A Florida Vacation: Epcot

The next day as I was getting out of the hotel shower I noticed to my alarm that there were words written in the condensation in the mirror. One word was ‘you’ and the rest of the words were undecipherable. Of course my mind made the message say “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE”. The message definitely hadn’t been there when I got in the shower and no one had entered the bathroom while I was showering so I was pretty freaked out. I was relieved to learn that the laws of chemistry, physics or whatever science it is that I don’t understand said that the words were most likely written on the mirror before I showered but it took the steam from the shower to make them visible.

The next day was to be our last day in Orlando and we had a conversation about how we would spend the rest of our time. Since my feelings towards Disney World were very different from my traveling companions’ feelings towards Disney World, the conversation got kind of heated. Gabrielle said that tomorrow she definitely did not want to go to Disney World.  My father and brother agreed. The thought of not going to Disney World the next day was anathema to me and since I’m a big animal lover missing out on Animal Kingdom would be a real bummer. Still, my brother insisted that since he hated Disney World and his vacation time was limited he deserved a Disney-free day.  That night my father was having dinner with some business colleagues. My brother had the option of going to the dinner or going to Disney World with me.

Most people would have immediately chosen Disney World without even having to think about it but for my brother the decision involved figuring out which one he considered to be the lesser of two evils. Eventually I came up with a compromise. I said “How about this- you go to Disney World with me tonight and I’ll do a non-Disney activity with you tomorrow.” “Deal” he said and we shook on it.

I managed to get us all to Epcot at around noon. My friend Mary was visiting Disney World to run in a Princess Marathon so we met up at Epcot. We had our picture taken together and I captioned the picture “The people who actually like Disney World.”

Mary visits Disney World frequently so she’s picked up some pointers on how to make the most of your experience there. She told us that you could reduce your wait time for Test Track by entering the single riders line. We did that and afterwards we went on some space ship ride. The ride offered two options: an intense version and a less intense version. I went for the intense version while my brother did the less intense version with Gabrielle. My brother complained that his version of the ride was boring and I complained that my version left me feeling nauseated.

Then we saw some show about colors. My brother and I snickered about how lame it was. After that we moved on to The Sea section of Epcot. We went on a Finding Nemo ride and since we rode in shells I busted out the camera on my phone and took a shellfie. Upstairs there was an aquarium with various marine life including manatees. This prompted my father to start calling Gabrielle Manatee and he periodically referred to her as Manatee for the rest of our trip. If I was called Manatee I would take it as a disparaging comment on my weight and would be insulted but I think my father meant it affectionately.

After The Sea we split up with my brother and me going in one direction and my father and Gabrielle going in another direction. My brother and I were both hungry so we went to The World Showcase to find a restaurant. “What country do you want to eat in?” my brother asked. “A country in which the food is not spicy” I replied.  France seemed like a good bet for non-spicy food so we went to a French restaurant.

When my brother noticed that I wasn’t eating my salad he pointed out that I hadn’t had any intention of ordering a salad but when the waitress had asked me what salad I wanted I panicked and chose one. It was similar to what the waiter had done with my dad and the ribs last night. It was another example of Disney employees sneakily tricking you in to paying too much money for things you didn’t want or need and this was why he hated Disney. I could not argue with him there.

After our meal we went to The Land. We saw a boat ride with a very short wait so we hopped on. We assumed that since the wait was so short the ride would be lame but it was actually pretty cool and interesting. Then we went on Figment’s Imagination Ride which is the kind of childish brightly colored ride full of song and dance that I love and my brother hates. After that we saw a compilation of 3-D Disney animated shorts. They were so cute and funny that even my brother enjoyed them.

When we met up with my father and Gabrielle again we discovered that in our time apart we had gone on the same rides. Now it was time for my father and Gabrielle to leave and get ready for the business dinner. My brother had agreed to continue doing Disney with me but I told him I didn’t want to stay at Epcot. I wanted to go back to The Magic Kingdom to do some of the classic rides we hadn’t gotten to the first time we were there, especially the haunted mansion. My father said we couldn’t do that because the tickets only allowed us to go to one park a day. I told him he was mistaken about how the tickets worked.

As we headed off to The Magic Kingdom  (which I’ve just learned is now called Magic Kingdom; ‘The’ has been removed from several of its signs)  I felt excited. This was going to be fun.

When we reached the parking lot we had to pay $20 for parking despite the fact that we were only going to be there for a few hours. They charge a flat rate for parking each day, regardless of the amount of time you’re spending in the park. It took us a while to find a spot but we eventually found one in the Ursula section. Then we had to take a trolley to the monorail. Then we had to wait among the crowds for the monorail. Then we were packed like sardines in to a monorail full of loud children and taken to the park entrance. Then we waited in a very long line to be admitted to the park. I knew it would all be worth it in the end though.

Finally we made it to the front of the line. After having our bags checked and our fingerprints verified, my brother inserted his ticket in to the machine that would admit us in to The Magic Kingdom. It didn’t work. He tried it again. It didn’t work that time either. He tried a third time. It still didn’t work.

A Disney employee came over to investigate the problem. After scanning my brother’s ticket she said to him “This ticket is only valid for one park per day and you’ve already been to Epcot today.”

