By In Family

Katie The Prefect

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about our plans to take our daughters — particularly our nine-year-old Elizabeth — to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios in Orlando. I worried, I suppose, that nothing surprising and magical would happen. Well, as it turned out, something surprising and magical did happen.

The first thing I had to do when we got to Harry Potter World was stand in line. This was not unexpected. We had been told by several people to prepare for 1930s Soviet bread length lines. However, it was a bit surprising to find that I had to wait in line just for the right to go into Harry Potter World, where I could wait in those long lines. It turns out that Harry Potter World is rather small, and they can only let in so many people at a time. So, I had to wait in a 45-minute line that twisted and turned through the park just to get a return ticket — which would allow us to go into Harry Potter World four hours later.

It probably goes without saying that I do not like waiting in lines — this has to be like saying that you don’t like traffic or you don’t like doing taxes. But, to tell the truth, I enjoyed standing in the line. It was a beautiful day, and the line snaked through Comic Strip World (or whatever it is called) so while the family was off doing amusement park things I could look at Beetle Bailey and Cathy and Blondie exhibits. Perhaps more than anything I had that rare “I’m a Dad” feeling of pride. I can remember my Dad doing all sorts of awful tasks like this all just so we could do something fun. It seems part of the job. When I finally reached the end of that first line, and got our return tickets I had this great sense of accomplishment. Nobody, for the moment anyway, could argue the point.

Attorney: My client is a great Dad.
Judge: What proof do you have of this?
Attorney: He waited by himself in a 45-minute line so his wife and daughters could go to Harry Potter world.
Judge: Case closed. Defendant is a great dad.

We had four hours before we were allowed to stand in the Harry Potter World lines, and so we went to Dr. Seuss Land, which reminded me once again that Dr. Seuss was a disturbed man. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all — I loved Dr. Seuss as a child, and I love him as a parent, but the world he created is kind of whacked. We had breakfast with the Grinch (who snapped at both daughters), and we rode the One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish ride (where you get sprayed with water), and we went into the Cat in the Hat Ride, where you get spun around and constantly taunted by creatures aptly named Thing 1 and Thing 2.

At one point, we also went to Jurassic Park land, and we were taken into a laboratory-themed room where a young man in a lab jacket showed us a rather large dinosaur that he said was brought back to life through cryogenics and cloning and whatever that movie was about. This placed us as parents in a rather odd position: Were we supposed to tell the girls that the dinosaur wasn’t real? Frankly, I have to admit, it gets harder and harder as a parent to remember what myths the kids still believe in, what myths they kind-of believe in, what myths we want them to believe in and so on. I finally made the executive decision that I saw no reason whatsoever for them to believe that dinosaurs still roam the earth.

“It’s a robot,” I told them.

“Are you sure?” they asked.

“And I don’t think Babe Ruth called his shot either,” I said.

* * *

Harry Potter World is actually one cobbled street that features a castle, a wand shop, a sweet shop, a magical joke shop, a restaurant, three rides and 1.9 million people. It is not large, but there is no question that there’s something bewitching about the place. The scene seems pulled out of the J.K. Rowling books. To be honest, it almost feels like you are shuffling about in a pop-up version of the books … assuming that the pop-up book was placed in O’Hare Airport on Christmas Eve.

My point here is to write about the something magical that happened in Harry Potter World and not to give a review of the park, but I should say that it really was great fun despite the crowds and the long lines. In a weird way, it was great fun BECAUSE of the crowds and the long lines. What I mean is: Elizabeth had been so looking forward to the park. She has a natural habit of building things up way too big in her mind, which sometimes leads to spectacular disappointment … a habit, I fear, she may have inherited from her father. It is actually this habit that led to our magical moment.

But in this case, her fevered anticipation for Harry Potter World was met, even exceeded, and against-intuition I think the large crowds and long lines had a lot to do with it. I think this for two reasons:

(1) The long lines meant that we stayed in HP World for a long time. If there had been only a few people in the park, I think we might have been in and out in an hour and a half or two hours, and she would have realized that the park wasn’t very big. We would have ridden the rides, gone through the castle, visited the shops, and I feel sure there would have been an “Is that all?” feeling. But because just getting into the castle took more than an hour, just getting into the sweet shop was another 15-20 minutes, getting on the ride was another 45, buying a wand from one of the street vendors was another 30 … it all felt to her like an enormous adventure.

(2) I think just seeing how many people from all over love Harry Potter — there had to be five or six languages going at once, not including intense Alabama accents (the Alabama-Michigan State Bowl was a day away) — made her feel a part of this larger community. This very sweet young woman from Dothan, Alabama lifted Elizabeth on her shoulders so she could see a little show (I had our younger daughter, Katie, on my shoulders), and then they talked all about goblet of fire and the Mirror or Erised and the spiders in the Forbidden Forest and whatever else. I remember as a child desperately wanting something to make me feel connected — for me it was sports. Sadly there was no Cleveland Indians world, unless you count the bleachers at old Municipal Stadium where factory workers drank schnapps from flasks and swore liberally and rubbed your head when the Indians actually scored.

