Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Trip To Disney - A Chronicle Of Hate


I guess it started back when I booked my flights.  Against my better judgment, I booked flights with Delta.  See, I hate Delta.  A lot.  But their flights were significantly cheaper than any others I could find for this trip, and at the time I was also booking flights for Cammy's birthday, so price was important.  I figured I'd just suck it up and deal with it.  After some time had passed, I received an email from Travelocity saying that Delta had re-scheduled their flights and that I now had a negative layover, so I had to call Travelocity to re-schedule.

A little annoying, but whatever.  I called Travelocity.  Apparently, however, Travelocity operates out of a shed in India.  It was very difficult to understand the guy who was asking for my credit card information and processing large transactions.  That was a little unnerving.  But in the end he put me on direct flights with JetBlue at $20 less than the original price, so that was actually pretty awesome.  But just for good measure I'm going to go ahead and hate that little Indian man and whatever company employs him, as well as Travelocity for contracting out to that company.

Day One

Finally the day arrived for travel.  I got to the airport stupidly early, as is my custom, which is fine.  The flight ended up being delayed maybe 15-20 minutes.  But honestly, that happens.  Not a problem.  But as I stood around the boarding area I couldn't help but notice a large sampling of pre-teen girls.  Apparently a quarter of the seats on this plane were going to be taken up by a girls dance company on their way to Disney.  And a girls dance company is inevitably chaperoned by old women.  Specifically, old leathery dried-up ex-dancer would-be-cougar women who seem to think that everyone under 35 is checking them out.  There was no comfortable place to stand, no acceptable direction to look.  I was in every way the enemy.

I ended up settling down in a corner near some guy who was approximately my age, with a wife and children, and a faux-hawk.  Seriously?  A faux-hawk?  Dude, you're in your 30s, you have a family, you're supposed to be a grown up now.  But instead here you are walking around in public with the ultimate do-it-yourself douche bag hairstyle commonly reserved for 10-year-old boys who don't know any better and college drunks (who still don't know any better).

The plane ride itself wasn't bad.  The dancing girls (not the good kind, at least not yet) were undisruptive, and I had a television screen at which to safely direct my gaze.  The personal televisions built in to each seat with satellite TV was actually a really nice touch.  And the service was great.  A drink and a snack, delivered with a friendly smile.  Kudos to JetBlue.  They are now officially the only airline I actually like, all the others can die in a fire.

Upon landing, I turned my phone back on (well, switched back out of airplane mode) only to find two voice-mails from Jen.  The first was asking me to call her when I get the message.  The second was demanding to know why I haven't called her.  Well, there's a simple answer to that.  I was on an airplane.  Did you miss that fact?  Did you forget how that sort of thing works?  I generally don't answer my cell phone when federal aviation laws prohibit me from doing so.  Deal with it.

So I called her back.  And she didn't answer.  Is this important or not, damn it?  We then went on to exchange a few phone calls back and forth, in which she was also apparently talking to somebody else there.  You know what I do when I'm on the phone with someone and they start talking to someone else?  I hang up.  Now you know.  And as it turns out, the reason she was so adamant about exchanging phone calls was because she had very important information for me about the hotel.  The information consisted of telling me that the room wasn't ready yet when she was last there and that I can ask about it at the desk and possibly store my luggage with them when I get there.  Actually, to be honest with you Jen, I know how to check in to a hotel.  I've actually done it before.  Hotels are funny like that, they have a desk where you can go and tell them that you're here and get information and services from them.  This isn't complicated.  This is not critical information that requires an infuriating game of phone tag.  Shut up and let me just go to the damn hotel.

Also of note, the dance girls are still everywhere.

Now it's time to go find Disney's Magical Express, which is apparently just a shuttle from the airport to the hotel.  Apparently this shuttle service is prepared for an entire army of people.  But there isn't an army here today, just a small handful.  But that small handful still needs to navigate the maze of ropes and deal with three different checkpoints.  The actual airline has fewer checkpoints.  And these people who staff this area are, by mandate of their employer, annoying as shit.  Do not engage me.  Do not ask me silly questions.  Do not even smile at me in the same way as you would a small child.  I am going to hand you my ticket, you are going to direct me to a bus.  End of transaction.  But no, these people insist on maintaining this nonsense even in the complete absence of children.  (Seriously, there wasn't a child in sight.  Not even the dance girls.)

Upon making my way through the checkpoints and the maze of ropes, I ended up at the end of a rope line with some other people.  Specifically, with a family of black women.  Only women.  A dozen or so of them.  All with short hair.  It was a little uncomfortable, to be honest.  And so we stood around in the roped off area and waited.  There were benches, but they were outside the roped off areas.  We couldn't get to them.  Disney felt it was important to place unused benches in plain sight of where they make people stand.

And what were we waiting for, anyway?  The bus?  No, see, there were four buses just outside the door.  Not going anywhere.  Their drivers were standing around talking to each other.  They were labeled as Disney Magical Express, but they were more for magically standing around.  Eventually a fifth bus arrived, and this one was ours.  So, after being engaged by another annoying employee, we were permitted to board the bus.  The women had luggage to store, I did not.  So I was able to get right on, after navigating around their small gaggle of confusion.  Then the women boarded the bus.  Then the mad rush of dance girls and their leathery leadership stormed the bus.  I get the feeling I won't be able to escape this.

During the drive, one of the chaperones within earshot of me kept trying to say funny (to her) things to other people in her group.  Unsuccessfully.  The exchange repeated in the same way each time:
  1. She makes some joke entirely out of context about things she just pieced together in her mind, apparently under the assumption that everybody else was following her internal train of thought.
  2. Someone in the group doesn't hear her.
  3. She repeats what she said.
  4. Nobody in the group gets the joke (see the aforementioned lack of context and internal train of thought).
  5. She explains the joke.  You know, because jokes are funnier when you explain them.
  6. People vaguely chuckle with pretend laughter.
  7. Someone in the group doesn't hear her explanation.
  8. She explains it again.
  9. etc.
This exchange happened at least three times.  I think I blacked out at some point.

Also, the bus driver kept referring to our destination hotel as The French Quarters.  It's "Quarter."  Singular.  If there were two of them it would be The French Half.  (This actually continued throughout the week by various guests, staff members, and worst of all the people in my own group.  Disney, it has become clear to me that nobody understands the reference for your hotel here.  Nobody gets what it is.  Not your customers.  Not your employees.  Nobody.  Try again.)

At the hotel the woman at the check-in counter was actually genuinely nice.  Not fake Disney nice.  I liked her.  She started to engage me my offering me mardi gras beads, but quickly reverted to standard helpful hotel employee mode when I indicated that I was not to be engaged in such ways.  Anyway, the room wasn't ready yet.  No problem, that's a common thing in hotels.  Remember, I've done this check-in thing before.

I figured I'd bum around the lobby for a while, rooms don't take long to prepare.  And there's no way I'm going to hand over my luggage to someone at the hotel to watch for me.  There's five thousand dollars worth of computer hardware in there, I don't need someone tossing it into a pile and then tossing other stuff on top of it.  While bumming around the lobby, Jen texted me with some brief and concise information about grabbing lunch on our meal plan.  Simple, to the point.  From Jen.  Something must be wrong.  Either way, I grabbed some quick lunch.  Also, the dance girls are still everywhere.

The food place was a semi-circle of various take-out counters and two registers on the way out.  The counter with the best lunch selection was the most crowded, but that's to be expected.  I waited.  No problem.  Except for the woman in front of me in line who was, I shit you not, too busy dancing and giggling to successfully place a fast food order.  It took her two attempts.  And the giggle was one of those embarrassed giggles where she puts her hands over her mouth and turns away for a moment in some flirtatious manner.  Honey, the guy at the lunch counter is not flirting with you.  He just wants to know what the hell you want.  It's a very simple question.  You're not even remotely attractive, is this flirting thing an ongoing problem with you?  Or are you one of the dance group women?

The area around this counter kept getting more and more crowded.  Apparently a Mexican soccer team or something was moving in.  Were all of these people waiting for food?  Was there some kind of hold up in the kitchen?  Most of these people seem to already have food.  So what's going on?  At some point the guy behind the counter called a name, one of the Mexicans took his food, and the entire group left.  They were apparently all waiting, taking up all of that space, for one person's food.

The guy behind the counter proceeded to call out more names in attempts to hand out more food.  Invariably, nobody was paying attention when their name was called.  They were always off doing something else.  Damn it people, how long do you think your chicken nuggets and fries are going to take?  It was ready when you ordered it, they just needed to put it on a tray for you.

After I got my food, I couldn't pay for it.  Not for lack of trying, but for lack of open registers.  There were two, yes.  But every person ahead of me needed to have the full details of the meal plan explained to them, and then needed to have the cashier take something back and exchange it for something else.  No, the big novelty plastic cup isn't part of your meal plan.  It's extra.  It's obvious that it's extra.  They'd put a sign up explaining it, but it didn't occur to them that this would be confusing.  Also, a sign might distract you people from the shiny colors, and we simply can't allow that to happen.  So the result of this confusion was that the women operating the registers had to constantly leave their post.  Which registers are open?  Nobody knows.  Lines would occasionally form at closed registers if the women were away from their post long enough that people arriving didn't know to which register she would be returning.  It was a mess.  With dance girls everywhere.

I eventually sat down in this loud and crowded place so I could eat my chicken nuggets and fries.  Naturally, this is an opportune time for Jen to call me.  It seems the room is ready, which is a good thing.  So Jen gives me the room number.  And, without missing a breath, she continues to talk for a few minutes.  The subject of the conversation is to basically inform me of where they are, although they're leaving, where they're going, although they may go somewhere else, where they might end up or when they might come back to the hotel, etc.  In the end, after careful consideration and much internal deliberation, Jen decided that the best course of action was that if I need to contact her to ask her a question I should call her.  Brilliant.  I never would have thought of that.  Now, what was the room number again?  I'd like a chance to write it down this time.

The room seems nice, but mostly because I've been traveling all day and it's a quiet place to sit down on a comfortable piece of furniture.  Closer inspection, however, reveals the details of the room.  First of all, it's a little cramped.  I've had larger rooms at a Motel 6.  The TV is nice, a decent sized flat screen mounted to the wall.  And it has some inputs which connect through a panel on the furniture as a convenient place to plug in, say, an HDMI cable.  That's pretty cool actually.  Now if only there were convenient power outlets somewhere around here.  There are outlets to be found, but not in convenient places by any means.

Also, there's no wireless internet.  Seriously, Disney?  You know who does have wireless internet?  Motel 6.  But apparently the most magical place on earth with more money than God can't put in a few access points.  They do, however, provide an ethernet cable in a little bag in the room.  A 3-foot ethernet cable.  After searching around the room for where they hide the port, I finally found it at floor level under the table.  The 3-foot and 1-inch table.  Thanks, Disney.  You're a bitch and you should die in a fire.

