Theme parks really bring out the worst in people. Half the people are wandering around clueless and lost and the other half are running you over to get to the front of the line. For those of us in the middle of these two groups, it’s a bit of a war zone. We spent Easter week at Disney and most of that week we spent either dodging people staring at their phones while running through the park, or tripping over people as they stopped to figure out where they were. I was almost flattened by multiple scooters as Grandma let little Bobby try to steer his way through a crowd at 12 miles per hour while eating an ice cream cone. I love Disney, but that week was a little traumatizing.
One of the enduring themes throughout our stay was watching people attempt to get on rides that were full. We watched a group of teenage boys climb on to an overly full safari jeep and literally sit on each others laps while forcing small children over the rails on the other side. One older couple ended up completely surrounded by sweaty teen boys yelling at each other to scoot over and make room. If they had waited their turn, they would have ended up occupying the two rows ahead of us, so I was happy to see them go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if grandma never made it past the giraffe crossing. Another woman tried to climb onto a two seat roller coaster behind me and drag her daughter along. She just looked at me for a minute before realizing that she had to wait for the next train to arrive. I’m not sure how this happens since they have numbers in each ride queue and they always stack people two loads deep. My rule of thumb is if you don’t know the person in front of you, don’t follow them on a ride and try to sit on their lap. It leads to discomfort for all parties involved.
The rides with younger kids were the most problematic. We watched a little girl dressed as a princess with a birthday sash force her family to change seats on three separate rides. She was climbing over seats and attempting to get her 300 pound grandfather to do the same. One of the cast members finally told her to pick a seat and stay in it after she had a tantrum about not being close enough to the front. I had to laugh a few minutes later when she got soaked, unaware that the front of that ride was probably not the best seat in the house. Two little boys followed my daughter and me on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and tried to get on the ride with us in a two seat car. When they realized they didn’t fit, they tried to turn around and one got squished in the door. I watched as their parents stood on the other side completely oblivious that one of their kids almost just lost an arm. That was probably my favorite episode of Kids Gone Wild at Disney.
I think what prompts people to behave this way is they want to have the best experience they can and are impatient to have their experience. They don’t stop to think that cramming themselves into an overly full truck or climbing over other people to get to the best seat is not going to do it. I watched the birthday girl spend her time looking at all of the other kids to see if they were looking at her rather than enjoying the ride. They weren’t looking at her, and the ones who were (like my kid) were mostly commenting on what a brat she was. I heard three different dads get reprimanded by cast members for putting their kids in danger. While on the safari a man had to be told that the animals around us were real and dangerous as he held his baby in the air near the alligator pit. I’m sure he was making sure she had the best possible view since babies are really into alligators and all. Another man had to be told that his child needed to sit multiple times on the Jungle Cruise. It took an entire boat of people staring at him for him to finally comply.
We are fortunate that our kid is past the age of caring about the characters so we didn’t have to stop for any photo ops. I saw some of them, and it was similar to the fourth circle of hell. It doesn’t help that only about half of the characters are making appearances. We spent enough time waiting in line for our little foodie to taste frushi, seared scallops and avocado toast. Although we didn’t encounter many hangry little monsters in these lines, there were a couple bitchy bros with man buns. Disney really does provide entertainment for everyone, even if that entertainment is being a judgmental asshole. By the end of the vacation, my kid was already talking about visiting Universal instead next time. I see many more trips to theme parks in the future, with rides for bigger kids and trading in pushy princesses for sweaty teenagers. Somehow I know this is going to be a grass is greener situation the first time a stoned 15 year old barfs near my shoes.
**Since theme parks are a bit like a pit, I had to listen to some good old fashioned hardcore while writing this piece.
My child has taken up roller skating. This is an unexpected turn of events since she went to a roller skating party once in the second grade and hated every second of it. She had not tried it again until a few weeks ago when a friend asked her to go skating. Apparently she loved it because since then that’s all she has wanted to do. So much that we had to run all over town finding her a pair of skates so she would be ready next time.
