Seriously. Ok, maybe not everything. But my first tracking experience occurred at Disneyland when I was eight years old.
It’s the mid-80s. Our family loads up the wood panel station wagon and hits the road. North Dakota to California. It seems like forever. After three days of endless roads, we roll into L.A. We are exhausted. We collapse into the hotel room and get some rest before the big dance – Disneyland.
The next day we wake up bright and early. I’m excited for the rollercoasters and the funhouse. As we drive into the massive parking lot it hits me – this place is massive! We join a large mass of people and walk a mile towards the entrance. The mass grows the closer we get to the front door. By the time we do it’s chaos. We stay close to each other to avoid separation.
As we step through the front gate we’re met by an even bigger mass of people. This is nuts! We grab a map, huddle up, figure out a plan and head to the first gig. We spend a couple hours meandering through some rides and creepy shows. Then we finally get to a ride that me and brother (12 years old) were drooling over. My parents and little sister aren’t interested so we figure out a meeting spot after we’re done.
“Meet at the gate,” my dad says.
We nod and head in. The ride is average so my brother and I proceed to disrupt each other in an attempt to entertain ourselves. The ride ends and we head to the gate near the end of the ride. The rest of the family isn’t there. I look to my older (….wiser?) brother for an explanation.
“He said the gate.”
We stand there and observe the huge masses all around us. With every passing minute, our eyes nervously shift back and forth. 10 minutes…20 minutes…30 minutes. Nothing. We’re freaking out now. We can’t decide whether to leave the post and look for them or stay put. Splitting up is out of the question. An hour goes by and the masses only grow.
Fear fully sets in. We decide to go look around but not stray too far from the gate. No luck. All we see are tons of strangers. Another 30 minutes go by. We can’t even see where to report yourself as a lost kid. There is a ride nearby that has stairs going up several stories. We can look for them from a birds eye view. We abandon our post at the gate and head up the stairs.
Bad idea. Our eyes fully absorb a solid mass of thousands of people. We’re looking for a needle in 20 haystacks. Now we hit panic mode. We’re two North Dakota kids in L.A. – fish out of water and the water is 2000 miles away.
We climb back down and try to calm down. It takes several minutes. The fear is still thick but at least we can try to think of a plan.
With the amount of people, wandering around in the masses will only take you out of view. We need to figure out the place where we have the best chance to cross paths with them. We think of a couple options:
- We’ll stay near the place where we lost them. If a security guard walks by, we’ll get their help.
- The family plan was to attend the parade at 7pm (8 hours from now). We’ll try to intercept them there.
- If we don’t run into them at the parade, we’ll stand by the exits at closing time.
The plan is less than ideal but it’s our only shot. We hang our heads and head back to the ride. Another hour goes by. I need to use the restroom. As we close in on the men’s room I hear someone scream my brother’s name. We turn to see all three of them running towards us.
So here’s the Scooby Doo ending: There are two gates at the infamous ride. One at the entrance and one at the exit. Dad was talking about the gate at the entrance. They didn’t know there was a second gate. Both groups stood waiting for the other at opposite ends with a wall of people in between. By the time my brother and I dared to leave our post, they already left to report us as missing.
Here’s the cool thing. Our strategy was solid because my parents were planning the same thing. The parade and the exit gates at the end of the day.
Bottom Line: You need to maximize your ability to cross paths with the people you’re tracking. Figure out their routine and try to intersect with them along the way. It’s a strategy that produces for me all the time.
And try to avoid Disneyland.