Thursday, March 5, 2015

We Did Disney Pt I — The Stupid Grin on My Face

Waiting in line.

I can think of fewer three-word arrangements that are more nauseating. Court appointed attorney? Maybe, curd-like discharge? Nope, "waiting in line" is still more offensive.

My patience is perpetually thin and indiscriminate.

I could line up for concert tickets, or a license renewal at the DMV, either would spark the same reaction from me.

To be clear, I'm not proud of this. Above any other trait, my impatience is the one I hope the boy doesn't inherit from me. To be exasperated and annoyed as often as I am is not a good thing. But, we've all got some character flaw(s) we need to work on, right?

The main gates.

With my sad reality established, I now ask you dear reader, how was it that I recently found myself waiting in line for 45 minutes, in a line teeming with people, as giddy as I could be, and with a big grin plastered on my face to prove it?

I was waiting, shuffling along at a pace that would make a snail embarrassed and, for the first time I can remember, I was happy about it. And, not only was I happy about it, I forked over hard-earned money to do it.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I shall henceforth call, the "Disney Effect." As I learned on my first visit to the park recently,  once you've been infected with the Disney Effect, you're rendered powerless to its syrupy charm.

The next set of main gates.

It's an affliction that strikes down even the most hardened cynic with devastating efficiency and reduces them to a sweet-saturated version of themselves, capable only of smiling and saying "yes."

I can't necessarily explain how this happens, but I can detail the "when."

As we approached the park it became clear that Disney World was far bigger than I'd ever imagined. They don't call it a "kingdom" for nothing — at nearly 42 square miles, it's a colossus of a fortification. The process of entering this world is an odyssey but, as I learned, it serves a particular purpose.

Just inside the fifth set of main gates.
First, there is a highway directing you toward the park, then there is the exit taking you to your particular kingdom; we went to the Magic Kingdom.

Traffic is heavy and slows to a crawl as you approach the gates where one pays for parking.

From there you are directed toward your parking spot and this is where I first noticed the Disney Effect.

There was a young guy directing cars through the lot. Like most every other parking lot attendant you've ever seen, he was wearing one of those orange and yellow reflective vests. Unlike just about every other parking lot attendant you've ever seen, he was also wearing a huge grin.

This fellow looked genuinely happy as he directed motorists along their way.

Then, we came upon another attendant. I made eye contact with this guy and he promptly increased his grin and waved at me.

It was strange how not strange this was. It seemed natural and, as my journey into the park proceeded, I learned it was.

Once the car was parked, we were a short walk toward the courtesy trams which took us to another set of gates, not the gates to the park mind you.

No, these gates held the ticket booths where one pays for admission inside the park or, if you're with generous in-laws, it's where they pay for admission. (At $105 a ticket, that's a great big 'Thank You' once again to Mrs. Blackwell's folks.) Naturally, the ticket attendant was smiling throughout this transaction too.

With our admission cards now in hand, and about 30 minutes after we passed the main gate in our car, we headed for yet another set of gates but, this time we boarded a giant boat to get there.

This ferry ride was probably seven minutes long, during which time one is surrounded with people who are thrilled, absolutely thrilled to be there. Looking around me I saw smiling kids, smiling parents, smiling husbands and smiling wives.

Once our boat deboarded it was off to the park, but not before we passed yet another gate, this time it was a security check.

Dumbo. The boy's first ride at Disney World.
But unlike every other security check you've been through (I'm looking at you Ambassador Bridge in Windsor/Detroit) the staff was happy. That's not to say they were easy. They looked through every inch of the bag I brought in but they did so with a smile and a kind remark.

In all, there are five separate gates or stops one has to make to actually enter the Magic Kingdom and I have to believe that, like everything else Disney does, this is quite deliberate.

In considering it now, it's clear that each stop, each check point, represents a shedding of the baggage one carries in the real world — a progression away from mortgages, bills, work and all the other weight we lug around with us each and every day.

So you proceed and, as you do, the drudgeries of life slowly fade away until finally, Disney has you.

As it turns out, that's not such a bad thing.

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