So after a little relaxation, I called Jen to find out what her status is.  They're on a bus coming back from Animal Kingdom and will arrive at the hotel in a few minutes.  Sweet, I'll head down to the bus area and meet them.  My girls saw me through the bus window, they were so excited.  Ok, this part of the trip has much less hate.  I miss my girls and was so happy to see them.  Seeing Jen was even kind of nice, which was a little unexpected by definitely welcome.  Maybe that's a sign of a good week together.  Maybe.

Jen has way too much damn luggage.  And it's not even packed, it's just thrown in the trunk.  Now I get the fact that this is their second stop in Florida and they just came from a few days at her brother's house, and I get that having small children along for the ride means some sort of mess will happen.  But this is ridiculous.  Every little item she could grab is in the trunk.  Stuff the kids really aren't going to need.  And now we get to move all of this crap to the room.  No, not just the stuff that will be used during this trip.  All of it.  Why?  For no damned good reason, of course.

So we're going to need a luggage cart for all of this.  No problem, hotels have those.  I go to the front desk and ask.  They say that I need to ask at a little office outside on the corner of the building.  The luggage office, I guess.  Fine, whatever, I'll go ask them.  The lady at the luggage office, and office filled with empty luggage carts, informs me that they don't lend those out to guests.  Instead, they have bell hops to do it for us.  Great, send a bell hop our way.  No, they can't.  They're all out right now.  So let me get this straight... You have luggage carts, but we can't use them.  You have bell hops, but they're not available.  Congratulations Disney, you've broken hotels.  You know who has luggage carts that we could use?  Motel 6.  I'm sensing a pattern here.

So we loaded up the stroller with all of the luggage and pushed it up to the room.  It's quite the massive two-seater stroller, actually.  Upon getting to the room we discovered that apparently Jen's parents' room key cards don't work.  Honestly, can this place get anything right in terms of common things that every hotel in the world does every day?

We all then went swimming.  Well, at first I wasn't going to.  Mostly because I hate swimming, but also because I didn't bring a bathing suit (mostly because I hate swimming).  Jen's dad offered to loan me one.  I was... not thrilled with the idea.  He said he had one that has never been used.  Well, that's our winner then.  He said he also had one that hasn't been used in years.  Ya, I'm still going with the first one.  So I just went along with it and went swimming.  It actually wasn't as awful as I expected.  I still don't like swimming, but the activity of playing with my kids overpowered that, which is good.

We headed back to the room where I discovered something wonderfully stupid.  Jen and her parents brought a microwave.  So I had to plug it in to the unreasonably inaccessible power outlets.  Really, though.  A microwave?  Just when I thought they brought too much crap, now they're bringing appliances.  You know what I brought?  A backpack and a small bag.  That's it.  I didn't shop at Sears on my way here to pick up some extra kitchen implements for the trip.  You know, I've recently been seriously thinking about taking Jen to Venice next year for our tenth anniversary, but not if I'm going to be expected to bring a dishwasher and a refrigerator or something like that.

Now it's time for a relaxing boat ride to Downtown Disney.  And by "relaxing" I mean "annoying."  Apparently Captain Salty wanted to make sure that everyone in the central Florida waterways knew his whereabouts just to be safe.  He was laying on the horn everywhere we went.  Around a mild bend, under a bridge, anything.  The horn was on more than it was off.  Dude, you're not navigating an oil tanker through fog.  You're taking a 5mph glorified pontoon down a well-lit stream in the world's busiest resort.

So we arrived in Downtown Disney, whatever the hell that is, and now I'm pushing the stroller around.  This, of course, means that nobody else thinks twice about going up a flight of stairs.  And the ramps are way too damn narrow for such a big family resort.  A single stroller screws up the whole flow of traffic, never mind our double-wide stroller.

Now here's a question for the universe... Is this part of Disney open to the public without an admission fee?  There don't seem to be any rides or attractions, just stores and restaurants.  And if that's the case, it would really explain a lot about the people we're seeing.  Sure, Disney is full of riff raff.  But this was different.  These didn't look as much like tourists so much as they looked like locals with nothing better to do.  Cubans, beach people, etc.  The music and outdoor dancing all over the place was definitely geared toward creepy hispanic guys and aging women in tube tops who love to dance to music that was cool when they were attractive, so long ago.  And these women were also wearing tube tops, with visible tan lines from bikini tops of course.  I hate tube tops.  Why do people wear those things?  Tube tops drag your tits down, stretching them closer to the ground.  That is what you want to avoid.

This place was way too damn crowded.  Again, it would make sense if it's open admission.  The worst thing about crowds like this, though, is people who don't know how to move through them.  People like Jeff.  See, when you get ahead of your group, you don't come to a complete stop and wait for them.  Not in crowds like this.  This just causes a traffic jam, preventing your group from being able to actually catch up to you.  Slow down a little, move off to the side a little, etc.  But coming to a sudden dead stop in the middle of moving traffic is unacceptable.  Of course, Jeff wasn't the only person guilty of this.  Damn near everybody was guilty of this.  People suck.

We made our way to Planet Hollywood, because for reasons unclear to me that's where the group wanted to eat dinner.  Have you ever eaten at a Planet Hollywood?  If the answer is "no" then understand that I envy you.  The food wasn't particularly bad, but the restaurant was awful.  Whose bright idea was it to bring this giant stroller with tired small children into the loudest and most crowded restaurant in central Florida?  Nothing good came of this.  We managed to wait by the bar in the least in-the-way spot we could find, which isn't to say that it wasn't in the way or was in any way comfortable or convenient, it was just the lesser of several evils.  We're near a bar, so I figured I'd get a drink.  It took two tries, since the bartenders are apparently clumsy as shit.  That explains why the bar is sticky.  At least I hope it does.  It's also worth noting that the shots I ordered, as well as the fruity drink I ordered with my meal when we were seated, most likely didn't contain any measurable quantities of alcohol.  Bastards.

After finishing our meal and making our way back through the crowds and the Cubans and the tube tops and the hate and pain and suffering, we boarded the ferry back to the hotel.  At least this one wasn't piloted by Captain Salty and we were able to relax a little more.  I'm tired.  My chest hurts.  I hate everyone.  We passed the treehouse villas that look infinitely better than the crappy rooms we got.  It's just time to get some damn sleep.

Day Two

A good night's sleep, in my opinion, is a critical component of a good vacation.  That must be why I couldn't get one.  Part-way through the night Sam climbed out of the girls' bed and into our bed.  This wasn't so bad, except that she was fidgety for much of the night.  At some point I woke up because her hand was instinctively playing with my ear.  I tried to move her back into her bed, but that bit of stir caused her to whine.  Fine, whatever, I'll just go sleep in her spot in the girls' bed.  Except that sharing a bed with Cammy is physically impossible for anybody of any significant size.  It's fine for Sam, but not for me.  See, Cammy insists on sleeping sideways.  So if there's anything in her way (namely, me) then she kicks that something throughout the night.  Then at 6:15 AM, for reasons entirely unclear to me, the room's alarm clock went off.  Why the hell was the alarm set?  Did the hotel leave it set?  Did Jen set it?  What the crap?  And, since I'm not familiar with this clock and the snooze button is only a temporary release, I had to turn the light on in order to properly deactivate the alarm.  Turning on the bright overhead light at 6:15 AM is not my idea of a good vacation wake-up.

As we eventually got up and began our morning, another inconvenience of the room became abundantly clear.  The beds are slightly too high.  This makes many things slightly less convenient.  Sitting down to brush Sam's hair is difficult, tying shoes is difficult, etc.  They're even just slightly too high for Sam to climb onto the beds by herself, unless the sheets are in a state where she can grip and get a leg up.  And since hotels insist on making beds, they're rarely in such a state.  Isn't this place supposed to be designed for children?  Disney continues to break the concept of a hotel in so many subtle ways.

The shower actually wasn't bad.  Good water pressure, good temperature, lots of space.  The room may be noticeably cramped and inconvenient, but at least the shower is nice.

As we walked from the bus depot toward the entrance to Epcot, we were surrounded by somewhere between one hundred and two hundred teenage girls from some Hispanic country.  I think they were Dominican, but that's mostly a guess.  It doesn't matter.  So for the remainder of this post I will refer to them as Domincans, and I assure you that there will be more discussions involving them.  Anyway, as one walks toward the entrance to Epcot there is a place where the concrete walkway becomes a bit of a bottleneck.  So guess where the Dominican girls decided to stop and re-group?  This is something I've noticed since high school and has plagued me ever since... Why in God's name do people insist on stopping in bottlenecks (doorways, narrow halls, crowds, etc.) to wait for their friends?  Move the hell over to the side.  Your friends aren't going to miss the company-sized element of teenage girls in matching red shirts.  Also, just a small cultural observation... If I look at a crowd of hundreds of teenage girls and think to myself that there isn't a single attractive one among them, something is wrong with your culture.  You breed ugly.  A lot.

As we got to Epcot and tried to enter the park, we discovered that the replacement room keys given to Jen's parents didn't work.  Apparently they were given access to their room, but not to any of the parks for which they had paid.  Apparently Disney theme parks can't keep track of vacation packages for guests.  Isn't that what they do?  Isn't that all they do?  So after Disney forced us to clog up the entrance with failed attempts to get through (if there's anything I hate more than people in the way at bottlenecks, it's being in the way at bottlenecks), Jeff had to walk over to the guest services office to get things straightened out.  Disney, the most magically inconvenient place on Earth.

Rides and exhibits at Epcot are good as usual.  They don't really change, so I can't see how Jen likes to keep coming back here so much.  And any time one little detail does change, she just complains about it.  Why would you want to pay all this money to see something that you've already seen?  This is why I like places like the Boston Museum of Science.  It does change.  It gives you new things every time you go back.

I think my favorite Epcot country this time was Norway.  That place just kicks ass.  Vikings are a new meme for my daughters.  We've done pirates, ninjas, aliens, robots, zombies, etc.  Now it's time for vikings.  When asked what I viking is, I explained that a viking is like a pirate but louder.  Also of note in Norway is that the restaurant there is really good.  And within that restaurant the staff of Norwegian chicks is seriously hot.  We had some kind of princess lunch there for the girls, where the various Disney princess characters would come out the greet the girls.  These characters were made up and dressed up and looked about as fake as a woman can be made to look.  I prefer the waitress.

While we were sitting at the table Jen and her parents went up to the salad bar once or twice.  I wasn't really interested, I just wanted to wait for my meal.  But for some reason they all kept badgering me about it.  Seriously, I don't want any.  Hot chicks are going to bring food to me, I'll just sit and wait for that to happen.  But they continued with such reasoning as "It's free" and "You might as well get your money's worth."  See, that's precisely the kind of attitude I need to avoid at this point in my life.  I maintained that same attitude through my twenties and now that I'm in my thirties it has made me fat.  It's made all of us fat, but apparently as the youngest adult present I'm the only one who's noticed.  I'm no longer in a position in my life where I feel a need to eat every scrap of food place in front of me.  It's ok to leave some on the plate.  I paid for a good meal, not a bloated gut and a feeling of uneasy sickness for the remainder of the day.