A wave of crushing disappointment came over me. This was supposed to be the happiest place on earth but I wasn’t feeling very happy. In that moment The Magic Kingdom lost some of its magic for me. In that moment I was able to see Disney World through my brother’s eyes: A world full of long lines, crowds and hassles, a world where you were tricked in to giving up ridiculously large amounts of money for rewards that didn’t pay off.

That Disney employee could have said to us “Look, your ticket isn’t good for The Magic Kingdom but we know you came all the way here, paid for parking, and fought your way through crowds. Since there are only a couple of hours left until The Magic Kingdom closes we’ll let you in tonight.” You’d think that would be in the spirit of what the place was supposed to be about. Of course she didn’t do that though. She chose to follow the rules, rules made by a bunch of dirty, sneaky money grubbers.

I turned to my brother and said “Fuck Disney World. Let’s see what else Orlando has to offer.”

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A Texas Vacation That Became a Florida Vacation

I recently went on a Florida vacation. I’d known I was going on vacation a few weeks beforehand but it wasn’t until two days beforehand that I learned it would be a Florida vacation. Up until then I’d been under the impression that the majority of the vacation would be spent in Texas. The plan was to visit my brother who’s doing a medical residency in Houston. My dad said that on our way to Houston we would take a connecting flight from Orlando and that would give his girlfriend,Gabrielle, who’s from France, a chance to breathe the Florida air. I said that as long as we were in Orlando, we might as well do more than breathe the air. We might as well visit a Disney park. My dad agreed to spend a day at The Magic Kingdom.

My dad told us we’d be leaving February 22nd and returning March 8th but I thought I heard him say we’d be returning February 28th so I had it in my head that we’d be spending four or five days in Texas. A few days before we left I decided to double check the dates with my dad and this time it was confirmed for me that we would be returning on March 8th. My dad explained that my brother would return to work after a few days and then the rest of us would road trip through Texas since Texas was a big state with a lot of interesting sights to see.

I mean no offense to anyone who lives in or loves The Lone Star State, but while I was fine with spending a few days in Texas, it’s not a place where I’d want to spend a few weeks. My mom sensed my displeasure so she decided to reveal that I’d actually be spending the entire time in Florida. The itinerary was Orlando, then Fort Lauderdale, then Key West. then Miami. My dad had been pretending we were going to Texas because he wanted to surprise Gabrielle (She had been asking to go on a Florida vacation for a while but he had kept telling her it was too expensive.) We weren’t meeting my brother in Texas. He was meeting us at The Magic Kingdom.

When my mom first revealed this information to me I was dumbfounded. I just kept staring at her incredulously and stammering things like “Huh?..but how…why did..what the fuck..?” while she kept warning me not to tell Gabrielle and ruin the surprise. My parents know I’m not very good at keeping secrets or lying so I’m sure that’s why my father decided to deceive me along with Gabrielle.

At first I was a bit disappointed. I’ve spent a lot of time in Florida but I’ve never been to Texas. Although Texas had never been very high on my list of places to visit, I was looking forward to seeing it and checking it off on the list of U.S. states I’d been to. However, when it came down to it, I’d rather spend a few weeks in Florida than a few weeks in Texas and I’d never been to Fort Lauderdale, Key West or Miami.  Once I readjusted my expectations of the trip, I was looking forward to it more than I had when I thought it was to Texas.  I was just hoping Gabrielle hadn’t gotten attached to the idea of going to Texas but I learned that she’d been to Texas before plus she didn’t seem like the kind of gal who dreamed of cowboys and buckwheat.

On the day we left for our trip we had to get up at 4 in the morning but Disney World is worth getting up at 4 in the morning for. When we got to the airport I got asked by security how old I was because apparently I looked like I might be under twelve and thus exempt from having to take off my shoes when going through the metal detector. I think there must be some portrait of me aging in a closet somewhere because on multiple occasions in my adult life I’ve been asked what grade I’m in (if you’re a literary snob like me you’ll get the reference.)

Once I went through the metal detector I was told that an area of my body had set off an alarm and I would be subject to additional screening. I think I might be radioactive or something because this happens every damn time I go to the airport.  At least this time the pat-down I got didn’t include a crotch grab and when pat-downs don’t include crotch grabs I like them because they resemble massages.

As I was presenting my boarding pass to the ticket agent, someone came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Excuse me, is this your phone?” He was holding up a blue Iphone that I recognized as mine. “Thank you” I said and thought to myself “Phew, that was a close one.” I would have been so upset and in so much trouble if I’d lost my phone at the airport.

As I walked down the tarmac towards the plane I decided to check my backpack to make sure I had my computer. To my dismay I discovered that I did not have it. “Oh shit!” I exclaimed. Then another person came up behind me and asked if I was missing my computer. When I told him that I was, he told me they had it at the desk. I went back to the desk and sure enough there it was.

Just like being mistaken for an adolescent and setting off metal detectors is par for the course for me, so too is losing things. Keeping track of my possessions is a constant struggle. My phone and my computer are both important possessions and if I’d lost both of them at the airport I would have really been up shit’s creek without a paddle so it was a good thing that with the aid of a couple of good samaritans I was able to locate them in time.

I boarded the plane, fastened my seat belt, took one of those obnoxious airplane selfies and set off on my Texas vacation that had become a Florida vacation.

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