I surrender. Next time my family needs a vacation, we will be at the local Holiday Inn using day passes for their pool while I ignite five grand in cash in the lobby fireplace. Any disappoint I feel from burning through the seed money for my kids’ college education will be more than offset by knowing that another magical Disney adventure has been postponed indefinitely. Why do I have such despise for the happiest place on earth? Allow me to recount my experience.
Upon entering Disney World on our first day, my daughter spiked a 101 fever. After hooking up the IV bag to the stroller so she could mainline Motrin, we pressed on. Damn the influenza. We didn’t travel 2,000 miles to sit in a hotel room. After resolving the fever situation, my son stood in front of the most magical castle in the world and whined that he wanted to go to the hotel pool because it had a waterfall. I explained we had only been in the park for five minutes and that Disney had Splash Mountain, a waterfall you could ride. His complaints persisted.
The park had not officially opened and my children were irritating me to the point where I questioned more pleasant situations such as being stranded at a North Korean airport, running out of oxygen in a sinking submarine, or undergoing anesthesia awareness during a major surgery. Yes, things could be better, and my optimism for the rest of the trip was starting to fade.
Being unfamiliar with the race to the rides after Mickey and his crew do their welcoming ceremony in front of the castle, we were nearly trampled like Who fans as seasoned Disney ticket holders surged when the gates opened. Joy turned to urgency, which transformed to panic, as parents rushed their children to move faster to be the first on the Seven Dwarfs’ Ride. Like refugees, fleeing their homeland for safer grounds, strollers were abandoned, crying children were left for security to be claimed later, and the practice of “women and children first” was disregarded. The rest of the day oscillated between chasing down Fastpass windows and suppressing my children’s vocalization of them hating on the Magic Kingdom, their family, waiting in line, and their legs hurting from walking.
I was not alone in my struggle. A random father told me “I want to get separated from my family. Then I’ll be happy.” Arguments, from what seemed like normally sane couples, erupted as we navigated the park. If I were to make one suggestion to the corporation, I would urge Disney to offer divorce kiosks throughout the park advertising “Get Divorced Here in Under 10 Minutes!” That business would be a boon to the bottom line. My marriage, approaching ten years of wedded bliss, has been through a lot, but nothing as trying as the asphalt labyrinth where an oversize rodent is king.
After two days of chicken nugget lunches, we took a day off. We stayed back at the hotel. The children laughed and swam in the pool. One of them voluntarily took a nap. My wife and I enjoyed a conversation without passive-aggressive undertones or an assumption of self-destructive behavior on the other’s part. We ordered pizza; compared to Walt’s prices, it felt like it was free. The kids went to bed at a normal hour. Life was good, until we realized we still had one more day of pixie dust and Dumbo rides ahead of us. We debated eating the cost of the tickets and driving over an hour each way to the ocean, but Disney’s invisible hand beckoned us.
On our third day, we were like downtrodden, weary soldiers going to battle long after the adrenaline had exhausted our systems. In the parking lot, we traversed to the yellow line to await our tram when a vision appeared before me. With a banging body dressed in butt-hugging Adidas warm-up pants and a white tank, a woman with red dyed hair broke the monotony of the vacation spawned from the underworld. I expected to see a vixen of this caliber flaunting her goods at the Spearmint Club in Las Vegas, not in the humid state where retirees go to die. I enjoyed the respite while ignoring my children open-hand slapping each other as they yelled insults in the key of excrement. I tuned out my wife’s nagging that we didn’t bring enough cash for the twenty fold marked-up light saber souvenirs.
The tram pulled up with the driver blaring, “You are in the Simba lot, remember this or be lost in our sea of 15,000 parked cars.” I hustled the stroller and our backpacks onto the tram when a voice exacerbated the drudge of my Disney week, “Simba? You guys hear that? Let’s do it guys!”
I begged for it not to be my Ariel inspired stripper. My head rotated to find my fantasy destroyed as she led her family of six in an acapella version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Even the dad got into the rolling baseline of the tune. I don’t know what was worse: that the family prepared their whole life for this performance or that I used to identify with that idyllic clan only days prior. I downgraded the woman, who I previously wanted to slather in dollar bills, to just another customer of the forced family fun machine.
My wife made eye contact with me as she mouthed, “It’s their first day”. Her deadpan comment united us again on a deeper level. It was the first time on Disney property when we connected in a meaningful way. Then reality set in that we still had to endure a final day in happy prison.
UPDATE (4/12/17): After Disney received this letter, I was contacted by a Jessica, a Disney rep, who was very attentive and discussed with me the finer points of my letter. She offered me 5, 3-day Disney tickets, free of charge, that do not expire until 2037. Initially I refused, but she insisted I take them in case I changed my mind about returning. Please keep in mind that Disney really does care about making its customers happy.