In the afternoon Jen's parents got tired and went back to the hotel.  That sounds fantastic, actually.  See, when Jen was selling me on the idea of this trip she talked about such things.  She maintained for the past couple months that we would be able to do the parks in the morning and then we can go rest in the afternoon before having a nice evening.  Apparently that was all a lie.  Her parents were able to leave, thought not without argument.  But I wasn't permitted.  I suppose I could have left anyway, but it would just make the ongoing arguments and bitchiness even worse.

Shortly after they left it became apparent that a storm was approaching.  Not a metaphor, an actual thunderstorm.  Jen wanted to stay and do more stuff in the park, but the solid black clouds quickly rolling in said otherwise.  So for one brief moment she actually displayed a glimmer of reason and decided that we should go back to the hotel.  On the way back to the bus area it began to mildly drizzle.  Then, at the exact moment that we were reaching the covered bus shelter, we were chased by a wall of torrential downpour.  This rain kept up for a while.

When we returned to the hotel, we had to run through the torrent (keep in mind we still have two kids in the stroller) to get to the hotel lobby.  Good call on not covering anything between the bus and the hotel, Disney.  It's not like it ever rains in Florida, right?  But the lobby was only a temporary reprieve.  Apparently Disney is convinced that rain isn't a problem around here, because all of the buildings on this hotel are separated.  No hallways or covered walkways or anything with even a simple awning between them.  Just open black sky.  So we had to sprint again to get to our building.

This time, however, we were presented with a barrier.  There was some water collecting in the "streets" between the hotel buildings.  Not puddles, no.  A river.  As I pushed the stroller through it, I noticed that the water was at least as high as the tops of my socks.  I'm guessing this river was approximately six or seven inches deep.  I guess the civil imagineers who architected this resort didn't think about drainage.  This became even more apparent as we navigated the covered walkway along the side of our building to get to the elevator.  There was standing water along the entire path, up against the first floor hotel room doors.  Originally we'd wanted a room on the first floor, but I guess it's a good thing we were on the third floor.  Less chance of water damage.

So we sat in the rooms and took a break for a while.  During this entire time, however, Jen and her parents kept bitching about how they didn't pay all this money to sit in a hotel room.  You know what?  I didn't pay all this money to be dragged around through crowds of Dominicans while carrying everything we own and being bitched at all the time.  So I guess we all have to make some concessions on this trip.  Also of note, as we were in the rooms we discovered something fantastically annoying about the televisions.  Apparently any time you turn them off they reset to their default state.  That state is, of course, Disney's resort advertisement channel at a ridiculously high volume level.  It doesn't matter of you left it on another channel at a reasonable volume level, they insist that you are deafened by their commercial channel.  And even if you do leave the television on, the maid will just turn it off.  You are not permitted to avoid it.

At some point during the afternoon it was decided that the rain had lightened up enough that we can go to Magic Kingdom.  It continued to rain the entire time we were there that day, with varying degrees of severity.  So at least it wasn't miserable all the time, I suppose.  However, from the moment we got there Jen was insisting that we have to keep the girls completely dry at all times.  You know what's a great way to achieve something like that?  Don't go out in the rain.  Instead, however, she concocted some complex system of towels and umbrellas on the stroller.  Naturally, this needed to be adjusted every ten feet or so.  That's just how I want to see this terrible place, ten feet at a time.

The girls really enjoyed the carousel, as children are prone to do.  So that wasn't bad.  The small world ride was as terrible as usual.  Though at least this time when we inevitably got stuck it was only for a few moments, not a half an hour like the last time we were here.  I would claim that when the revolution comes the small world ride would be the first to burn, but that was before going to the Country Bear Jamboree.  It's quite possibly the most infuriating attraction in all of Disney.  I spent the entire time heads down in my phone in an attempt to retain my sanity.  Cammy was a little scared during the haunted mansion ride.  But there were a few things silly enough to keep her entertained.  Throughout the week it would turn out that she was afraid of almost everything.  3D especially frightened her.  But that's ok.  She's just a child, after all.

As the night was drawing to a close, or so I thought, it was suddenly time for something called the electric parade.  Sounds like a great thing to have in the rain.  But I get the feeling it's not going to be as awesome as I'm imagining.  Indeed, it wasn't.  It first involved standing in the rain for an hour to wait for this parade which was delayed by forty five minutes.  And, since it's raining, this meant that the gathering and increasingly impatient crowd was all wielding umbrellas.  I hate umbrellas.  Let's take a moment to enumerate everything that's wrong with umbrellas:
  1. They increase a person's "personal space" by approximately 300%, which is especially bad in crowds.  And, of course, people feel entitled to this space.
  2. They conveniently provide an array of metal prongs at eye level.
  3. They don't get rid of water, they just direct it all to the people standing next to you.
  4. They're something extra to carry.
  5. When you arrive somewhere, they bring with you an unexpectedly large amount of water.  Any time I arrive somewhere wet from the rain, it occurs to me that I'm bringing to that place less water than people who have umbrellas.
I normally don't mind the rain.  In fact, I like the rain.  Any time I'm walking out of a building and it's raining out, I like moving right past the huddled masses and into the rain.  I like walking through it.  I like not being inconvenienced by it.  All of this hinges on one very important thing, though.  It requires that I move through the rain.  I like walking in rain, strolling in rain, meandering in rain, etc.  I don't like standing around like an idiot in rain waiting for some stupid parade that happens every day and is in no way special.

After the electric parade, we made our way toward the exit to the park.  However, as we passed the main castle, we were blind-sided by some kind of light show on the castle.  Admittedly, it was an impressive projector setup.  But the rain is getting worse and I don't want to stand around in it anymore.  But apparently we needed to stay and watch this show.  It even got to the point that I wanted to stand under Jen's umbrella, despite being ideologically opposed to umbrellas in general.  However, space beneath was at a premium.  She tried once or twice to include me beneath the umbrella, but managed only to dump its contents of water onto me.

After the light show we tried to leave again.  But an announcement came over the speakers that the fireworks show was going to start in five minutes.  Seriously?  What the fuck?  Why do you need three celebrations to close out every single evening of the park?  Jen agreed that we didn't need to stay for that, and that now is the best time to go catch a bus because everybody who didn't want to stay for the shows has already left and everyone who did want to stay for the shows is going to continue to stay.

Naturally, as we tried to make our way out of the park, we had to get through all of the people who are just standing around in the rain like idiots.  There's no order to it, there's no path to get through or around it, there's just random assortments of people standing around.  Even when you say "excuse me" to perfectly able-bodied people standing in the street, people who can't seem to understand why anybody would be trying to push a stroller around them when there are still pretty lights and loud noises to enjoy, they just continue to stand there.  These are the people off of whom Disney makes its vast fortune.  People who can't even walk unless instructed by a cartoon character.  And God damn there are a lot of them standing around in the rain at 10:00 at night.  On our way out Jen made it a point to tell me that she doesn't care if she bumps into people because it's their fault for being in the way.  Of course, the only person she kept bumping into was me.  So, ya, thanks for explicitly telling me that you don't give a shit about me.  I couldn't have figured it out otherwise.  The fact that you kept doing it without remorse and made no effort to stop certainly wasn't a clue.  So exiting the park basically meant dodging Jen and dodging everyone else's umbrellas, conveniently located at eye-poking height.

When we got to the bus it was once again time to get the girls out of the stroller and fold it up so we can take it on the bus.  But this time there was an added challenge.  See, Jen likes to save every piece of trash that she's given.  And God help the person who tries to throw away Jen's trash.  A wet, folded up map of the park we just left?  Keep it.  A quarter of a hamburger, seven french fries, and a third of a now flat and warm soda from lunch?  You're damn right she's keeping that.  So it takes three trips on and off the bus to get all of her crap onto there.  Seriously, invest in a damn bag or something.  Those canvas tote bags are like ten cents at the grocery store, and they come free with everything I've ever bought in my life.  Hell, a printer I recently bought came with a tote bag.  For toting around a printer, I guess?  Who cares.  It's a bag.  It's free.  If you're going to keep every piece of trash you get your hands on, maybe you should keep a bag once in a while as well.

Of course, I mentioned this to Jen on the bus.  And, of course, she got mad as usual.  If there's anything she likes more than being a pain in the ass, it's being a pain in the ass about being a pain in the ass.  There's a lot of meta ass pain in there.  It was kind of amusing, however, while we rode the bus in our usual angry-at-each-other state.  She struck up a conversation with a guy sitting next to her and the two of them talked about the effects of the rain on the day's activities.  They were getting along nicely, of course.  This was because they weren't being a pain in the ass to each other.  That's a special activity reserved just for the two of us, I guess.

On the way back to the hotel room Jen and her parents made another comment about not spending all this money to sit in a hotel room.  Ya, I really feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of this place.  For this kind of money I should get a bigger hotel room and dancing girls.  The good kind.  The champagne room kind.  And I should be with friends, not with Jen and her parents.  Damn, that sounds like an awesome vacation.  Forget this crap, and screw that idea I'd been tossing around about taking Jen to Venice next year.  I should just plan a vacation to Vegas with some friends instead.  That would be way better.

Day Three

Despite being pissed off that I mentioned it, Jen took my advice today and brought a spare empty bag.  It's nice to know that my advice is taken even though it's entirely unwelcome and unappreciated.  Wait, no it isn't.  It's kind of insulting, actually.

The first thing we did was go back to Epcot again.  And the first thing we were going to do at Epcot was take the girls to an almost hidden character greeting spot which was a gauntlet of all of the main characters.  It was even indoors and air conditioned.  Naturally, since it's not as hidden as I'm told it used to be, it tends to be the longest wait time in the entire park.  But we have a secret weapon.  Not a fast pass, something better.  (This is one of those rare moments during the trip where something worked out in our favor.)  Remember when Jeff had to go to the guest services office to get into the park for which he had paid access?  I guess he made a stink about it (rightly so) and they gave him some kind of VIP pass things.  Eight of them, I believe.  They work just like fast passes, but they work on anything at any time.  So Jen and the girls went right in to this character spot thing, skipping the vast line entirely.  I'm sure the people in that line weren't entirely happy about this, since this line doesn't even have a regular fast pass option.  That's one of the reasons I opted to stay outside with the stroller, to avoid the directed hate of a hundred or so people.  Well, that and the fact that I hate Disney and don't want to be engaged by any of its employees.

I did watch through the windows as the girls had a great time, though.  We were worried that it might be too overwhelming for Sam, but she loved it.  I'd also like to note that whoever was in the Minnie Mouse costume was giving a particularly good performance.  Engaged the children well, somewhat natural movements and motions, etc.  The rest of them were pretty standard, but she was good.  (Or potentially he, I suppose, since it could be anybody inside that mascot costume.)  And it's probably also worth noting that Minnie Mouse has a really nice ass.  Seriously, look at her.  She wears those heels well.

