Walt Disney World near Orlando, FL, opened in 1971 and hosted a gala 15th anniversary celebration in 1986. Spouse Rosalie and I were invited to the latter festivities as media, along with our 12-year-old daughter, Marjory, and our 10-year-old son, affectionately nicknamed Teddy Bear.
The celebration included a chefs’ demonstration of Disney World cuisine one afternoon. That same evening, Marjory and Teddy wanted to attend a concert by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, but Rosalie and I did not. We took them to the concert venue, agreed on when and where we would meet them, and went off to do something else.
Later we arrived at the rendezvous point to find Marjory patiently waiting, but not Teddy. Our inquisitive bear had set off to explore on his own. We looked for him in the vicinity of the concert, and then reported his whereabouts-unknown status to a Disney cast member, who quickly put us in touch with the security staff.
We waited for a couple of hours near the concert site. As the Magic Kingdom began to shut down for the night, we made our way to an exit and watched the flood of departing visitors slow to a trickle. Then the security people asked us to go back to our resort and wait for a phone call when they had something to tell us.
We did as they instructed and spent a long, sleepless night until the phone rang about 4 AM. Teddy had been found and was on his way to the resort in a sheriff’s department squad car, with a deputy as chauffeur. He strolled into our lodgings with a story to tell.
Teddy hadn’t been able to find our rendezvous point, but he did locate the building where the chefs’ presentation took place. He went in, curled up on a couch in the lobby outside the demonstration kitchen, and went into hibernation.
About 3 AM he awoke and emerged to find a sight viewed by few mere mortals who are not Disney cast members—the Magic Kingdom ablaze with lights as a battalion of workers cleaned up the previous day’s detritus and made the place pristinely ready for a new invasion of visitors.
In that pre-cellphone era, the cleanup crew who found Teddy couldn’t immediately connect him with the people who were looking for him and knew where he belonged. Teddy knew his and his family’s names, and his home phone number in Miami (which didn’t help just then), but not the name of the Orlando-area resort at which we were staying or our phone number there. Making that connection took valuable time in the middle of the night while we waited on pins and needles.
My sleeping bear’s Disney World adventure almost three decades ago came to mind recently when I received a press kit for SafetyTats—customizable temporary tattoos that a child can wear in situations where the risk and anxiety of separation exist. Even today, a young child without a personal cellphone and with limited knowledge of how to reach his or her parents would be an enigma to adults who don’t immediately have such knowledge either. SafetyTats are an innovative solution to that problem.
The creator of SafetyTats, Michele Welsh of Baltimore, MD, went with her husband and their three young children to an amusement park, where she quickly felt overwhelmed. She wrote her cellphone number on each child’s arm with a ballpoint pen, and explained that if they were separated, the number on their arm would help them find their parents again. The ballpoint ink smeared or washed off and had to be rewritten several times, but through the day other parents stopped her to ask about the number on the children’s arms and to register their approval. That was the inspiration for SafetyTats.
SafetyTats are made of medical-grade acrylic adhesive and contain no latex. They come in an original variety that requires water for application, and a waterless “quick stick” variety. You write your cellphone number on a SafetyTat with a special pen or a Sharpie marker. The company’s Web site provides detailed instructions for applying both kinds.
The original tattoos will stay in place for one day or several, the quick stick kind for up to two weeks. When you want to remove a tattoo, use baby oil or rubbing alcohol on the original, or a moisturizer on the quick stick variety.
The Web site advises against putting a child’s name on SafetyTats as a precaution. “We do not want strangers to know your child’s name and potentially lure them away,” it says. The Web site also warns that some marking pens you might use to write directly on a child’s skin contain toxic industrial solvents that can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. SafetyTats don’t allow such penetration.
These tattoos come in a wide range of graphic designs, including the basic “If lost, contact [space for cellphone number]” and its Spanish equivalent, “Si me pierdo, llamar;” allergies to nuts, peanuts, and bee stings; autism and non-verbal autism; Down syndrome; and diabetic.
The company’s online shopping cart contains 90 different styles and designs. Many include cheery cartoon characters (butterfly, dog, frog, etc.) that children enjoy wearing. Some have space for two lines of writing—two phone numbers, or one number and specific concerns (i.e., banana allergy).
The Web site also contains a wealth of advice on child safety that parents, grandparents, and caregivers about to embark on a vacation will find helpful. For example: “Take digital snaps of each of your kids right before you leave so you can show what they’re wearing. This will make it easier for park security to locate your child.”