So if somebody would ask me: “Should we go to Harry Potter World?” I would simply ask how much their children love Harry Potter. Because for an adult who loves Harry Potter … I don’t know what the expectations would be, and so I don’t know how annoying and off-putting the lines and the claustrophobia and the general inability to get around would become. For a 9-year-old who dreams nightly of J.K. Rowling’s imaginary and wonderful and frightening world, it was fabulous — even if Elizabeth was scared to death on the park’s main ride.

* * *

Now, finally, the magical part. As we were getting ready to leave, Elizabeth was granted her one wish, which was to buy something from the gift shop. This, even under the best of circumstances, can be a gut-wrenching experience. Every now and again, I will take the girls to Target, and they are allowed to buy one thing, and Katie tends to pick out a Polly Pocket doll or something like it within about 45 seconds. Elizabeth proceeds to turn the trip into Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1. She puts intense pressure on herself to make the right decision, as if every Target will close tomorrow, as if a meteor will crash into the earth if she chooses wrong. If she had found herself faced with the bluepill, redpill choice from The Matrix, I have little doubt the movie would have lasted 37 hours and in the end she would have asked once again if there was a purplepill in a different aisle.

So, if trips to the local Target turn into traumatic experiences, you can only imagine the anxiety and torture of picking out one thing in Harry Potter World. My wife Margo, being smarter than her husband, announced that she was taking the younger daughter back to Dr. Seuss World — because getting drenched while riding in flying fish is far superior to dealing with the older daughter’s “what should I buy” anxieties.

It was every bit as stressful as you might imagine. There were, of course, way too many people inside the secondary gift shop (the MAIN gift shop, where there is some show involved with picking out a wand, had an hour and a half wait). It was difficult to move. And Elizabeth was in her rush-from-one-place-to-another frantic mode … she was in the 9-year-old middle ground between elation and panic.

And then … we ran into Katie the Prefect. Katie was about 18 or 19, I’m terrible about judging ages, and she worked in the store and, as such, wore the robes that students wear at Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter books. I know she was a prefect because she wore a prefect’s badge, which is the first thing that Elizabeth noticed.

“Are you a prefect?” she asked, and her face lit up.

“Yes,” Katie said. “What house are you in?”

There are four houses at the Hogwarts School in Harry Potter. The main one is Gryffindor, which is the house of Harry Potter and his friends. For some reason, Elizabeth had decided that her house was Ravenclaw, which in my own memory plays almost no role whatsoever in the books.

“I’m a Ravenclaw,” Elizabeth said.

“Are you now?” Katie said, and she was clearly amused, and Elizabeth was absolutely smitten.

It’s easy to forget this … but anyone can be a star to a 9-year-old. Yes, Elizabeth is actually hypersensitive to stardom, she likes the tween fan magazines so she can read up on Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez (her favorite) and Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers and … if none of these names are ringing a bell, I can lend you a 9-year-old girl for a while. But the truth is that to a 9-year-old, a star can be almost anybody older — the police officer standing outside the mall, the soldier who walks on the plane, the boys and girls in the choir at a recital, the actors in a community theater play and, most definitely, the girl wearing robes and a prefect badge at Harry Potter World. They talked for a couple of moments, Katie the Prefect was very kind and patient, and then we were back on our never-ending adventure of buying something that would somehow meet Elizabeth’s impossibly high hopes.

I’ve bored you long enough — but I should say there was still quite a bit of angst before we finally got down to two items. One was a glitzy Gryffindor Bag (there was no Ravenclaw merchandise in the junior gift shop). And the other was a cute stuffed-animal owl like the one that Harry uses to send and receive mail. Getting down to these two items had pressed Elizabeth to her decision-making limits, and at this point she more or less shut down.

“Daddy,” she said in a pleading voice. “What should I do? Tell me?”

Believe it or not, there are no classes that tell fathers what to say to their daughters when they have reached a crisis point while trying to choose an owl or a bag. The options, as I saw them, were to say what I was thinking (“I don’t care just choose one already”), to go strict Daddy on her (“If you don’t choose in 5 seconds, you won’t get either”), to take the spoiled Dad route I have always promised myself not to take (“Fine just get them both and let’s get out of here”), or to try once more to guess which one she really wanted and push her in that direction. None of these options seemed to fit the occasion.

And then … I saw Katie the Prefect. And, in an inspired bit of fatherhood, I said: “Let’s go ask her.”

I had no idea what Katie the Prefect would say. Something that disappoints me sometimes is that it seems exuberance and enthusiasm can be such rare qualities in people. There are so many discouraged people. There are so many people who appear to be going through the motions — lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them (I knew that Thoreau study would come in handy someday). The older I get the more I have come to believe that we can make such a difference by showing just a little bit of zeal, doing a little bit more, showing just a bit more of our spirit.

Elizabeth quietly walked over to Katie The Prefect (while clinging desperately to my hand) and said: “Um, excuse me. I wanted to ask you a question, please.”

Katie said: “Oh hello. My little Ravenclaw friend. What can I do for you?”

Elizabeth explained her conundrum. Owl or bag. Bag or owl. Katie the Prefect in real life, I suspect, is a young woman who goes to college, probably has a boyfriend, undoubtedly has her good moments and bad, her good habits and bad, parents who adore her, friends who look up to her, friends she looks up to and all those things. She worked at Harry Potter world, which undoubtedly has its good points and bad points and lots of grumpy muggles (muggle meaning “non-magical people” in the Harry Potter books).