At some point we went on some ride that starred Eric Idle.  Sounds awesome, right?  I thought so too.  But leave it to Disney to ruin anything.  He may otherwise have been entertaining, except that he wasn't the star of the show.  Some stupid little floating purple dragon was the star of the show.  And in classic Disney style, it insisted on being as wacky and zany (read: irritating) as possible.  You know the type I'm talking about.  It changes shapes and makes loud noises and interrupts everything for the sole purpose of making everything into a wacky joke.  I hate it.  I want it to die.  It's not even a real character, it's just superimposed on top of something because some panel of businessmen somewhere decided that people like colorful things that move around a lot and make a lot of noise.  So that's all it does.

As we continued through Epcot we discovered that there were more groups of Dominican teenagers.  There were at least half a dozen company-sized elements of these kids.  Perhaps there were more, I don't know.  For lack of better phrasing, they all look the same.  Not the people, but the groups.  And they were shouting everywhere they went.  Cadences, slogans, other shit in Spanish or whatever.  It wasn't enough that they were there, they had to make damn sure that everyone else paid attention to them.  They're as bad as the purple dragon, really.

Honestly, even outside of these groups, there are just way too damn many Hispanics around here.  I know this sounds racist, and perhaps it is.  At this point I don't care.  When everything I see and hear is bright loud annoying cultural traits, I hate it.  I don't hate your culture because it's different than my own.  I hate it because it's annoying.  You're loud, you're irritating, you're constantly in the way, and worst of all you insist on being all of these things.  It's the intent of these things that I hate.  If your culture teaches you to be like this, then I do in fact hate your culture.  I guess that's just Florida for you, really.  You know what Disney should do?  They should open a park in the mid-west or something.  The weather there is better, too.  I might actually enjoy something like that.

While sitting outside of some ride about Michael Jackson that the girls ended up not liking (I can't imagine I would have like it either), Jeff struck up a conversation with a complete stranger in his usual way.  While looking at some website on his phone and assuming everybody is paying attention to him and is aware of the context of which he speaks, he shouted something about Obama.  He then went on to talk to this man about politics.  If you've never talked politics with Jeff, I envy you.  Turns out this guy shared a lot of Jeff's views.  Either that or he was pretending to in order to avoid any ugliness from this apparently crazy old man.

As we moved on into the countries section of Epcot, Jen pointed out that we have all day.  Our dinner at the Japanese restaurant isn't for several hours, so we can take our time and enjoy things at a relaxed pace.  As with everything about this vacation, she was completely and utterly lying.  She's still in a constant hurry to see and do everything all at once.  And I still have to keep up while carrying everything.  And I still get bitched at for not taking pictures despite the fact that she refuses to stand still for any minute length of time.

So we breezed through the countries and got to Japan with still hours to spare.  Taking the girls into the Japanese gift shop was a colossal example of poor judgment.  Picture what you think a Japanese gift shop would look like.  The colors, and toys, the commercialism.  And since it's early in the afternoon (read: nap time) and the girls are tired, this makes for a very poor combination.  They wanted everything.  To play with everything, to buy everything, to have everything.  They just shouldn't have been brought there.  Sam was being particularly loud with her tantrum, as usual, so I picked her up to take her out of the store.  Then Jen bitched at me some more claiming that we should just stay in the store and let them scream and who cares what anyone else thinks.  Fine, she can stay with the girls.  Either way, I'm leaving the fucking store.  I have no interest in standing around with screaming children while not buying anything.

Turns out there was more interesting stuff outside of the store.  And when one isn't at a constant running pace, one can actually take a moment to enjoy the scenery.  There was a nice pond with a waterfall, some interesting architecture, etc.  And in the back of the area was an art exhibit depicting ancient Japanese spirit folklore and its influence on modern anime.  Awesome.  Way more interesting than standing around an angry Jen.

Since there was so much time left, we continued on to more countries.  Countries to which we'd already been, but must now visit again because the pace must be maintained.  At some point we walked past a stand that was selling funnel cakes.  I hate funnel cakes.  I can't say for certain if I've ever tasted one, but I hate the presence of them at tourist attractions.  It's hot and miserable outside, and the area around the funnel cake kiosk just makes it worse.  The last thing I want is any kind of dry sponge-like substance coated in powdered sugar.  Even the smell of it makes me parched.  So I guess I don't really hate funnel cakes, I just hate the area around funnel cakes.  And there's no avoiding it.

At some point Jen's parents noticed that they were missing an umbrella.  It is, after all, something extra to carry, remember?  It's inconvenient in every possible way.  So it was decided that Jeff and I would go back and look for it.  Wonderful.  Naturally, this meant walking past the funnel cake kiosk again.  Jeff immediately found the umbrella in Japan, where he had left it while sitting somewhere.  So he picked it up and we headed back to join the group.  This meant walking past the funnel cake kiosk again.

By this time we're noticing that Sam's unhappiness has exploded into burning rage.  She is pissed about something.  It takes a while for us to make out what she's saying, and Cammy eventually helped us translate what it even means.  Sam kept shouting "It's not Japanese!"  See, in each country children are invited to get a small cardboard bear and color/decorate it.  When finished, a representative from the country would write the child's name on the back of the bear in that country's native language.  We did this in Japan, so "Samantha" was written on the bear in Japanese.  Apparently Sam mistook this to mean that the word "Japanese" was written on her bear, and to her this was grossly incorrect.  So we stopped in Italy and got another one and made sure the person wrote "Samantha" just to be safe.

We watched the horizon as another torrential downpour quickly came upon us.  By the time it reached us we were out of the countries and back in the main part of Epcot.  We made is to some ride that starred Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye, which is pretty cool.  It also involved sitting down for a while in an air conditioned building, which I enjoy.  However, the writers for this video ride broke math.  See, at one point during the video there was a Jeopardy game where Ellen was playing against some brainiac (played by Jamie Lee Curtis, I think).  Apparently in the first found, the brainiac swept the questions and ended up with $17,800.  The odds of this score being achieved in the first round of Jeopardy are fairly low.  I'm pretty sure it can only happen if the very last question is of $100 value, is the only Daily Double on the board, and the contestant wagers their entire purse on it.  Mathematically possible, but unlikely.  However, after going on some adventure in her mind where she suddenly becomes intelligent, Ellen returns in the second round to sweep.  And at the end of the second round, she now has a score of $17,800.  (This leads to a showdown between the two of them in Final Jeopardy where Ellen wins by saying something stupid and completely inaccurate.)  Exactly how is that score achieved by sweeping the second round?  All of the point values are doubled and there are two Daily Doubles.  She would have had to strategically lose a number of questions in order to match the score.

As we made our way back to a covered area in Epcot (since it's still raining), I noticed that any and all pay phones are occupied by the Dominican teenagers.  Really?  Pay phones?  Are those still a thing?  I guess they are for Dominicans.  We tried to stay under the dry area, which is sort of a wide covered walkway and seating area between a store and a restaurant or something.  Naturally, one expects a lot of people to be in this place when it's raining.  We anticipated this.  What we did not anticipate was that some kind of drumline show was taking place here.  I guess Disney can't pass up an opportunity to be loud and obnoxious, even when people are just trying to get out of the rain and lightning for a few minutes.

During our little break I went to the rest room, at which point I was presented with a challenge to overcome before entering.  Well, it wasn't so much my challenge.  I just had to wait while some guy faced the challenge of exiting.  Apparently he doesn't know how to use a door.  It took him a couple tries to open and walk through the bathroom door.  I really don't know how to describe it beyond that.  It's just... wrong.

It's the afternoon, it's raining, this sounds like the perfect opportunity to exercise that plan of taking it easy in the afternoons, going back to the hotel to nap when tired, etc.  I'd just like to point out again that this entire premise was complete bullshit.  It was a lie to get me to go to Disney.  And I'm never going to believe it again.

We spend some time in some shops before we need to go back to Japan for our dinner reservation.  The stores aren't terrible, I suppose.  They're exactly what one would expect.  But there's one small problem.  I can't find any 2XL shirts.  This is America.  More specifically, this is a tourist mecca in America to which millions of obese people dream of going.  Of all places, Disney should sell large shirts.  But no, I can't find any.  And I could really use one or two since the rain is causing me to change clothes more often than expected.

The Japanese dinner was very good, but it wasn't as good as the Japanese restaurant in the mall in Columbia, SC.  And it was way more expensive.  But I did enjoy this one a lot more because it was a nicer atmosphere and the staff was a lot more polite.  Like, proper Japanese hospitality polite.  It was very much appreciated.  One thing was wrong, though.  See, in these restaurants in the countries of Epcot, they make it a point to not only serve traditional food from their cultures, but to also be staffed by people from their cultures.  Our chef was of Japanese descent, his parents were Japanese, but he was from Pensacola.  Specifically, he looked and sounded exactly like Lucky from King Of The Hill.  Authentic experience, indeed.

After dinner we wandered back to the Canada section to meet up with Jen's parents.  It provided a good place to sit and listen to a live band.  A Canadian Celtic rock band.  If you don't think that sounds awesome, you're wrong.  It was a welcome break to the overall vacation.  At one point the guys in the band made a joke about taking requests for Canadian rock music and hearing a request for Justin Bieber.  A worthwhile attempt at humor, I suppose.  But if you want to play Canadian rock, Rush or STFU.  I understand, however, that such is a lot to ask of musicians.

Jen's parents went back to the hotel again, and I envy them again.  We, on the other hand, had some more time to kill before the Epcot illuminations show.  It's a decent lights/fireworks show, I'll admit.  But I've seen it before.  Anyway, in an effort to kill time Jen decided that we could just ride the monorail around and back again.  Seems to make sense, and again I'm not one to turn down a place to sit for a little while.

But it wasn't enough to just ride the monorail.  She had to advertise the fact that we're riding the monorail.  See, it only went to one place and back again.  I guess by this time in the day it doesn't make its usual rounds anymore.  So we went to that one place and didn't disembark.  I guess Jen felt the need to tell everyone around us why we didn't disembark.  And she did it in a way as to be laughing about it like it was a joke we were all sharing.  We're not all sharing this joke.  Nobody cares that we're riding the monorail.  The people in whose way we have placed ourselves certainly aren't interested to hear that we're in their way for no particular reason.  So not only are we doing something stupid, but we're advertising that we're doing something stupid.

While on the ride, Jen said something about how we're going to need to get up early tomorrow.  (Aren't we on vacation?  What's with the no sleep?)  Given this, I suggested that we get to bed early tonight.  "Why?" Jen said, "I'll just wake everyone up in the morning.  I don't care."  Again, it's great that she explicitly states that she doesn't give a shit about anybody but herself.  The rest of us can discern this complete lack of consideration for others and complete social ineptitude from her actions, but the explicit stating of it just adds a level of assurance, in case we weren't completely convinced that she's a bitch.

