Observations About the Happiest Place on Earth

If Disney World is supposed to be the “happiest place on earth” then someone should’ve told that to the lady who WENT OFF on the workers at Hollywood Studios’ Toy Story ride. 

We were jammed in line for what seemed like FOREVER because the ride broke down when we were smack in the middle, no end in sight. When the woman behind us noticed the employees letting streams of “fast passers” in over us commoners in the stand-by line she made her objections known.

Let me just say, she was NOT HAPPY. My kids’ eyebrows shot up when she leaned over the partition between the two lines of people and basically ripped those cheerful worker bees a new one about how unfair it all was and what were we, chopped liver?? Her grown children just looked at us and shrugged, “She gets stuff done.”

Suffice it to say, our line started moving again shortly thereafter. I suppose that’s one way of “getting things done.”

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Honestly, we had a blast! It felt like one of those iconic trips you should do at least once if you can swing it. We ran that place (and ourselves!) into the ground as we covered both Disney and Universal. It was so fun to laugh and scream with the kids on the Tower of Terror and see them conquer their fear of roller coasters on Space Mountain. Kelel & Senait are the BEST people to sit next to on those rides. Their screams are epic. That's worth the price of admission right there... Couldn't fit Sea World in. Shamu will have to wait until next time. 

After our whirlwind trip to the Disney/Universal compound last week, I can’t help but throw out some observations on this little slice of Americana — happy or otherwise:

1.    CROWDS: I was kind of hoping the guide books were wrong on this one but truth be told, they nailed it. Thanksgiving (and probably Christmas) are THE BUSIEST times of the year. I knew that going into it, but when I realized that we personally knew of at least half a dozen families planning to be there the same week, I figured we would be in for some traffic. Thankfully the whole world seems to understand the general operating procedure of walking in sync on one side or the other. Let me just say, it’s best to avoid going all “salmon” on the flow and just stay to the right. I was happy to follow my personal Crocodile Dundee. He’s tall and the hat totally helps pick him out of a crowd. It’s a miracle we didn’t lose our 45 pound caboose. She’s a lot like a salmon. ("Head's Up" was the App of the week. Saw lots of people holding their phones up to their foreheads playing charades and guessing games. We also liked "Soccer Physics." Kept two of our children from complete WWF and taking out innocent bystanders, at least some of the time.)

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2.   FASHION: I thought I had done a fair amount of research before going to the parks on things like fast-passes, parades, light shows and even crowds, but I didn’t get the memo about the matching t-shirts. Apparently this is a thing. Whole family groups travel in packs looking like pre-schoolers on a class field trip. Each representing their “team.” Perfect strangers became instant friends (at least on my side of the equation) because, in one glance, I knew so much about them. Their shirts, buttons and stickers betrayed any sense of privacy. Anna was celebrating her 5th birthday, Memaw loves Minnie and Pepaw loves Goofy, Fred and Betty were celebrating their 50th anniversary and little Charlie was a “first-timer.” My personal favorites were the husband and wife teams donning shirts in ode to each other with the phrases, “His Beauty” / “Her Beast.” Scott and I are DEFINITELY scoring a couple of those bad boys next time we go. Right, my cute little beast??

3.  SHOES:  Running shoes, tennis shoes, sneakers. Whatever you call them, that’s what you should wear. End of story. How anyone gets through a day at Disney in flip flops, stilettos or platform shoes without slipping a disk is beyond me. I mean, if you’re wearing a crimson t-shirt with a giant Minnie Mouse on the front I think it’s safe to say your choice in shoes has already been compromised. Then again, I am 42-years-old. So, there’s that. 

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4. ENDURANCE:  Pack your patience. It astounds me just how long people (yes, even us) would STAND IN LINE for 90 minutes to enjoy a 90 second thrill ride. What kind of equation is that? I won't complain about ski lines anymore! Although, it's kind of like labor and delivery, it's painful when you're in it, but the end result is so good. Not to mention, rides broke down no less than 5 times on us when we were half way through an hour long wait. At that point you’re committed. Some weary souls would begin to wilt and whine, wondering if it was “worth it.” (That may or may not have been me.) Scott would shine as our fearless leader, “Guys, we just have to out last everyone else. This is what separates the men from the boys.” (Okay, he didn’t say that last part, but that’s what I heard). We saw much weaker individuals turn and exit stage left, putting us 5 paces closer to our ultimate goal. We never bailed. Thought about it, but didn’t. Two words -- FAST PASS.