Next time ended up being yesterday and it was with Mom and Dad. I hadn’t skated in at least 20 years, probably even longer, but I agreed to lace up and skate with her. After about three minutes I felt horrible about having sent her skating with her friend who had to endure hours of holding my kid’s hand while she tried to simultaneously hold the railing and make her way around the rink twice while barely moving her feet. This child was so afraid of falling that she barely let go of the hand rail. When we skated up behind someone standing at the rail or moving even slower than us (hard to imagine), she stopped behind them and waited. I finally started grabbing her hand and pulling her along with me. I tried a few times to pull her away from the rail and you would have thought I was trying to drown her watching her arms flail.
I have to say that walking into that place brought me right back to being a teenage girl. I’m not sure how they manage to stop time but there are a lot of 60 year old women looking for whatever magic lives between those four walls. Time has actually not progressed in almost 40 years at this rink. Even the carpet is exactly how I remembered it. All of a sudden I had the urge to smoke a cigarette and rat my hair. Walking past the bathroom on the way in brought me right back to the time a girl threw a slushie at me because her boyfriend asked me to couples skate on a Friday night. And lacing up the rental skates brought me right back to lacing up my speed skates, getting ready to win whatever crappy ribbon and free snack bar treat was waiting at the finish line.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to be on wheels again. It had been a long time and lets be honest, breaking a hip after a fall would not be all that unlikely for me. I have made it through 5 years without a stupidity-inflicted injury, but it’s only a matter of time before I trip, slip or fall. But apparently skating is a lot like riding a bike because once I was on the rink, it was like I had never taken off skates. Within a few minutes I was skating backwards and spinning in circles. I even got a little gutsy and sped around the rink a few times only wobbling a bit while trying to do a crossover on a turn.
I refrained from getting back on the rink when they called an adults only skate and opted to watch the crazy old black guy who kept waving and fist bumping people as he made his rounds. I am always up for embarrassing my kid, but not to the extent that she’ll never leave the house again. A bunch of boys from our neighborhood were there who would have tortured her relentlessly if I made an ass out of myself. Plus, if there was a time for me to fall and break a hip, it would have been in that moment. I try not to temp fate, especially with the kind of karma I have earned. I saw that old black guy’s wife as well, and she looked like she had thrown a slushie or two in her lifetime.
I have to say, I never thought I would be hanging out with my kid at the same place I used to flirt with boys and smoke cigarettes. But here we are, and I honestly couldn’t ask for much more. Well, maybe that my legs didn’t feel like I ran six marathons the next day.
*Spending the day in a time warp had me listening to some music from my youth – Violent Femmes.
When I was little, my dad and I were part of a dad/daughter group called “Indian Princesses”. I’m not sure what the organization’s purpose was, but our group was under the impression the goal was for young girls to get into trouble while their dads drank heavily and played cards. It’s the place where I learned that too much of anything will make you barf and peeing on the side of the road is only illegal if you get caught. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be learning survival skills and how to be a proper young lady, but our entire group was asked to leave a camping event before I learned any of those skills. This may explain why I can’t start a fire or engage in cocktail party chatter today.
Years later I met a man who was taking his daughter on an Indian Princess campout and he stated that alcohol was no longer allowed in the cabins because “a few bad apples ruined it for everyone”. I refrained from telling him that I was one of those bad apples he was referring to. The same year we were asked to leave was the year my dad brought several cases of whipped cream and we covered half the grounds with it while having a massive whipped cream fight. I vaguely remember leaving the event early and heading to someone’s cottage for the rest of the weekend. It was the equivalent of being called out in class and told to go to the principal’s office. Every eye in that mess hall burned our backs as we packed up our RV and headed south. Our exit bypassed the principal’s office and headed straight out the back door with two middle fingers in the air. Years later when I literally did the same in high school, my dad couldn’t really say much. That was a life lesson I got from the Indian Princesses, when the man tells you to shut it down, pack up your party and head to the lake. Here are a few other things I learned while hanging out in the woods with feathers on my head:
- Gambling is fun, especially when you win. The men used to play a game at restaurants called “Queen Bee” where you bet to see who pays the bill. Once someone “wins” and gets stuck with the bill, they have a chance to win back double their money from everyone else. My Dad let me sit in on his turn and I cleaned out every old guy at our table. I walked out of there with my pockets loaded only to leave the general store 10 minutes later with a handful of change. I spent the whole wad buying toys and candy for my fellow princesses. I have been a master liar’s poker player since then (as well as a pretty good liar which is a whole different lesson).