But in this moment — and I doubt she realized this entirely — she was the biggest thing in the world to a 9-year-old girl she will undoubtedly never see again. She could have simply said “Get the bag” or “Get the owl” or “Well, what do you want to do?” or anything else. That was, I would guess, part of her job.

What she did, though, was lean down close to Elizabeth and look her right in the eye. And she said: “Well, it’s a difficult choice isn’t it? They’re both such wonderful things. But it seems to me that you could use the bag every day. You could use it to keep your books when you go to school, and school is very important. I had to study very hard to become a prefect. And the owl …”

With this she leaned even closer and almost whispered in Elizabeth’s ear: “I must tell you: Owls are not of much use in the muggle world.”

That was it. That was the magic. Elizabeth’s face lit up like like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. She nodded, and she gave Katie the Prefect a huge hug, and for those 20 seconds of her life it was like she was in the Harry Potter book, being offered advice by the most popular student at Hogwarts. Owls are not of much use in the muggle world. Katie hugged her back, disappeared into the crowd, and Elizabeth got the bag which, for once, was EXACTLY what she wanted. It was, in fact, the greatest thing she had ever gotten in her entire life. Every time she drapes it around her shoulder, she tells the story of how she got it and the advice Katie the Prefect had given her.

It was just a few seconds of kindness. It might even just be viewed as part of the job of working at Harry Potter World. But that — more than the multi-million dollar rides, more than the authentic butterbeer or the cauldron made of chocolate, more than the remarkable effects in the castle, more than anything — that is what Elizabeth will remember, perhaps even for the rest of her life. A young woman probably making something like minimum wage, wearing a robe and a badge, had made Elizabeth feel special and magical. I thanked Katie the Prefect before she went off to help other customers, but I’m not sure she heard me, and I’m not sure she would have understood anyway. There’s so much we can do in this crazy world with a little effort and imagination. There’s so much we can do that it’s easy to miss what we have done … even after it’s over.

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138 Responses to Katie The Prefect

  1. Hal says:

    Fantastic. Simply fantastic.

  2. Jacob G. says:

    I love that less than 24 hours after Joe displayed his biting sarcasm and wit to the fullest extent (in the Willie Mays HOF post) he can turn around and produce this, which might make me cry even though I’m closer to Katie the prefect’s age than to Joe’s age.
    He’s the most diversely talented writer out there today, I think.

  3. tarhoosier says:

    You, sir, are a father. You have created more love in the world. I, speaking for the world, express our gratitude.

  4. njwv says:

    1. I hope you find a way to get this back to Katie and her employers.
    2. Ravenclaws are the smart and academically inclined house.
    3. That Elizabeth already self-identifies as a Ravenclaw means you’ve done a fantastic job as a father.

  5. Beatuofa says:

    Ok, everyone all together now…AWWWWWWWWWWW.

  6. Meaghan says:

    There’s a good chance that Katie the Prefect will remember your daughter for almost as long as your daughter will remember her. I worked at Disney when I was 19 and, even though I was dressed as Mrs. Claus, a little girl, 4/5 yrs. old, stopped me in the streets of DD and asked if I was Cinderella. It’s a thrill for people working at the parks (Disney or Universal) to realize that the kids see us as part of the experience and really buy into what we’re there for, that we’re not just minimum-wage cashiers. I will remember that little girl (and her horrified parents) for many many years just as Katie will probably remember her friend from Ravenclaw.

  7. Tonus says:

    Whenever I start reading one of these slice-of-life pieces from Joe, I worry in the back of my mind that I won’t finish it because hey, it’s not sports. It’s not what I come here to read.

    And then I finish it and I read it a second time because it may not be sports, but it IS what I come here to read. Loved it, and thank you.

  8. I want to be Joe Posnanski when I grow up, in so many ways. (FTR, I am 40 and have two kids.)

  9. Jason says:

    Well written, I can only imagine the fun I’ll have when my two girls get to be this age (3 & 1 currently with two 1 year old brothers also). My oldest now is infatuated with Toy Story so I can only imagine how much “worse” things like that will get as she gets older…though part of me as a father is both excited/anguished about these moments. I can only hope if in a moment of trouble such as your daughter had we too will be able to find our Katie the Prefect.

  10. “There’s so much we can do in this crazy world with a little effort and imagination.”
    Thanks Joe, for the reminder.
    I love the fact that, as great a writer as many of us know you to be, it is being a good dad that gives you joy. (And your gratitude to your own father often shows.)
    As njwv says – its pretty cool that Elizabeth is a Ravenclaw – she must have a pretty smart mom too!
    Isn’t Luna a Ravenclaw?
    thanks again – Phil

  11. Towanda says:

    fantastic, fantastic.

  12. Mark Daniel says:

    Wow. What a fantastic post. It almost makes up for leaving Sandy Koufax out of the Willie Mays Hall of Fame.

  13. Lissa says:

    Thank you. Made my day, it really did!

  14. njwv says:

    FYI, houses of Harry Potter in baseball terms:
    Hufflepuff: Kirk Reuter
    Ravenclaw: Greg Maddux
    Gryffindor: Brian Wilson
    Slytherin: Roger Clemens

  15. John Ling says:

    Fantastic story, Joe. Thanks.