Upon disembarking the monorail back at Epcot, we took the usual steps to get the girls into the stroller and get it up and running.  Some impatient prick of a Disney employee told us that we need to completely leave the platform before they can go.  Dude, you just told us on the speaker that this was the last stop of the night.  What the hell are you in a hurry to go do?  And aren't you people supposed to be friendly and accommodating to the guests?  We were just about ready anyway, so I pretty much ignored him.  It took another moment before I was ready to move with the stroller, and once ready I began to so move.  Then Jen started making some comment about how we don't have to go just because he said and he can wait for us and how I shouldn't go.  No, see, I'm ready to go now.  This has nothing to do with what some dude said and everything to do with the fact that I'm currently in a state of standing around not doing anything and would rather begin walking.  But that's not good enough for Jen.  Once she knows that she's inconveniencing someone else, it becomes her mission to be as inconvenient as possible, even if it means inconveniencing ourselves in the process.  I don't want to stand here just to spite some random guy I'll never see again.  So what we have are three levels of consideration for others here:
  1. Wanting to go out of one's way to do what others say.  (This is where Jen thinks I am.  And sometimes I am indeed here, but not today.)
  2. Not caring.  (This is where I am.)
  3. Wanting to go out of one's way to do the exact opposite of what others say, for no other reason than the fact that they said it.  (This is where Jen is.  This is where I will never be because it involves inconveniencing myself for no reason.  Jen loves to inconvenience herself and then complain about it.  It gives her something to talk about.  I'd rather just get over it and get on with my day.)
On the way to the lake to find a spot for the illuminations show, we passed a family of three.  Specifically, we were moving past them with a large stroller at a fairly high rate of walking speed.  As we were just passing them, I noticed that their small child (approximately four or five years of age) was darting around the parents on the side away from us.  After years of driving through residential neighborhoods, this triggered my "a kid is about to run out into the street" instinct.  So I put my hand on the stroller Jen was pushing and indicated to look out.  She didn't.  Luckily, the kid didn't run out in front of us.  So all was well.  But Jen went on to explain to me that she would gladly have run the kid down and that it would have been his parents' fault for not keeping him under tight control.  Seriously?  You'd run over a small child out of spite just to make a point to his parents?  You're a fucking sociopath.  Normal people don't think like that.

The illuminations show was as expected, except that there was nowhere to sit.  Also, for future reference if anybody ever plans on going to Epcot, make a note of the wind direction before the show starts.  We were downwind of the fireworks.  You do not want to be downwind of the fireworks.  There are a lot of them.

On the way out of the park we were treated to more chanting and cadences from the various companies of Domincan teenagers.  And they couldn't even do a cadence correctly.  Nobody was in sync.  Aren't you people supposed to have rhythm or something?  You're a disgrace to annoying groups of people everywhere.  And they would be shouting the most random shit.  One woman kept shouting "Blanco! Blanco! Blanco!"  White?  What the hell are you talking about?  Why do Spanish people turn otherwise normal words into something that's supposed to mean something?  I'm reminded of a Hispanic girl back in high school whose name was Nadie.  Not Nadia, Nadie.  In her parents' attempt to spell her name in a cool way, they named her "Nobody."  Good job.

When we got back to the hotel, I arrived in the room first.  Jen wanted to go to the concierge desk before coming up, probably to complain about something.  I think Cammy went with her, so it was just me and Sam going up to the hotel room.  Upon entering the room, Jen's parents knocked on the door between the two rooms.  (See, Jen leaves that door open all the time.  The first thing I do when I enter the room is shut that damn door.  I want people to have to knock before entering my hotel room.  It's my private space.)  Jen's mother then proceeded to hand me something wrapped in tin foil and explain to me that it's Jen's chicken.  When did Jen have chicken?  When did you guys take it?  Apparently this was from several days ago, before any of us got to Disney.  Thanks.  Thanks for handing me old half-eaten food.  My day is complete now that I've been given somebody else's old half-eaten food.

Day Four

I didn't get kicked last night, so that's good.  This isn't to say that I can get a good night's sleep around here, just that I wasn't physically accosted during the night.  It's at least a step in the right direction.

This morning we're off to Hollywood Studios.  And the first thing to do there is apparently the Muppets show.  That's cool, I like the Muppets.  As we enter the theater, we begin moving down the second-to-front row.  Given that there are hardly any people here, we aren't going to feel bad about stopping in the middle instead of moving all the way to the end of the row.  Seriously, there's hardly anybody here.  But apparently some random guy was upset at this.  There's more to it, however.  See, he wasn't following us down the second row.  He was moving across the front row, which has occasional breaks for handicapped seating.  His goal, apparently, was to get to the center break and move back to the second row.  But we got there first and sat down.  He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to.  It clearly upset him.  Seriously dude, piss off.  We started down this row, we have dibs on this row.  I can understand the people following us into this row being upset, but not some douchebag who was planning to cut across from a different row.  Them's the breaks, move on.

The Muppets show would have been good, if it weren't for one little detail.  The main character in the show was exactly like that God damned purple dragon from the Eric Idle thing from before.  It's some stupid little flubber-like bullshit pseudo-character (and it's purple, since that's what the board of executive imagineers decided distracts people the most, I suppose) that flies around and tries to be really wacky and annoying.  If this is what entertainment is becoming, count me out.

One interesting thing about the Muppets show is that it's not just 3D, it also integrates animatronics in the theater as well as a person in a Sweetums costume who comes out near the end to run around.  That's pretty cool, and is definitely indicative of the Disney style of theme park entertainment.  But there was a small problem with suspension of disbelief in this particular case.  Sweetums was both on the screen and in the theater at the same time.  Seriously, that's just sloppy.  Walt would never have settled for shit like that.  Pay attention and pick a character who isn't on the screen.

Apparently Hollywood Studios is some kind of sensory overload for Jen.  I can't count how many times we doubled back, darted down various streets, etc.  It got to the point that I was completely lost.  When I had to go back and get the stroller from some random stroller parking, I had no idea where it was.  I had to re-trace our roundabout route to find it.  (As it turns out, I have absolutely no sense of direction in any Disney theme park at any time.  I generally blame Jen for this, since we're always moving and never stopping and she's always directing.  I've never had time to look around, or a need to know where I was going.)

It's miserably hot.  I miss the rain.

We had lunch at the 50s Prime Time Cafe.  I actually like this place.  The food is alright, home-cooked style hearty meals.  The theme is pretty cool.  Your group is treated like a group of children sitting at the kids' table at a family reunion.  The staff is entirely committed to this charade, and it's fun to watch.  Last time we were here they genuinely wouldn't bring Jen her dessert until she finished her vegetables.  They even did "the airplane" with a green bean on a fork.

This time our waiter wasn't really into it.  He said the lines, but he didn't seem comfortable with really being pushy about things.  This may have been due to the fact that Jeff wasn't doing it right.  He was trying to act like a child to be part of the theme, but he just ended up acting like a terrible customer.  The kind of customer that food service employees hate.  A guy from another table was actually made by his waitress to sit in the corner and think about his behavior before he can eat his meal.  It was fantastic.  Our experience was ok, nothing more.  Also of note, the room in which they sat us was apparently an echo chamber.  This made lunch with Jeff and infuriating experience.

The rest of the stuff to do around here apparently involves movies from the 50s.  The entire theme park seems to be built around the perennial optimism of the 1950s American culture, where we were invincible and could do no wrong.  You know what else was part of 1950s American film culture?  Constant singing and dancing with terrible, ear-shattering sound.  It's that loud soprano choir sound of people singing through old distorted speakers.  Except these aren't old speakers.  These are modern speakers tweaked to sound distorted.  You know how that works on modern speakers?  By making it louder.  It hurts to listen to this crap.  And it hurts worse when it's the same crap playing on a tight loop while we're waiting in line for stuff.  Disney has like 90 years worth of film content.  Why does this highlight reel play on a 90-second loop?  Because I hate you all, that's why.

As we continued through the park, Jen continued to be stupidly demanding.  I was pushing the stroller, and any time we'd go up a ramp I'd speed up a little to make the trek.  I wanted to hit the ramp at a faster speed, and I wanted to clear the ramp quickly.  So, of course, she kept bitching at me to slow down.  Are you fucking kidding me?  Jen is bitching at me to slow down at Disney?  The irony tastes like burning.  At least I have a good reason to speed up a little for ramps.  It's called physics.  What her reason for speeding up everywhere else?

As the day continued she was apparently starting to feel sick.  You don't say?  Spending several days running around a crowded theme park with shitty food in the July sun in a Florida swamp?  And you're feeling a little under the weather?  Who'd have thought?  I feel like shit, shut up and deal with it.  But no, she wanted everyone else to carry all her stuff and be at her beckon call for anything she wanted.  Remember all that stuff about "I'll just wake everyone up, I don't care" and "I want to keep going, I don't care if anybody else is tired."  Ya, this is the result of that.  I truly, genuinely and honestly do not give a flying fuck how sick you feel.  All you care about is yourself, so go care about yourself by yourself.

Now it's time to go have our character dinner at Mickey's Backyard BBQ.  Just when I thought Disney couldn't screw up anything else (just kidding, I never thought that), they made this place.  First of all, it's way too God damned far away.  We had to drive to another resort where it's located, that much is reasonable.  But after driving there, we had to get on a bus.  Apparently this particular resort has its own internal bus system, because it's too damn big to walk around.  This bus made several stops before it went to the complete other side of the resort and dropped us off for the restaurant.

But we're not there yet.  Now we have to walk a half mile or so to get to the restaurant.  And as we approach, I learn that the word "restaurant" doesn't really apply to this particular venue.  It was a large outdoor shelter, completely open air.  That is, completely open to hot, miserable air.  Because I was minding the children, I lagged behind a little bit.  So our party was slightly separated when we arrived at the entrance.  Jen told the "hostess" how many were in the party, and they were being led inside.  I was maybe 20 feet behind, with the girls running to catch up.  When I arrived, some guy got in my way and asked how many are in my party.  My party is already being seated, dick.  Pay attention and get out of my way.

I can't even begin to describe how loud this place is.  There's some kind of terrible country music band and I guess they figured if they cranked the volume as high as it will go then nobody will notice how bad they are.  It was actually so loud that I couldn't hear Jeff.  Jeff.  As some guy was seating our group, he was explaining how the buffet works.  Thanks, I know how a buffet works.  It basically means I'm paying you so that I can go get my own damn food.  Anyway, I missed the explanation.  So Jeff turned and shouted to ask if I got that.  No, I didn't.  So the guy came over to explain it to me again.  Under these conditions that means leaning in real close to my personal space and shouting at me.  No, I do not want to hear your instructions.  I do not want to hear about the food.  I want you to get the fuck away from me right now.

Jen asked why I'm grumpy.  Good to know that after nine years of marriage you don't know me at all.  So I sat down at the uncomfortable picnic tables surrounded by noise and people and hate and, well, sat. Shortly after I got there the band played The Devil Went Down To Georgia.  Badly.  They just turned the tempo way up so that the fiddle player had a valid excuse to not be as good as Charlie Daniels.  The music just went downhill from there.

The food was pretty bad.  For such a large venue at such at large theme park you'd think they could have a decent selection on a buffet.  But no, it was pretty limited.  They tried to call it a BBQ, but there was no pork.  There were hamburgers and hot dogs and I guess some chicken.  And it was all thoroughly flavorless.  The baked beans were particularly awful.  Also, since the whole thing is open air, there are bugs everywhere.  What genius decided that put an open air restaurant in a Florida swamp?