- Driving is a hell of a lot easier when you can see over the steering wheel. Did I mention the dad’s partook in a wee amount of alcohol consumption while on these adventures? Letting the children drive was really the responsible thing to do in that situation. I may have been the youngest driver on the roads in Canada, but I was one of the better drivers nonetheless. In my dad’s defense, I was actually a pretty good driver at a young age since I had been riding a motorcycle since I could stand it up by myself.
- If your stomach hurts, you’ll feel a lot better if you just get it over with and barf. This applies to a lot of things, but I barfed a lot when I was young and I always felt better once all the whipped cream evacuated my body. I’m pretty sure this was also how my dad learned to put a little girl’s hair into a ponytail.
- Doing your own thing is usually a lot more fun than following the crowd. Sometimes that means being asked to leave and that’s okay. Somehow a group of dads and their daughters who had no business joining a group like the Indian Princesses managed to join anyway and have fun for about a year before blowing it all up. The little group of misfits still managed to stick together for several years after making their own adventures that didn’t even require using outdoor bathrooms and identifying poison oak.
- Frog legs really do taste like chicken, and escargot tastes like salt water. Adventuring with my dad always meant I got to eat whatever I wanted and I was always ready to gross out the other 8 year old girls with food choices. This may also have contributed to lesson #3.
- The 80s was the decade of oxymorons. A group whose name was both racist and sexist certainly had a lot of rules about proper behavior. Maybe if the dads were actual Native Americans, their drinking would have been overlooked, or if the girls had been shooting whipped cream rockets at each other while wearing tiaras, it would have been cute. Either way, I’m glad I was raised during that time and I’m even more glad that I can look back on it and laugh.
**Of course I listed to some classic 80s music while I wrote this!!
About a month ago my dad soaked the inside of his car when he left the windows open in the rain. My parents had left the house and when they returned, my dad saw his car window open and immediately thought someone had broken his window. I love that his first reaction was that someone else must have damaged his car, not that he left his own windows down. What is most comical about this is that my dad never has the windows up while driving, so him leaving the windows down while parked is not all that unusual. It can be sweater weather and he has at least the moonroof open. Once he saw the open window, he walked out to his car to find all of his windows down and the moonroof wide open. It had been pouring rain for an hour, so needless to say, his seats were a little waterlogged. I’m not going to lie, that car needed a good detailing anyway.
Since my mom told us this story, my child has double checked the Old Man’s windows every time a cloud passes over. She has asked about the status of his windows at least a dozen times and takes every available opportunity to give him a hard time about it. I understand this though, because the man does not learn. A few weeks after he drenched his car, he left me sitting in the same car while he returned to the house to get something. The windows were all open, including the moonroof and within 10 seconds of him walking away, the rain started to pour in on me. He turned around and laughed instead of throwing the keys back to me. Typical. I am now thoroughly convinced that an actual dark cloud is following him.
One would think that maybe the third time is a charm, but one would be mistaken. Yesterday he picked me up to go retrieve one of the wave runners that was being serviced. Rain was expected, but we went anyway. As we were driving to the dealership I mentioned that I did not have a life jacket and we would need to stop at the lake house to grab one. He proceeded to drive right by our turn off and when I told him he responded “you can swim, right?” I agreed that a life jacket was not really necessary and we continued along, with the clouds following. When we got to the dealership, he immediately got out of the car and took the keys, leaving me sitting with the windows down and no radio. When he returned a few minutes later it had already started to sprinkle. He sat in the car talking to me for a full minute before I could prompt him to close the moonroof. He was just carrying on about the Olympics, while we got a shower until I finally said “you might want to close this….” while sticking my hand through the open roof.