    — John in Philly

  16. davidpom50 says:

    As an unmarried, childless 27 yr old man with absolutely no interest in fantasy worlds, I was 100% sure an article about being a father at Harry Potter World would be of no interest to me. I was 100% wrong. Great article, Joe.

  17. Circle me, Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.

    Okay, this post made my office get real dusty. Katie the Prefect is a great story, a great illustration of the simple acts that can profoundly shape our expectations and the way we view the world. Children are pliable and idealistic, I’m just glad the Prefect chose to capture the magic and kindess of Rowling in her day-to-day job.

  18. emarci says:

    This story made me cry. Thanks for sharing. <3

  19. Lee H. says:

    Joe, let me say that you are Katie the Prefect, and we are the 9 year old.

    Magical, as always.

  20. pip says:

    This is really terrific stuff, Joe. I’ve got a buddy who’s always telling me “Joe Posnanski is a blithering idiot,” because of your baseball opinions, and I always respond with “Maybe, but he’s the most talented sportswriter in the biz.” Here’s my proof.

  21. Great work. I think it is very cool that Joe encourages his daughter to have her own interest and passion, and lets her be herself. Many parents have problems doing that very thing.

    Ironically, when I was a kid the thing my mom let me do that she didn’t necessarily understand or love was baseball.

  22. Mike says:

    Great story, Joe.

    Most comments (rightly) focus on its heartwarming qualities, but I just wanted to pass along kudos on the Babe Ruth joke. I laughed out loud at that point.

  23. Paul White says:

    There’s a scene in “Jerry Maguire” where Cuba Gooding’s character doesn’t get the contract offer he wants and starts to become distraught. Then his wife, Regina King, talks him off the ledge and tells him what they’re going to do, and that everything would be alright. It’s the first point in the movie where it’s really clear that they have the sort of model marriage that Jerry doesn’t understand, particularly when Cuba Gooding thanks her by saying something normally considered profane. All he said was “You’re the shit”, and it was said with such love and reverence that the words themselves, profane or not, meant far less than the obvious feeling behind them.

    That’s an awfully long preamble, but I include it to provide some context for why all I could think of after reading this piece was “Geez, Posnanski is the shit”.

  24. Leo A. says:

    I found this blog by chance, and will now bookmark it, having become a fan of yours in recent months.
    I, too, was at Harry Potter World with my son (11 years old and not particulary an HP fan himself, for reasons that may have something to do with the fact that he doesn’t like chocolate or soda pop, making him part of about 1% of kids in the world who don’t like Harry Potter, chocolate, or soda) . Actually, I was there barely a week before you were there. I thought this post was going to be a wonderful rant about how crowded and crazy the place is, but it turned out to be a really nice piece on the joys and wonders of parenthood.
    Thanks again,
    Another Indians fan from Cleveland

  25. UnHoly Diver says:

    Back-to-back masterpieces in writing are almost as rare as a no-hitter. With this article, you just threw a perfect game, IMO.

  26. NMark W says:

    “Cleveland Indians World at old Municipal Stadium in the bleachers…’

  27. UnHoly Diver hit it on the spot – almost
    This was a Prefect Game!
    As Mike noted – the Babe Ruth line is brilliant
    njwv – I like the placing of ballplayers in Hogwarts Houses. . .
    that could take up an afternoon, get out The Historical Baseball Abstract, and act as the Sorting Hat. Fun.
    Brilliant writing – brilliant readers
    thanks all

  28. Odyssey says:

    Another fantastic job, Joe. This is the only spot on the web I check expectantly every day, hoping for a new post — it never disappoints.

  29. Loren says:

    Great post! I can totally relate to this. We took our daughter to Disney when she was 7 and still at the age of believing in Santa Claus. In that vein, she assumed that all the characters she met were the “real” ones and set out to fill her autograph book with everyone. All the characters just scribbled their names. When she got an autograph from Aladdin, he wrote “Love, Aladdin” in her book. She got that squeaky, giggly, girly embarrassed laugh and pointed out to us – “He wrote *LOVE* Aladdin!!”. She was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the day. She’s 19 now so you know what an impression her reaction made on me. I’m sure you’ll remember Katie the Prefect as long as Elizabeth will.

    • Jef says:

      When our daughter was five she collected autographs from every character’s she saw. We physically had to peel her off Belle. What started as a simple hug turned into a creepy obsessive infatuation. The trip was for her birthday and we did dinner at Chef Mickey’s. I bought a charm bracelet with her name and Disney beads; I snuck it over to Goofy. He, Chip, and Dale came over and gave it to her along with the waiters singing Happy Birthday. To this day she still believes they knew her name and bought it for her. She’s 22.

  30. anna says:

    My husband shared this with me and I’m glad he did. It’s beautiful, especially the last two lines of the article. I think i’ll put those two sentences up in my classroom. It’ll be food for thought for my students.

  31. SG says:

    We always hear about how children make parents less happy overall, and it’s true, parenting can be tough: days when we’re exhausted, days when we’re losing our minds, less time for ourselves, etc. But it’s the transcendent moments like this that represent the payoff: I may be much more tired, more often; but very few things in my life have made me as deliriously happy as when my 6-year-old daughter absolutely nailed her piano recital last month, or when my Toy Story-obsessed two-year-old opened her new Jessie doll this Christmas and immediately gave it a huge, or when we all built a gingerbread house together last year. That tradeoff – more stress, less personal time, etc. on average, in exchange for the happiest moments of my life – is in my opinion totally worth it.