I don't entirely mind the idea of this character dining thing, where there's some kind of theme and some Disney characters hang out and have fun with the kids.  But this one just doesn't stop.  Constant unending noise and heat and bugs and crowds and hate.  At some point, while I was sitting there trying to keep my sanity, some of the Disney characters walked by.  And Chip and/or Dale patted me on the shoulder as he passed.  NO.  DO NOT ENGAGE ME.  KILL YOU.  BULLETS IN YOU AND KILL.  SO MUCH ANGRY.  JUST.

As the evening's "entertainment" continued, some rodeo guy came out onto the main floor to do some rope tricks and shit.  At one point he was using a whip.  On a large wooden dance floor.  The crack of that thing hitting the floor, fed through the sound system... it was unbearable.  And Jen wanted me to video tape this crap.  The kids wanted us to get food for them, take them to go see the characters, etc.  There was just one problem.  I had no way of discerning what my children wanted.  I couldn't hear anything they said, even if they were shouting it.  I guess we kind of figured it out and they had a good time.

As I continued to sit there, I noticed some guy across the way.  There was something wrong with him.  He was just far enough away that I couldn't tell if he had a French mustache or if there was just something wrong with his upper lip.  At that distance he just looked unnatural.  Also, when he'd scratch an itch on his chest, as he was prone to do from time to time, he would reach into his shirt from underneath in order to do it.  This made it look like he was wearing a half shirt, touching himself, and allegedly French.  Everything about this man was uncomfortable.

Eventually the whole ordeal was over and we got to leave.  This meant another trek across the hot wilderness of this resort to find the bus stop.  Then we got to ride the damn bus again, which seemed to have twice as many stops on the way back, just to get to our car.  At this point Jen got even more sick and she threw up after we got off the bus.  Yay.  We made our way to the car and I proceeded to drive us back to the hotel.  Except that getting out of this particular resort was a pain in the ass.  Is it so much to ask that they put up a few signs to point toward the exit?  The driving area, and how it interacts with the bus route and what not, is needlessly complicated.  No signs, no arrows, no nothing.  Just one ways and booths and buses and you just have to figure out how to get the hell out of there.  Good job, Disney. Pricks.

Turning in a little earlier than usual for bed tonight.  Finally.

Day Five

Jen was mad that nobody wanted to go down to the cafeteria and get her breakfast for her.  Nobody else feels like having breakfast.  Just her.  She can, in fact, go get it herself.

We went back to Magic Kingdom today.  The first thing on the agenda was the jungle boat ride thing.  It's usually alright, but today it was needlessly crowded.  Very crowded.  As we went on through the park I noticed an emerging pattern with Jen and her parents.  They don't wait for the children.  They are clearly here for themselves and only themselves.  Each, individually, their own self.  I thought this was a trip for the kids, but clearly I was mistaken.

We made our way to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which brought up another age old Disney tradition for Jen and her parents... complaining about the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  See, it's not exactly the same as it was so many years ago when they first saw it.  Therefore, in their minds, it's completely wrong and terrible.  Apparently they only want to pay a lot of money for something they've already done.  Things must never be new.

Moving through crowds and waiting in lines has an interesting pattern to it as well.  It reminds me a lot of how people in Montana drove when I was there.  It's like a young child who defies order solely for the purpose of defying order, not for any specific reason.  The pattern is simple... If you're behind someone, you must go around them so they don't make you wait.  If you're in front of someone, you must slow down and make them wait.  This is how Montanans operate.  They hate everyone.

Eventually it was time for the girls to do this pirates league thing where they get made up and dressed up like pirates.  It was really cute, actually, and the girls love pirates.  Cammy, of course, couldn't decide on a pirate to be.  There was a selection of six from which to choose, and she didn't want any of them.  Oh, and they couldn't customize.  The woman explained to us that these faces were licensed by Disney and couldn't be changed.  How stupid is that?  You're painting kids' faces.  Just paint their damn faces.  Nobody is going to look at a pirate child in a Disney theme park and think, "Hmm, I wonder if that's from some pirate competitor of Disney's movies.  I should go give someone else my money."

So the girls did their pirate thing, and it was cute as hell.  Sam was especially into it.  She did the poses, made the "ARRRG" noises, and totally pirated it up.  It was pretty awesome.  We went on to get the girls swords and stuff in the gift shop.  Cammy saw a parrot that was part of some set of other stuff and wasn't sold by itself.  But she really wanted it, so I figured I'd go ahead and buy it for her.  Then, when we took it out of the packing and gave it to her, she hated it.  Apparently it didn't look right in her opinion.  Well, parrots look funny.  Small stuffed parrots look even funnier.  But she got terribly upset about it.

Granted, it's a hot afternoon and we've been at this for days.  The girls are tired and cranky.  They deserve some rest.  Unfortunately, rest is not allowed on a Disney vacation with Jen.  She and her parents don't wait for kids.  Ever.  They must proceed through the Disney theme parks and attractions in their own way and at their own ridiculous pace.  It doesn't matter that the kids are miserable and crying, nobody else cares about the kids.

Rain come in again, so we had a break in the play area under Splash Mountain.  At least the weather was doing its part to try to keep the schedule that was promised to me.  As the rain lightened up again, we ventured out into the park again.  I guess at some point, in the most crowded tourist attraction on the planet, Jen accidentally bumped into someone.  And this woman got pissed at Jen for this.  Jen claimed that she'd said sorry, but the woman must not have heard her.  This was... out of character for Jen.  To say the least.  I'm conflicted as to whether or not I hallucinated the whole thing.

By this time we've met up with Jon and his girlfriend Amy.  (By the way, Amy is awesome.  She's a software developer and she's into D&D.  How cool is that?)  Apparently Amy isn't into rides.  I'm not really into them either, save for a few exceptions.  I guess she has some kind of phobia for even remotely scary track rides.  But seriously, what does that matter?  I just don't want to go on rides because I hate everything.  I like her excuse better.  But Jen's family decided that they were going to tease her.

We went to one of the most mild rides we could think of, the people mover.  It just moves around on a track and takes a tour of that section of the park or something.  It's not really a ride, just something to sit on that moves.  But they still teased her for no damn good reason.  Although there was one stupid thing about the ride.  To get onto it you have to take this moving sidewalk up a ramp.  It's like an escalator but without the steps.  As we neared the top, it lurched to a halt.  Hard.  Like, everyone on the damn thing nearly fell forward.  What the crap, Disney?  Making all these ride things keep moving is all you do.

After the ride Jen sent me to go get the stroller.  So I went to get it.  When I got back, they'd relocated.  They were now somewhere entirely not where they were when I'd gone to get the stroller.  Awesome, I love being ditched.  They flagged me down and I went over to where they were.  Later this happened again when I was sent to go park the stroller.  On that occasion Jen called me to tell me where they were, except the directions she gave me were wrong.  Remember how I have no sense of direction in a Disney park?  Thanks for exploiting that, Jen.  I really love being ditched.

Next we went into a Monsters, Inc. interactive cartoon comedy show.  It's kind of cool, actually.  Given that it's a live computer-generated cartoon with real people backstage doing the voices, you can kind of notice that the mouths don't move correctly sometimes.  But for the most part it's rather impressive.  We actually got to interact with the show in two ways:

First, when waiting to go in, they encourage people to text jokes to them.  So I sent in my favorite bad joke I heard long ago: "How to catch a unique rabbit?  You 'neek up on it."  They used it in the show.

Second, during the show they put the camera on various audience members to participate.  There's always some disheveled tired guy who gets the camera on him several times, known as "that guy."  Jeff was that guy.  After the camera was on him a couple times, we had Cammy go sit next to him so she could be on camera too.  It was awesome.

We went to go check in for our reservations at another restaurant for tonight's dinner.  It was going to be another character dining experience, so after last night's misery I'm not holding out a lot of hope.  But the restaurant this time has a nice and classy facade, so we'll see how it goes.  While I waited outside with the girls and Jen was at the podium checking in, I noticed some random guy walk by.  Specifically, I noticed his t-shirt.  It said "100% Chapin" and had a picture of a chicken on it, then said something else in what I assume is Spanish.  What.  The.  Hell.

The dinner wasn't bad at all, actually.  It's still buffet, which is still a bit low-brow, but at least it's not its own circle of Hell like that God damned Mickey's Backyard BBQ.  It was indoors, air conditioned, only as noisy as it needed to be, and the theme segment happened for only part of the time.  The rest of the time we were allowed to just enjoy our meal.  We were even seated near the edge of the whole place so there was lots of room for people to get around us.  Not bad at all.

After dinner it was time to go back on rides and shit.  Apparently the plan was to go on Splash Mountain.  We've been there like four times, hasn't anybody gone on it yet?  This time, however, they were being insistent that I should go on it.  No, I don't want to.  Not because I'm no fun, but because I hate you and everything you stand for.  It's simple.  I don't want to.  There's no reason.  There's no convincing me.  There's nothing wrong with my decision.  I just don't want to do something that I don't want to do.  That's all.

Afterward Jen and Jeff wanted to take some stupid steam train to the other side of the park.  Of course, Disney doesn't provide any convenient way of getting a stroller onto this train.  The only ramp up to the platform is the exit from the platform, so we're going against traffic.  Then, upon reaching the platform, there's an old turnstile.  So I have to fold up the stroller and carry it over.  Then we stand around in a miserable swampy Florida evening with no breeze whatsoever to wait for some train.  When the train arrived, it became abundantly clear that it's not designed for strollers.  I had to lift it up onto the train and hold onto it the whole time as it was delicately balanced on the seat.

The plan started to emerge that we would watch the electric parade again and maybe the fireworks and then go back to the hotel.  It's getting late and we're all tired.  So we watch the parade.  Then we head back into the park.  At some point someone tells me that the fireworks aren't going to be for a long time.  Someone said 11:00.  Mother fucker.  I'm not staying here until 11:00.  We ended up going to some Winnie The Pooh thing.  I like Winnie The Pooh, so that's cool.  Jen, however, refuses to wait for people when going on rides.  It's really annoying, actually.  I'll go park the stroller with the girls, and Jen will go to the ride.  In the time it takes me and the girls to get to the entrance, other people have already gone in between Jen and the rest of us.  What the hell is the point of going in ahead of the rest of your group?

After the Winnie The Pooh thing, the fireworks started.  I guess it wasn't 11:00.  That was a good lie.  And it turns out that the other side of the park, where we were, was a great place to watch the fireworks. They were going off in multiple directions and it wasn't crowded.  Way better than that nonsense near the castle.

The subject came up again that Jeff and I didn't want to stay out any longer.  At this point it's down to just Jeff, Jen, the girls and me.  Jen kept arguing that she's fine and doesn't want to go back.  Ya, Jen, we're not talking about you.  We're talking about people other than you, which is apparently a subject you don't even know exists.  Such quotes as "I'm not tired, and I don't care if anyone is, I want to keep going" are exactly why people don't like you.