As we headed back to the boat launch, the rain started to come down a little harder, and by the time we got to the dock it was the kind of rain that required an umbrella. I would like to say we turned around and headed to a garage until the rain subsided, but we are no quitters. And we are not all that bright either. I got on the wave runner and started it up right about the time a full on monsoon started. But by that time, there was no turning back. I took off and was halfway around the bend before my dad even left the boat launch, where he probably immediately opened the moon roof. I wanted to make sure everything was in working order but I couldn’t bring myself to drive more than 33 mph since the rain felt like pins going into my face. Although I usually like being the only vehicle on the lake, it was not an ideal time since I was not wearing a life jacket, it felt like pebbles were being thrown at me from the sky and a few neighbors were actually pointing and laughing. I managed to make it back to the dock in about 10 minutes. After getting the wave runner up on the lift, covering it and returning the key to the house, I finally grabbed a towel and headed to the garage as the rain completely stopped. I found my dad holding a leaf blower, cleaning the garage floor before backing in the trailer. Although he didn’t mention I looked like a drowned rat my mom later told me she saw me on the doorbell cam and that was exactly what I looked like. We moved the trailer into the garage and when I jumped back into the car I was shocked to see that all of the windows were actually closed for once, and the only sopping wet thing in the car was me.
**I just noticed I haven’t posted anything in over a month. It’s because I have been listening to new music (new to me at least) like this little gem.
The other day we were talking about teaching my 10 year old to drive the wave runner by herself. She is tall and she always wants to drive, but having her sit in front of someone is difficult since you can’t see around her Amazonian body and Mowgli hair. In the middle of this conversation between me and my dad, my mom stopped us and said “you know it’s illegal for her to drive those alone right?” to which we both stared at her like she was speaking Greek. I quickly said “Only if she gets caught!” And this is where it is clear I am my father’s daughter, and my child is following right down those rebellious misguided footsteps. We all looked at my mom like she was crazy to say out loud that breaking the law was probably not a good idea.
My Dad gave me my first motorcycle ride before I was a year old. Apparently I caught a cold shortly thereafter and my grandma quickly put the blame on the bike so I wasn’t allowed back on until I was 3. I also got my first helmet that year. It was orange and loud and too big. I loved it, and I loved the motorcycle. So much in fact, that by the time I was seven I was demanding to ride alone. My dad made me show him that I could hold it upright unassisted and operate it alone before I was able to take my virgin solo ride. By the time I was ten I was a little terror in the trails down the street and ripping up the baseball field at the elementary school. I was also very clear on the rules which were “if you see a cop, turn off the bike and say you are out of gas and waiting for your dad to come back.” I was then to walk it home with the cops following me. I partook in this parade quite a few times before the police finally told my mom if it happened again they would see that I did not receive a license to drive at 16. I guess I shouldn’t have been all that concerned since I actually drove myself to driver’s education classes in my own car at the age of fifteen, but at the time it scared my mom enough to make my dad sell the bike. Although that was just the beginning of my tendency to push the limits, the lesson I learned was you don’t get in trouble unless you get caught.
This lesson has trickled down to my daughter. Fortunately, she isn’t doing anything she feels the need to hide from me yet, and with my experience in jackassery, she will probably have a hard time doing so. Right now she is still wondering if she is allowed to do things on her own and when she is given a yes by mom or grandpa she follows up with dad or grandma to get the real story. I just keep telling her not to worry. She won’t get caught and if she does, mom will be in trouble which is a pretty familiar place for mom to be. Apparently my kid is totally okay with me paying the price for her misdeeds as well since as soon as I explained I would be in trouble for making her drive, she grabbed the keys and tried to take off on me. Luckily, the wave runner takes a few seconds to start or we may not have seen her again until she ran out of gas. Although, she drives like a grandma, so I probably could have caught up to her with a quick doggy paddle.
I have had a lot of great experiences in my life, party because I was not afraid of much. I have had some bad experiences for the same reason, but that is a whole different story. Little things like laws and rules have rarely deterred me from trying something new and have often times made me learn a new skill, like jumping off a roof with a skateboard or moving through spaces that are too narrow for a cop car to follow. I am hoping that my kid can learn some of these life lessons from my stories rather than having to touch the ot burner herself, but only time will tell. For now, I am grateful that she will take a chance now and then but drive slow enough for her mom to still catch her.