    And my experience at Disney in 2009 was much the same as this article and other commenters like Loren describe: the characters were what my kids loved. My eldest probably doesn’t much recall the teacup ride, but she can tell you exactly what it was like when we met Minnie gave her a big hug, took her hand, and skipped next to her outside of Minnie’s Country House. The fact that meeting the characters was such a big deal to the kids was surprising to me, but it probably shouldn’t have been.

  32. vilstef says:

    You can connect in many ways with a story, but Katie made Harry’s World very real to your daughter. A really wonderful story, thanks for sharing.

  33. I want Katie to become a second-grade teacher — and I want her to have every kid in America in her class.

  34. Elbert says:

    This why I read Joe daily.

  35. chim0ca1 says:

    Joe, I am a long time reader,never posted though I’ve wanted to a few times. I’m also a 32 year old man with no children and I’m sitting here with tears of happiness pouring down my face because of this story.Not to get too deep,but I honestly have just gotten through maybe the worst month of my life,and this post is the first thing that’s given me any joy in a while.Thank you,you brilliant man.

  36. allan says:

    I would have likely gone insane in such crowds in less than 30 minutes. Also, I imagine that working in such a place must be, at times, the worst job on earth, so:

    I hope you find a way to get this back to Katie …

    Seconded, loudly.

  37. Bastian says:

    This was wonderful, Joe. Just wonderful.

    After I’d read the travel day and original HP posts I was sure I liked the non-sports post best. With the HOF posts I was starting to waver but this clinches it. There is a difference between journalism and art. This is art.

  38. Jason says:

    It’s fun seeing people make some variation of the “I come here for sports, I didn’t think I would care for your post about ______, but I loved it” comment.

    I can remember three years ago or so when I mad my version of that moment. By now I’ve long since learned to be excited for a new post, no matter the topic.

    You’re the best, Joe!

  39. Chris says:

    36-year old with 2-year and 5-month old daughters and I freaking loved this. Joe – you’re the reason I came back to reading sportswriters. And these non-sport posts are pretty awesome as well.

    Next time you’re trying to think about what your next book should focus on, maybe consider some fatherhood anecdotes.

  40. Frankie B says:

    Doggone it, now I have to explain to everyone at my gate at DFW why I’m crying. You’ve done it again, Joe. Wonderful. Thank you.

  41. Jake says:

    And you just made a young man’s eyes tear up.

  42. Joe327 says:

    Dammit, Joe, I’m tired of reading your articles and thinking “I wish I could write half as well as Joe does.”

    • Bobbie says:

      We need more ingshits like this in this thread.

    • http://www./ says:

      Really sweet!I think, I’ll still be holding on to my ombre hair. I’ve had it for 5 months now, but it still looks decent and I’m not sick of it yet. Not wanna turn this into whether we like/dislike Miley Cyrus’ new hair, but her “courage” to cut her hair made me think for a minute. One day, I’ll be cutting my hair short as well. Must be such a freeing, yet weird feeling.

    • Started doing some sleuthing – found another recipe with 4 cups almonds, just 1/2 cup each of sugars. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm They do still taste good. More like a donut stick dipped in butter then cinnamon sugar – how the sugar has to be licked from the fingers. A definite starting point for a great idea. Thank you.

  43. JohnG says:

    Joe, once again allow me to note that you are the finest in the business.

    You make it look easy, like Tiger Woods used to do with golf. It is not easy, it is very difficult to write and write well and write well as often as you do. But you seemingly do it with ease and it’s an honor to be one of your readers.

  44. Shane says:

    Someone show this to Mitch Albom.

  45. Josh says:

    Joe, this is a great story. Absolutely fantastic.

  46. Dylan says:

    Katie from HP world is one of my best friends from high school. I liked her to this, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it. She goes to FSU, by the way.

  47. NRJyzr says:

    This is truly a great story…

    I think what I like the most about it is Dylan’s comment that he knows Katie the Prefect, and has linked her to this story.

    Outstanding stuff.

  48. Delaney says:

    Definitely teared up. And Harry Potter Land made me feel that I was part of something bigger too, and I’m nineteen. 🙂

  49. GregTamblyn says:

    In a perfect world, Katie would be cloned and all airlines forced to use her for flight attendants and customer service.

  50. Peter says:


    I don’t think I’ve ever commented on your blog, although whenever I see your lengthy posts and know I don’t have enough immediate time, I open a new tab just for the story and make my way through it eventually. Today was one in which I finally caught up (a week away and 6 Posnanski posts to read? Yikes.). All I can say is that, as an aspiring almost-20 writer, I hope to some day be able to communicate to others in the way that you do, whether you’re speaking about Bruce Springsteen, Harry Potter, or our own hapless Royals.
    And I can’t wait until you someday read the LOTR trilogy and write about them. Please?

  51. Rational Fan says:

    @Jason: I had my Poz moment like that some time ago as well. And, like nearly all of us, I dread the Friday post knowing it will be a full weekend before I get a Poz fix.

