The Christmas rush is finally over and I have packed up my family and sent them home to the cold weather. This year was unique in that I did not trek to Iowa for the holidays, but instead hosted my siblings and folks here because I could not leave my employer at a peak time. So while they descended on Florida for the warmth and rest, I had to toil in the fields of the Mouse. Like every cast member, I was told in my Traditions class that, "We work while others play." That was fine with me, and my family understood that while I would be away from the hearth during the day, at night I would be home with them. Then I realized that I coukld grant my family free admission into the parks so that they could reap the benefits of my toiling. I did, and a good time was had by all. When I sent them off, It was decided that while beating the cold was great, taking advantage of my park-pass perk was even greater and next year I would open my house to them again. That was the plan, until I received my new Main Gate Pass. Cast members can still enter free any day but July 4 and Dec. 31. But for 1997, Disney reduced park-pass perks by blocking out 51 dates when you can no longer "pass through" your guests. Those days of course correspond with high attendance days. (One week happens to be the week my family wants to visit). In Eyes and Ears, the company newsletter, it was explained in politically correct phrasing that by adding "complimentary attendance" (meaning my family) to the masses (meaning paid admissions), it's harder to deliver a superior show. The affected dates are March 23-April 5 (Easter), the whole month of July (summer tourists) and December 24-31 (Christmas). But what it really boils down to is that Disney is taking back about one-seventh of what is arguably the best perk it offers. At least it doesn't affect Epcot, which obviously is too damn spread out for anyone to notice a few extra guests. But the Magic Kingdom and MGM are plenty popular. So, if you've got folks who just have to see that Arkansas light display, better pass them in before Christmas! I know Disney employees are thinking, "All I have to do is pass my friends into Epcot during the blockout days, tell them to leave the park with a hand stamp and they can enter the other parks like normal guests." At least that's how I quickly scammed a way to beat the system. Then I found out: upon leaving Epcot on blockout dates, your guests will be issued an Epcot Only re-entry ticket. It is so difficult to stay a step ahead of those Disney agents. (Disneyland is blocked out likewise, but West Coast cast members lose Wednesday-Saturdays all through July and August.) At first I was upset. Then I realised I really didn't want to be in a crowded park on those days anyway. But what if my family does? Well, tough. This, as I was told by Cast Services when I called, was a privilege and actually can be taken away at any time, so I should consider myself lucky to have anything like it in the first place. I think Disney should consider itself lucky to have such a supportive staff that some of us will forgo our holidays so that others may enjoy theirs, not to mention those who enjoy the company profits (which is obviously reflected in the contrast between our paychecks and that lovely package that Disney used to pay off Michael Ovitz). Our thanks? A reduced benefit - granted, not a crucial benefit, but a benefit nonetheless.