Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Disney Part I

Disney World. Ah, Disney World. Though geographically located in Florida, it’s really its own little collection of city states. In Florida, you are allowed to shoot someone dead if you feel threatened. In Disney, hordes of every-ready broom carriers snatch up the garbage your kid drops almost before it hits the ground.

Come back to your hotel, and a smiling greeter looks you in the eye and says warmly “Welcome home.” These greeters, it should be noted, are nothing like Wal-Mart greeters. None of them are retired or disabled. Disney is all about appearances, and in their magical world, no one ages or is born with Down syndrome, apparently. (Another note about their hiring practices: between the last time I went and this outing, a gap of three years, the visible minorities hired have vastly increased. The majority of them are black, though, not Latino, which surprised me. However, I was pleased to see some more colour being added to the Disney family.)

Garbage cans abound, but recycling bins were rare, which I thought was strange. The people picking up trash are given these cool grippy-sticks, so they can snatch refuse without having to bend down twelve thousand times a day. I wish they’d sold THOSE in their gift stores, cause I would totally have bought one. For a lazy guy like me, the ability to add an extra meter to my reaching distance would have been an awesome boon. Think how many times I’d be able to avoid getting off the couch! Anyway, though, the point is, Disney does its absolute best to keep their facilities looking clean and friendly. They do a good job at this.

They also have a whole system of shuttle busses that will take you from the resorts to any of the parks as well as the hotbed of Disney consumerism known as Downtown Disney. These motor coaches (as Disney calls them) are a welcome respite from having to fight traffic yourself on unfamiliar roads, then having to find a parking spot only slightly closer than the moon, then later having to find that same spot again when you’re tired and worn out. I love the bus system. The sense of profound relief I felt every time that bus pulled up to the curb never left me.

What I don’t love about it, though, is the constant Disney-voice blaring from the speakers. I swear I almost know the message by heart after a week. “Welcome to [wherever you are], home of [some kind of attractions]. Please stay seated while the motor coach is in motion. If you have to stand, please use the handrails above. Please stay seated until the motor coach comes to a complete stop, gather your belongings, and take small children by the hand.” Depending on your mood, the message could be humorous or irritating.

The Disney-voice, though, was a motif of the trip. Any time you had a spare moment to relax and sit somewhere, whether you were on a tour, a monorail, a train, or a bus, the Disney-voice (sometimes automated, sometimes coming from a real live person) would harangue you with “fun”  or “helpful” information. The Disney-voice, incidentally, was never an “inside voice” kind of volume. It made me feel like I was the guest of a person who secretly didn’t want me to stay long, and was saying “NO, PLEASE, STAY A LITTLE LONGER” at the top of their lungs in a passive aggressive way to get me to move on. Which, in a way, is what the Disney motive was, I suppose. They have a LOT of people to shuffle from Point A to Point B, and they can’t afford to have exhausted parents slumped in the seats, taking up valuable real estate.

And this brings me to the crowds. We went over Christmas, and everyone of our friends who has Disney Lore at a high level warned us the crowds would be crazy. Maybe because of this expectation, I didn’t find them too bad. Now, don’t get me wrong. The Disney parks were absolute THRONGS of people, particularly from about 12 noon to 3 pm, but we never really had a problem getting where we wanted to go, or doing what we wanted to do. Lines moved briskly, and the Disney people are experts at keeping things moving. They know what they’re doing, let me tell you.

I’ll give you an example. After a fireworks show, we were looking to escape. The park entrance was on the other side of the world from us, alas, so we joined the mass of people heading that way. At the first intersection, a Disney cast member with one of those flashlights ushers use, was directing people at right angles from where we wanted to go. He didn’t explain, and we were too tired to make an issue of it. Maybe a giant Mickey was blocking the way or maybe there was a surprise parade stalled in the road ahead. So we went where he directed. There was a whole line of these guys, sending people, hundreds of us, in what looked to be the wrong way.

Then we turned a corner, and found the staff had opened up a secret “employees only” route that led behind the scenes. We were suddenly in an open street, able to move at a full walk without being pressed on all sides by bodies. The secret passage funneled us back into the main roads near the exit, and just like that, we were out. Now, I don’t know how much time we actually saved in that move, but imagine the joy of walking swiftly when a moment before you’d been shuffling along surrounded on all sides by people intent on inhibiting your forward momentum. It was a genius move, and the whole week was filled with that sort of logistical mastery.

And on that note, an instance of a Disney triumph, we’ll end Part One of my journey.

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