    My comment is similar to those above. I absolutely loved this piece. I have no children — well, twins are one the way, due in June — so I stumble through the jargon that is Harry Potter. (I am almost anti-fantasy.)

    I’m not sure how excited I’ll be when my children get into things like this (read: not at all), but I’ve learned that that doesn’t matter. All that matters is THEM being into it, and THEM having that experience, and ME being able to give it to them.

    Yeah, I think that’s it. I’m not sure. But I am sure I can’t wait to start the trial.

  52. LoCoDe says:

    Case closed. Defendant is a great dad.

  53. arthur says:

    “And I don’t think Babe Ruth called his shot either,” I said. = Inappropriate … LOL

  54. John-Paul says:

    @tonus- you hit it right on the head. Joe is the only writer alive that could keep my interest in a topic I’m generally not interested in. If someone recommended that I read a story about harry potter world, fatherhood, an impressionable 9 year old and the a young woman who made dreams come true, I’d politely decline. And if that same person simply said there is a story written by joe posnanski I’d politely decline again….because no matter what it is I probably read it twice already.

  55. grulg55 says:


  56. saucersofmud says:

    Very sweet and touching — but this shouldn’t get lost in the tears:

    “I loved Dr. Seuss as a child, and I love him as a parent, but the world he created is kind of whacked.”

    Amen. Have you read One Fish Two Fish lately? About ten pages on fish and then the brown acid kicks in. (Actually I’ll bet you that what actually happened is Dr. Seuss came up with the title, wrote about ten pages about fish, realized he didn’t have anything more to say about fish, and then emptied his notebook.)

  57. Daniel says:

    I must have opened the blog a dozen times before reading this entry and each time I read the title as “Katie the PERFECT” and after reading this I have to say that my eyes were not deceived. Katie is perfect and so are you Joe!

  58. y42k says:

    Happy birthday, Joe!

  59. Dave V. says:

    Another great piece from a great writer.

  60. praygs says:

    Fantastic Joe, simply fantastic. Very heartwarming.

    I must say, that 9 year olds aren’t the only ones that are prone to seeing a soldier walking on a plane as a star. At least this 47 year old still does.

  61. Ryan says:

    When I read this article, I feel 2 things …

    [1] The employee at the shop features all the qualities of “future teacher”. Teachers do this type of thing daily, and without attention. People may question the quality of teachers, and have other reservations about the field … sometimes for very good reasons. But, most teachers have this “magic” and can make kids feel good about anything. The challenge arrives when 26 kids are asking you to help them choose at the same time. Heh Heh.

    [2] It’s nice to see another person who has more ideas and thoughts than paper to write them on. I like how every idea/comment you have triggers another thought/idea, and another, and another, and then loops back around to the main point, without missing a beat. Welcome to the world of ADD, said from the perspective of “takes one to know one”.

  62. februarysong says:

    I just emailed this to Universal.

  63. Kenny says:

    I know Katie and Dylan from high school and now college and I can tell you that Katie has this impression on everyone she meets. You can’t help but be happier around her.

  64. Brian says:

    Just read this. Simply amazing. Wonderful…

  65. Keith says:

    Nice piece. As a father of five, I can tell you that those special moments are always remembered far more than those pesky queues and other duties that parents often endure for their children. It’s those magical moments that make it all worthwhile. Thank you for expressing it much more eloquently than I ever could.

  66. Ankit says:

    Joe, as everyone knows, or should know, you are incredibly amazing as a sportswriter — the J.K. Rowling of the sportswriters, if you will. However, some of your best writing here over the years has been in the non-sports postings. This post is one of your best.

    I hope Katie retains her attitude no matter what comes — its inspiring and much needed. Hope your employer takes notice of this.

  67. Awesome. I used to have a season pass to Islands of Adventure when I lived in Orlando, so it was fun to read about your experience in the park. And I think I’m in love with Katie the Prefect.

  68. David says:

    I live in Orlando and am pretty heavily involved in the Orlando theater community. Not surprisingly, a lot of the people who work WWOHP are local theater actors. Most of them love their job, are fans of the Potterverse, and truly enjoy the moments they get to bring that world to life.

  69. Wil Whimsey says:

    Thanks- that was a beautiful story. Your kids have a great dad to be able to see where the real magic is in the world.

  70. februarysong says:

    I passed this on to the head of PR for Universal. He read my email, responded, and said that he was grateful to me for sending it and that Katie WILL be praised for her good work.

  71. R. A. Paap says:

    Brilliant, as always.

  72. Taryn says:

    Hi there. I work in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and while I don’t know Katie the Prefect personally (She works in Merchendise, while I am in Attractions Operations)however I will be printing this out and passing it along to a Dervish and Banges manager so that this can hopefully be read by her. As a theme park employee, I can tell you that I would treasure this. Also, if you were really impressed by her, I would recommend writing a short email to Universal Studios Guest Services. Then she’ll get the warm fuzzies, a nice letter for her file, and a coupon good for a free movie ticket or meal in the employee dining area =)

  73. Randy says:

    What a great story! I was just there with my wife a couple of months ago. While we didn’t experience anyone like Katie the Prefect at Islands of Adventure, we did encounter a few people like her on our trip. Obviously neither of us is a 9-year-old girl, but in some ways I can understand what it was like for her–and yet for her it was so much more, I know.