After some deliberation it was decided that Jen and Cammy would stay while Jeff, Sam and I went back to the hotel.  On the way back down Main Street, I couldn't help but notice a significant number of people with disposable cameras.  Well, I only noticed because I walked past someone as they were snapping a picture.  So I guess I ruined that picture.  Good.  Why the hell aren't you using a digital camera like a normal person?  Low-end digital cameras are under $100 now.  Also, for reference, your little disposable camera with a built-in flash that you can't disable isn't going to get pictures of the Disney castle that's 200 yards away from you at night.  Not gonna happen.  Get a normal person camera.

Getting back to the room with just me and a sleeping child was the best part of the entire vacation.  It was quiet.  I was able to take a nice shower to wash off the muggy miserable heat of the day.  I put on a pair of clean shorts and climbed into bed.  It was wonderful.  Briefly.

Day Six

We started the day with a trip to Animal Kingdom.  The bus ride to Animal Kingdom supposedly sucks, Jen and the girls tried it while I was flying to Orlando, so we drove.  This meant we had to go through the little toll booth things all the park entrances have.  Normally this isn't a problem, but apparently this time it was.  You know how it is when you approach a toll booth.  You try to choose the best lane.  We chose a lane, and when the single car in front of us got to the stop apparently the woman in the booth went to go do something else.  Nobody manning the booth.  Cars are waiting.  Disney, why do you insist on doing everything as poorly as possible?  Can you get nothing right?  You have a fucking army of people walking around the parks making sure that every bench is wiped clean, that every trash is emptied, etc.  But you don't have someone who can man an actual work station.

As we got to the parking area, Sam threw up.  Apparently someone thought it would be a good idea to give her chocolate milk for breakfast in the Florida July sun.  Brilliant.  Jen started to clean up, which is kind of a one person job since there's room for only one person in the doorway, so I stood and waited.  Normally I'd get supplies, but I don't know where anything is in this horribly over-packed vacation car.  At one point Jen got pissed and told me to get the paper towels.  Sure, where are they?  In the trunk.  Ok, that makes sense.  I got them.  Then she wanted a bag.  A specific bag?  I don't know.  The instructions she gave me, I shit you not, were: "In the bag bag, get a bag."  Imagine my surprise when I apparently got the wrong bag.

 As we made our way to the entrance, we had to go through one of those card reader turnstile checkpoint things that all the parks have.  Jen had the stroller, so they were guiding her through one of the gates.  So I started to go through the turnstile next to her.  But the woman told me that one's broken.  Ok.  Normally when they're broken they put a special bag over the whole card reader thing so you can identify it as broken from a distance and adjust your walking path accordingly.  But I guess this time they decided not to do that.  So I get into a nearby line and try to go through that one.  But when I put my card through and put my finger on the fingerprint reader (seriously, a friggin' fingerprint reader), it doesn't grant me entrance.  I end up having to try five or six times before the damn thing works.  Are they all broken?  I have a damn card that gives me access to the parks.  Let me the fuck in.

At this point Jen has gotten the stroller through and has begun walking into the park.  So once I get through I need to catch up.  However, once I get through some random woman with a clipboard stops me and asks if she can have my zip code.  NO, GOD DAMN IT.  JUST LET ME INTO THE FUCKING THEME PARK.

The companies of Dominican teenagers are still everywhere.  Still shouting, still in the way, still annoying.  And, of course, they still can't maintain a cadence.

Animal Kingdom is miserable.  Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to take a Florida swamp and impose upon it an African jungle?  It's officially the most hot, humid and miserable place on Earth.  And the fact that every surface is textured to look like a jungle doesn't make it any better.  We went into some 3D show for A Bug's Life and even the seating was textured.  I sat with my back against a thick root in the chair.  Is that shit really necessary?  Can Disney not even make a damn chair without ruining it somehow?

We then proceeded to the jungle safari truck ride thing.  It's similar to the boat ride in Magic Kingdom, except it's in a truck and there are real animals.  So the girls will love it.  If we can ever get on, that is.  We wait in line, get to the front, and then we get to watch half a dozen empty trucks stop in front of us, not take on any passengers, and drive away.  What the hell, Disney?  It turned out that the guy who operates the little gate thing that opens up wasn't able to open the little gate thing.  Every time a truck would stop in front of us, some kind of beeping would go off.  And he'd have to shut off the beeping.  But if the beeping went off, that meant the gates can't be opened.  Is this really such a complex system?  Can we not just have a button that says "open the gates" and let the little man press the button?  The truck is stopped.  It's stopped exactly where it's supposed to be stopped.  There is no danger.  But apparently some sensor somewhere is preventing the guy who operates the ride from actually operating the ride, necessitating that hundreds of guests just stand around in the heat and watch the ride that they're not allowed to use.

Someone eventually showed the guy where the override switch is, and we were allowed onto the ride.  (I'm really glad there's such a complex operational panel with hidden buttons and levers for a machine that does one thing.  Open and close a gate.)  As we made our way through this jungle, I couldn't help but notice all of the things that aren't jungle-like.  The road had manhole covers.  There were traffic lights in the trees to tell the driver if it's safe to proceed.  There were mirrors at every intersection so the driver could look for other drivers.  Tons of stuff all over the place that has no business being in an African safari.  What happened to the Disney magic?  That whirring sound you hear is Walt spinning in his racist frozen grave.  This is just sloppy work.

We stopped for lunch at some random cafeteria-style eatery.  As usual, I took the stroller and found a seat while Jen got the food.  It was an alright lunch, until it was descended upon by Dominican teenagers.  It was like a God damned soccer game broke out in the middle of the building.  They were all running around and shouting, they completely filled the building, etc.  By the grace of God alone did we manage to get the stroller out of there.  I'm surprised nobody stole it.

Then it was time for my favorite part of the whole ordeal... The Lion King live show.  See, I love The Lion King.  It was a damn good movie.  It may be the only Disney production I've ever really and truly enjoyed.  And the live show at Animal Kingdom is fantastic.  It's basically like a mini musical circus themed to The Lion King.  And it's indoors and air conditioned.  But in order to get there we had to pass through another staffed checkpoint.  However, as with apparently every single fucking little booth on the entire Disney property, nobody is manning it.  Remember the cash register the day I got here?  Remember the toll booth coming in this morning?  Remember almost every entrance to almost every park?  There were two women who were supposed to be manning this checkpoint.  But they were both off to the side helping some idiot with directions.  This was apparently a two-person job.  Eventually one of them came over and started waving people through.  If all you're going to do is wave people through, take out the fucking booth entirely.  It's not necessary.

After the show we decided we'd had enough of Animal Kingdom and headed back to the hotel.  I actually got to have a lazy and almost relaxing afternoon in an air conditioned room.  Finally.

Then it was time to drive to the Contemporary hotel for our dinner reservations at Chef Mickey's.  I like the hotel, I just hate the people who staff it.  As with every hotel here, there's a little booth at the entrance that checks if you're allowed in.  We have resort cards, we have reservations at Chef Mickey's, so we're allowed in.  All we do is ask the woman how to get where we need to go.  Apparently this was too difficult for her.  She assumed that we want to know how to get to the valet parking and the bell hops and all the hotel services that we don't want.  No, we just want to park the damn car and walk into the building.  Like normal people.

So we had to go find the parking ourselves.  In a sea of parking areas, we had to loop around to find an actual entrance to one.  And even when we did, it was difficult to navigate.  They'd roped off areas of the parking lot for valet parking purposes, and in doing so they created dead ends in the traffic flow.  Idiots.  A parking lot should never have a dead end.  Backing up, turning around, etc. are all difficult operations to perform in a parking lot.  Really people, this isn't hard.  Why can't Disney get hotels right?

The Contemporary hotel looks fantastic.  If I ever wanted to come back to this God-forsaken place, I'd much rather stay in a place like this.  We got to look around and see the details of the hotel a lot while we stood around and waited to be seated for our reservations.  Apparently Disney can't manage a restaurant either.  Did we have reservations for a table, or did we just have reservations to stand in line?

And since this is the expensive hotel, it came as no surprise that some spoiled bitch was putting on a show for us.  We were in a line of people waiting to talk to the hostess.  And this woman skipped ahead and informed that hostess that she has a reservation.  It went something like this:
  • "Excuse me, but I have a reservation."
  • "Yes, ma'am, this line is for people with reservations."
  • "No, my reservations were actually for five minutes ago."
  • "All of these people have reservations, ma'am."
  • "But mine are now, so I should be seated now."
  • "Ma'am, all of these people have reservations now.  We're seating people in the order they check in."
The woman eventually gave up on her quest for special treatment and walked back to the end of the line, complaining the whole way.  It's Disney, expect lines.  At least we were entertained for a brief moment.  It's always nice to watch a spoiled brat be told to get back in line.

The dinner is a good bit nicer than anything we've had yet.  I appreciate that.  Though it's still buffet, which means we're still waiting in lines and dealing with retards.  How can people not figure out how to get food at a buffet?  These strange food service tools operate much in the same way as normal spoons, they're just larger.  It's really not that difficult.  But unleash a gaggle of people upon it and it becomes difficult.  One thing that helped pass the evening was that the drink I ordered was the first drink of the week which actually contained alcohol.  Sweet, wonderful alcohol.

I noticed the Dominican teenagers aren't here.  Thank God.  This is probably a bit pricey for them, which suits me just fine.  Though there's still no shortage of families dressed alike in some little theme, usually just matching t-shirts.  There was one small group who wore t-shirts that I couldn't quite figure out.  You know the "I [heart] NY" shirts?  Where the "NY" is on the second line, so the four characters form a square?  It was kind of like that.  But it said this:
I [heart]
I pronounced it as "I, Tard."

After getting our food, seated near us was the spoiled bitch from earlier.  And her spoiled daughter and spoiling-in-process grandson.  The woman and her daughter looked a lot alike.  In all the wrong ways, actually.  The fake dyed blonde hair, the make up, the brand name clothes that some guy bought for them, the boob job, etc.  And they kept the wait staff busy with their questions/requests/demands/bullshit.  This provided a nice show during dinner, actually.  Neither of them were remotely qualified to watch this small child.  Clearly the hired help who normally raised the kids for them wasn't invited on the vacation.  It became abundantly clear that what we were looking at in these women was last season's trophy and this season's trophy.  Awesome.

Apparently there's still time for a trip to a park after dinner, or so I'm told.  So we go back to the hotel for a brief stop and then get on a bus to Hollywood Studios.  Except the trip through the hotel lobby was unnecessarily inconvenienced by the fact that the buttons for the automatic doors suddenly don't work.  Good thing nobody in a wheelchair is trying to get through.  At least with a stroller I can be expected to open a door manually.  Again, Disney can apparently do nothing right.

The main purpose for going to Hollywood Studios tonight was to see the big show at the end of the night, I forget what it's called.  It's actually a fairly impressive show.  But getting there was an adventure through a crowded Hell, as usual.  First of all, children suck.  They walk around erratically, swinging and flailing their arms in excitement.  This makes it especially hazardous to try to get a stroller around them in a crowd.  Second, adults suck.  Remember the phenomenon of people stopping in a middle of a moving crowd to wait for their groups, only to create a traffic jam that their group can't get through?  This one guy is the fucking king of these idiots.

