown Disney or California Adventure, but that's not even something I have to have. It's just getting out and getting fresh air. Being able to walk around and enjoy the magic of Disney. It helps to recharge me. Even if I have a rough day at work, I come in the gates and it helps to clear your head and have a good time for a while.
What about it feels re-charging?
Well, it's the whole atmosphere. When you come inside the walls—the boundaries of the park—it's almost like stepping away from the city life. There's different music playing in the background. There's the various rides and shows and attractions. And joking around with the cast members and the characters and other guests that you run into. I've made a lot of friends over the years, both other guests and cast members alike.
That sounds really wonderful. It sounds like there is something almost purposeful about consecutive days, is that correct? Is there a sense of purpose to it?
For me, it's a matter of something to do to have fun. When I started doing this, I didn't think I was going to go and set a world record, or anything like that. I hadn't planned on Guinness when I'd started this. I never even thought about any of this notoriety, and sometimes it's still a shock when people come up asking for photographs and stuff like that. It's just been a chance to get away and have a good time. And I enjoy photography, so I like to walk around the park and find things that catch my eye, be it the details that Disney adds to things, or shows and attractions. Like trying to catch a rollercoaster upside down at the top of the loop. I enjoy my photography and my videography that I've been able to share with people around the world, not all who can come as often.
Do you ever feel pressure to have fun when you're there?
No. For me, I come in and every day is different. Even though Matterhorn is my favorite attraction, I don't ride Matterhorn every day. I might ride it a couple days in a row. I might go a couple weeks without riding it. And everything else is the same way.
This might be a funny question, but do you have any favorite moments from those 2,000 days? Does anything stick out as specific?
There's actually been quite a few. It's hard to answer just one, be it after completing the first year and Disney presented us with a special welcome in front of the [Sleeping Beauty] Castle from Tom Staggs, Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman. It could be getting to be on the red carpet of the Lone Ranger premiere at Disney Parks and Adventure on Buena Vista Street. Just recently, I got to take my girlfriend up to Hollywood to be on the blue carpet for the Pirates of the Caribbean 5 premiere.
Yeah, and that's part of it, getting to know people and build friendships. It's never been about staying the whole day at Disneyland. It's about making a visit and getting smiles. Enjoying yourself. We've gotten to do a lot of different things.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk, Jeff. I really appreciate it and I hope the 2,001st day is as good the 2,000th.
I'm sure it will be.