    Thank you for sharing this magical experience with us. It reminds me of what Walt Disney said: “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.” Katie the Prefect is clearly one of those people.

  74. David in NYC says:

    Joe, please tell me you tear the tags off your mattresses or park in the handicapped spot in an empty parking lot or something not-perfect*.

    *The Babe Ruth comment does come close, though. I am 60 years old, and whenever I am asked if I thought he called it, my response is always, “Of course, he did. He was Babe Ruth. Whether or not it is factual has nothing at all to do with whether or not it is true.”

    You are so unimaginably good at everything you do, from writing to parenting, that I am having a hard time believing you are a real flesh-and-blood-with-some-flaws human being.

    This was brilliant. And why is it that so many of your non-baseball columns seem to stir up so much dust here in my office in NYC?

  75. Great read here Joe, my only question is did they have a guy in a Dobby suit?

  76. britt says:

    thanks for sharing… I needed this pick me up.

  77. Chris says:

    I live in Orlando, so its great to read a piece like this that deals with the trials and tribulations of my town. And written by the best writer in America today! Thanks, Joe. See you on the Spiderman line next year!

  78. This is kind of ridiculously touching. Made me tear up. Jerk. 🙂

  79. rannabebop says:

    This was absolutely amazing made me tear up a bit, When i went to the Harry Potter world i was amazed and in awe by everything there considering i started reading the books when i 12 so i basically grew up with them so going there was a big thing for me now being 23 :).

    I was only there for about 2 hours and i wished i could have gotten to wait in line more cause i didnt get a chance to look at everything i wanted but i still had an amazing time and felt like i was 12 again.

    Once again amazing Im glad your daughter got an experience that will stick with her for a long time. 😀

  80. Ian says:

    count me as another who teared up over this. you almost need a “this might make you cry warning” before a post like this. i’m not sure what the student i’m meeting with in a few minutes is going to think of her blubbering prof…

    fabulous work.

  81. Soprano1 says:

    I’m 43 years old, I’m a self-professed Ravenclaw (we are the nerds and geeks of the world). I have an eight-year-old son and we went last summer to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with another Elizabeth, ten years old and self-professed Gryffindor, for whom the experience was just as life-changing as your daughter’s.

    I’m among the folks weeping over this lovely blog entry; I could write my own about why, but the sense of Magic that moves the folks who work at WWHP, and unites Harry’s fans all over the world is a bit of what does it. Thank you for sharing your little Ravenclaw’s experience, and yours.

  82. Bethany Lynn says:

    Thank you. I needed to finally have an inspiration to write on my own. I hope you don’t mind as I made reference to your blog and this specific entry.

    You painted a beautiful picture of your daughter and her experience that day. It is interesting the people faces I imagined; as I know not what you nor anyone else looks like. They are all people from my life that I know would fit into your story. 🙂 Thanks again.

  83. A stunning read. Thanks for bringing me back a few memories of my own.

  84. Bill Toscano says:

    OK, so this has to be a first.

    My wife says, “You gotta go read Joe Posnanski’s column.”

    She, too, is Ravenclaw.

  85. Zahrah says:

    Okay, my first instinct here was “Forget the career goals, I wanna be a Prefect in Harry Potter World too.” That’s an awesome story – and yes, I’m a Ravenclaw…

  86. i am not a HP fan, however a parent,
    and wow, thank you for sharing this…., you write beautifully!

  87. Laura says:

    What a gem of a story to find this morning. I shed a very unexpected tear.

  88. Chico says:

    Man, Katie made me and my wife tear up it was so sweet. Of course we have a 3 and 1 yr old girls so I guess the sentiments are close to our hearts.

  89. serenity says:

    you have me all teary eyed. yes it is so true, that the little things we do can have such a big impact on others with out us even knowing it!

  90. Wing says:

    Wow. I don’t read HP and I’m not a parent, but still this is the best and most wonderful story I’ve read in a long while. =)

  91. And Joe is giving this away for free.

    It’s like Picasso doing sidewalk chalk, or Springsteen busking.

  92. grgisme says:

    Excellent write up. I was hanging on every word. Thank you very much for that fantastic tale of kindness and extraordinary dedication to a job.

  93. Saul Perez says:

    Absolutely adorable. From the rest of us Ravenclaws, we are truly grateful that your daughter has chosen wisely as well.

  94. kshayes513 says:

    Katie fulfilled a child’s dream: she made the magic real.

    And you have done one of the most important jobs of a writer: you made it real for all your readers, who sometimes forget that we once believed in magic.

    Thanks! The muggle world definitely needs more writers like you!

  95. DJ says:

    As a father of three fantastic not-so-little girls (and, like Mr. Posnanski, I know way too much about the Gomezs, Lovatos and Swifts of the world), I’m often amazed by the beautifully magical way they still see the world.

    And, yeah, the story made me tear up more than a little…thanks for sharing, Joe.

  96. As Ron Weasley would say …

    Bloody Brilliant!

  97. Jean says:

    I need to go thank the friend who steered me here. Wonderful! Just wonderful! I’m the mother of two grown sons, and loved the look you offered into the world of daughters that might have been. It’s early in 2011, but I think you have a lock on the Dad of the Year award.