5. KILL 'EM WITH KINDNESS: May I remind you, not everyone is patient and kind in such "excruciating" circumstances. (See intro paragraph). But, if you are kind and respectful it usually pays off. Case in point: The “Men in Black” ride broke down on us when we were, yes, half way through the line. We were stuck in a windowless room with dozens of strangers watching the SAME two minute cartoon video run in a loop. As people bailed, we ended up at the front — waiting — and started chatting with Helen, the employee charged with keeping the peace and communicating with the troops. After a few minutes of casual banter, Helen asked us what our favorite ride was in the park. We told her. She said, “Great, after this, you can walk right over to The Mummy and tell them Helen gave you a personal fast pass!” Sweet! So we did just that. And what happened while we were in the fast pass line at The Mummy?? You guessed it. It broke down. So, we went to Minion Mayhem and Scott explained the whole sordid story. Two rides, both broken. The guy at that ride sympatizes, “That’s terrible! Listen, we won’t just put you in the fast pass line, we’ll take you straight to redemption — that’s the front of the line.” REDEMPTION, people!! Glory.

6. MANAGING EXPECTATIONS:  Scott and I originally intended to surprise our kids with this trip say, the morning of. We envisioned bursting into their rooms at O-Dark-Hundred and telling them to wake up, pack shorts, bathing suits and Mickey ears because we were going to DISNEY WORLD!!!! However, the more we thought about it, that didn't seem like the best idea. After all, a surprise trip isn't great to spring on a high schooler who needs to plan ahead for homework and tests. So we shared the news with them about a week beforehand. Of course we were kind of hoping for squeals of delight and gushing about how we were the "best parents in the world!!" I mean, we were surprising them with every child's dream trip. Right?! Didn't exactly turn out that way. We received about as many responses as we have children. Yes, there was the over-hyper-exuberance, but we also got a blank stare (one kid trying to process and adjust expectations for Thanksgiving break) and a, "REALLY?? I'd rather go to school." (Would you now. We could just charge you for your portion of the trip and leave you home.) Talk about managing expectations. Honestly, 99% of the time even the most resistant member of our crew turns the frown upside-down and has a great time, but we just can't always count on that. 

PS -- If you'd like to see a small snippet into these dynamics, check out the video I posted on Nov 21 my FB page!!

At the end of the day, "happy" is what you make it.

Yes, Disney World, Universal -- all of it -- is OVER THE TOP in fun factor and cost (Gulp, we'll be dining on Ramen Noodles this month). It was so worth it, but the Magic Kingdom, as magical as it is is still only a place. Even though the whole massive compound is expressly designed to channel fun and happy only you have control over whether or not you choose to receive it. I believe we did.

Kind of reminds me of a sweet baby born into a manger over 2000 years ago. A baby, who grew into a man who died on a cross to offer happiness, joy, freedom and a kind of abundant life on earth that no person, place or thing can offer no matter how many smiley employees they have.

May the deep, deep joy of Jesus invade your spirit this season and on into the New Year. His love doesn't break down when you're in the middle of what seems like an eternal wait or go out of fashion. It's just up to you whether you will receive Him or not...

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Holly's Take:

It sounds like it was worth eating Ramen all this month to go to Disney?  I know when my parents brought my sister and I to Disney World, we thought Disney was good, Epcot was amazing, but our synchronized swimming routine back at the hotel pool was OFF THE HOOK!  Not sure I'm ready to drop loads of money on our brood who have been through so much and often times the lack of routine and the excitement brings about the pout, instead of the joy-filled shout.  We'll see???     

Christina's Take:

I love the summary of the experience the most (besides the REDEMPTION part, what?!!). I feel like your reminder that happiness isn't guaranteed even in the happiest spot on earth goes for the holiday season, too. Sometimes we can try to make everything shiny but it just doesn't help us feel any different. Love that you took this fun trip and had fun but learned a lot!!