  98. indeedwevest says:

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing and helping put parenthood and our individual roles in this crazy world into perspective.

    I just had flashes to Steve Martin in Parenthood and his imaginary dreams on how he influenced his son…

    How easily we (I) get caught up in the noise and static around us and lose sight of what’s really important and the impact we can have on other people simply by the choice we make about our attitude and behavior. Political ideologies aside it really does take a village. Next time I’m stuck in line I’ll remember its all about the journey.

    Thanks. Instead of rambling on, I think I’m going to go read it again then go hug my girls. – Larry

  99. Katie the Prefect would make JK Rowling proud. She let the magic live outside of those books, which isn’t easy to do even at a Harry Potter theme park I bet.

    Great thinking on your part to have your daughter ask Katie in the first place.

  100. Colleen says:

    I don’t even know what I clicked that got me to this blog – a Twitter link, I can only assume – and I don’t even know what you *normally* write about – from the comments it sounds like sports – but this was an incredible post. Wow. I even felt tears trickle down my cheeks as Katie leaned forward to whisper. Cripes! This was great!

  101. Emery says:

    like Colleen, a Twitter link landed me on this page a little unsure of what I would find. But tears welling up in these 59-year-old eyes tell me that it was encouraging. To be Katie the Prefect and not a muggle is a gift. The power of impression should never be forgotten. THANKS!

  102. Maria says:

    The first time I read your column you were writing about the birth of your oldest daughter. I was hooked. You captured the jumble of feelings you were experiencing and rearranged them into a phenomenal piece of writing. Now this about Katie the Prefect. Some day when everyone else realizes what a brilliant writer you are, I will read them the story of Katie the Prefect and ask them “what took you so long?”

  103. Edley says:

    Hi Joe,

    I was linked to this post by a friend of mine. I happen to work for Universal (on the west coast); I know a few posters have said they would get this back to her and her managers, but just in case, I have forwarded it along as well. Truly inspiring, and thank you for taking the time to share it.

  104. Amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing Joe.

  105. Lorraine says:

    wow, what a great post, what a great story and what a great example of someone in their work having fun and being authentic and giving of themselves, not just going through the motions, Hurrah for Katie, the girl done good! And well done Joe for being such a lovely Daddy and sharer. this has brightened my day. 🙂

  106. Jessica says:

    Yowza. After 2+yrs of relative social isolation — not writing, but recovering from trauma and related [hand] surgeries — I’m thinking maybe I should get a job in a theme park gift shop.

  107. Jaeliyah says:

    It’s funny and a bit nostalgic to read this. One decade ago next month, I did the Disney World College Program. I was 19 years old, had no idea what I’d be doing the next semester, much less the rest of my life, and worked front desk at one of the hotels with several other students similarly situated in their lives. I felt so lost for so much of the time, and it may look like work to the untrained eye, but it was such a privilege and a humbling experience to get to be part of the best moment in someone’s life a dozen times a day.

  108. BRE says:

    This made me cry. Happy tears, of course.

  109. Polly says:

    This was just wonderful. Thank you.

  110. Xrysostom says:

    Joe, I miss you in the Star. Now you’ve reminded me of what I’m missing since that my little girls are suddenly 27 and 19. You are one of the best essayists I’ve ever read (and this coming from a theologian with a Humanities and Literature undergrad background). You buckled my emotional knees with this Uncle Charlie.

  111. btenem says:

    always love your reads, even if I’m 11 mos. late to the game

  112. jax says:

    a year and a half late…

    i saw this post referenced a number of times elsewhere in the comments section of another post, so here i am.

    really an excellent piece.

    thank you for writing it.

  113. shamraiz says:

    I want to be Joe Posnanski when I grow up, in so many ways. (FTR, I am 26 and have one Daughter.)
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  115. Joe, that was beautiful. Made me cry.

  116. BreezieGirl says:

    This post might be very old, but I had to comment. My boss gave a copy of your post to each of her team of leads and told us we had to know about Katie the Prefect – that she was a shining example of customer service.

    My boss was right. But she was far beyond that, she is a shining example of the good in people and the ability we each have to make someone’s day.

  117. dmarshall58 says:

    Really wonderful. Thank you.

  118. Humaun Kabir says:

    Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.
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  119. […] Now I’ve got to stipulate up front that Posnanski is a good writer, especially when the subject is his family. But when it comes to the MVP award, Joe’s writing turns into a caricature of […]

  120. Clara says:

    Having had two daughters several years apart I felt I was there with you in the store. You just perfectly captured all the angst in making a choice and then the joy in it being the right one. Thank you for the moment you shared.

  121. Andrew Parry says:

    Great writeup! I was actually at the park the same day as you (one day before the Bama/Mich St. game). I basically re-lived the experience reading the article. I am not a Harry Potter fan but my wife was dying to go to the park (she was in her early 20’s at the time). Even though I didn’t understand everything I could feel how magical it was for her which made it an unforgettable experience for me as well..

  122. Knuckles says:

    Really this is the gold standard of non baseball writing that all joe’s commentators told me to check out? Touching…. I guess? Wow yeah let’s get back to baseball this was like the tripe in readers digest.

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