See, people with strollers were instructed to stay to the right because at the top of the ramp the stroller parking will be on the right.  So we made our way over.  Naturally, a significant amount of stroller traffic was gathering on the right-hand side of the walkway.  At one point there was a trash can on that side, so the strollers had to move around it on the left.  We and another couple both tried to move around it at the same time, side-by-side.  This would have worked, except the asshole in front of us decided to stop and turn around to look for his group.  He was standing directly in both of our way, one foot blocking the wheel of our stroller and another foot blocking the wheel of their stroller.  We couldn't go around him on the right because a trash can was in the way.  We couldn't go around him on the left because collectively we had forced a dense bottleneck of people in that direction.  The asshole just stood there, hoping that his party would magically catch up despite the fact that he is single-handedly stopping several hundred people from moving forward, some of whom are his group.  We had to yell at him a few times before he figured out that he was in the way.

After the show Jen wanted to keep seeing the rest of Hollywood Studios.  The girls are cranky and tired, I'm cranky and tired, nothing is open, etc.  There are maybe four or five attractions still open at 11:00 at night.  So everybody flocks to those, creating wait times of well over an hour.  I'm not going to stand around for over an hour in the middle of the night just to see some stupid five minute movie about Disney movies.  So eventually Jen agrees that this is stupid and we should go back to the hotel.  Not for the right reasons, mind you.  But the net result is the same.  We got to go back and sleep.

Day Seven

We went back to Magic Kingdom again.  But first we had to wait for a "handicapped" person to be helped onto the bus.  I guess a fat-ass riding a scooter is now just as handicapped as someone in a wheelchair?  Bullshit.  Fat is not a handicap.  Get off the damn scooter, stop eating cheeseburgers, and you'll be fine.  Be assured that, in all the crap I've been saying about other cultures in this writing, I equally hate American culture.

When we were at Magic Kingdom, Jeff suggested that we go on some ride.  Jen pointed out that Cammy really doesn't like that ride.  Jeff's response, verbatim, was: "Who cares?  The rest of us might want to."  Again, apparently I was entirely mistaken when I thought this trip was for the kids.  Apparently trips to Disney are for Jen's family to re-live some trip they enjoyed twenty years ago, and for no other purpose.  Everything must be made identical to that trip.  Anybody who wasn't part of the original trip is just dragged along to watch Jen's family have a good time.

As we were waiting in line for something, some random old guy started talking to me.  Well, he didn't start out by talking to me.  He started out by trying to signal to me somehow.  Several times.  Given that I don't know who this idiot is, and given that we're in a crowd of people, I didn't realize he was signaling to me.  Also, he's like five feet away.  If he wants my attention, he can simply speak.  Which he eventually did.  And what he wanted to talk to me about was the water-spraying fan I was holding.  I guess he wanted to know if it worked and was worth the money.  It's water and a fan.  Of course it works.  It performs a very simple function, providing a spray of water and cooling air.  And it's like $15.  If you're being stingy about $15 as a trade off for personal comfort, that's your problem.  $15 is nothing.  I'll gladly pay $15 just to get out of this line and stop being bothered by random idiots.  Another thing worth noting was that this sixty-something man was wearing a half-shirt.  Not a shirt that doesn't fit, not something tied off, nothing like that.  A genuine half shirt designed to cover only the top half of his torso.

While we waited in this line, I was treated to Jen constantly complaining about how the people with fast pass access are getting in ahead of us.  Maybe she had a valid point about the ratio of fast-pass people to stand-by people, but that point was entirely lost in her incessant complaining.  It need only be brought up once.  Bringing it up every time the line moves an inch just makes you annoying.  Also while we waited in line, they were discussing what other rides we should go on today.  As usual, they mention the Small World ride and then look to me for validation.  See, as I'd mentioned before, on a previous trip years ago we got stuck on that ride for damn near a half an hour.  It was awful.  But it was a long time ago.  I got over it the moment I exited the ride.  But now, in their minds, I am forever associated with that incident.  So at times like this, when they mention that ride, they then proceed to stare at me in anticipation of some comment.  I'm not going to comment.  I don't care.  Go on whatever stupid ride you want.  They're all the same bullshit, and they've been the same bullshit for thirty years.

Walking around this park after a week in this awful place is exhausting.  Not the act of walking, not even the heat and humidity.  Just watching.  It's a constant party, an unending celebration.  I'm reminded of Slurms MacKenzie.  When you go here for a couple of days, it's a celebration.  When you watch this celebration continue for a full week, it begins to sink in that it's always like this.  These people are insane.

At some point during the day, after going back to the hotel, Charlotte and I ended up on a bus together with the girls on the way to Epcot.  Jen got separated because she wanted to go to the front desk to complain about something, and I had no interest in standing next to her while this happened.  Anyway, I wouldn't have thought a normal bus ride, something we've done at least a dozen times since being here, could be made worse.  But she found a way.  I had the stroller, which is excessively large even in its collapsed state.  So as usual I was taking up standing room while holding it up.  She took up standing room next to me.  Then the bus, apparently in a completely unexpected turn of events, began to move.  So Charlotte fell into me.  You're standing on a busHold on to something.  Something other than me.

At some point during the bus ride, her phone rang.  I'm sure you heard it, no matter where you are.  Her phone ringing was, by a wide margin, the loudest thing on the bus.  Including the bus itself.  After we got off the bus, we found a bench on which to sit before entering the park so that we could wait for the others.  At this point she began trying to strike up a conversation with me.  This was a futile effort.  I'm miserable, I hate you all, I don't want to have a conversation.  Especially when you're asking such questions as "What's your favorite part of Disney World?"  My favorite part is the part that's on fire.  Seriously, I'm clearly miserable and having a terrible time.  At least, "clearly" to anybody who pays attention to other people.

As we sat and waited, I saw a kid entering the park with his family and he was operating a radio controlled car.  Cool toy.  I'm sure it keeps the kid properly distracted back at the house.  Expect to lose and/or break it within five minutes here.  Idiots.

One of the things that caused us to be on the bus a lot longer than usual was that our bus, for the first time in this entire trip, took a route through another resort called Riverside.  And apparently there are several stops at that resort.  I guess we're at the only place that's just a relatively simple hotel, with an entrance and a bus stop.  Everything else further complicates things for no reason.  Anyway, during the bus ride I got to listen to her complain about all of the bus stops at Riverside.  Then, when Jen and Jeff caught up at Epcot, it turned out that their bus did the same thing.  So I got to listen to Jen complain about all of the bus stops at Riverside.  Then Jeff caught up with us (he's understandably slower, bad hip), and I got to listen to him complain about all of the bus stops at Riverside.

Jeff still had some of his priority tickets left, and he and I were going to use them to get on to some ride called Test Track.  Something about cars, I don't know.  I was hoping it would be like a go-cart track, but sadly that was not the case.  I want to run some people down.  Anyway, the ride is apparently closed at this time because of the weather.  Of course, there are still a ton of people standing around waiting.  The lines aren't closed, just the doors to get in.

We'd separated from the rest of the group to go make this attempt, and since it was closed we had to re-join the group.  So Jeff called Charlotte with a simple question, "Where are you guys?"  Apparently it's physically impossible for the two of them to exchange useful information over the phone.  I guess she was asking him about the ride, or telling him about something unrelated, or some other nonsense.  She was completely incapable of answering the question.  I guess it's a good thing she was with Jen, because apparently Charlotte was completely lost.

As we met up with them again, I noticed a group of Domincan teenagers.  A handful of groups, actually.  This time, however, each group had between four and six people in it.  I wouldn't have otherwise noticed them if they weren't still wearing their themed t-shirts.  (Did they even wash them?  It's been like a week.)  See, this is a much more manageable group size.  I like this shift.  Stay that way.

Walking through one of the stores, we stopped at a display for some character called Duffy.  Apparently Duffy is a bear that Disney created whose face and paw print resemble the classic Mickey ears shape.  How clever.  Duffy, also, is an entirely invented and purposeless character.  There's no movie, no television show, no nothing.  He was created solely for the purpose of adding another set of toys to the inventory at these stores.  Of course the kids want Duffy merchandise.  They don't know the difference.  But they don't want it for any other reason than the fact that it's right there in front of them.  They don't know his name.  He doesn't even need a name.  He has no story.

Rain and lightning started coming in again, so we took shelter again.  At some point Jen told me to go grab a snack or two for the girls, since we still have meal plan points to use up and it's our last day here.  Sure, no problem.  Where do I go?  She vaguely indicated a direction with her finger and said "that way."  Really?  That way?  What you're telling me is that somewhere in that general direction throughout the Disney theme parks I might find food?  Be more specific, damn it.

So she pointed out a specific landmark and said to get food there.  So there I went.  The building had two side-by-side doors, which apparently entered into two separated lines leading up to the same counter.  I'm sure it sounds like a good idea to anybody who has never stood in a line before.  Naturally, the group of Chinese women in front of me were physically incapable of placing an order for ice cream.  And there's no getting over to the other line because it's divided all the way out the door.  So the line including me and behind me stands around and waits for clueless Chinese women to figure out what "chocolate" is, while the other line moves along nicely.

After getting some cookies for the girls, I went back inside where they were to find them.  I guess they were in some kind of IBM "smart planet" eco-technology exhibit.  They were nowhere to be found, but I quickly spotted Jeff sitting by the stroller.  That works for me, I can sit too.  But first I needed to wait for someone near him to get up and go somewhere else.  And apparently he was surrounded by The Klumps as they tried to figure out where to go, while shoveling fries down their kids' throats.  Eventually they left as Charlotte also arrived.  I let her sit first, since that's polite.  Then I tried to sit.  But this three-person couch has a critical design flaw.  In its attempt to be curvy and futuristic, it just ended up being stupid.  Leaning back by any measure just pushed me along a curve and toward the middle of the couch, where Charlotte was sitting.  There's no way to sit to the side on this couch.  You either cuddle with the person in the middle, or you don't sit.  Once again, why the fuck can't Disney just get a simple chair?  Everything is designed to look like something, and in the process ends up not being a chair.

At some point a little man came by to tell us that the exhibit is closing and we need to leave.  Apparently it closed at 7:00, and it's now 7:15.  Well, stuff is still on and running.  It certainly doesn't look closed.  We got up, getting ready to leave.  But we still need to wait for Jen and the girls to come back from wherever in the exhibit they are.  The little man, in his little Indian voice, kept insisting that we should leave and that the outside is covered so we won't get wet from the rain.  Did he not notice the empty stroller?  Listen buddy, I understand that you claim the exhibit is closed.  But I'm looking at some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary.  Namely, everything is still on and running.  Tell you what.  Go find my wife and kids.  Find whatever it is that's still retaining their attention.  Shut it the hell off.  Then I guarantee you they'll come back over here and we can leave.  But until you actually close the exhibit, I maintain that the exhibit is not closed.

After leaving that nonsense we made our way over to the Coral Reef restaurant where we were to have dinner.  Waiting outside the restaurant, at some point I needed to throw away the napkin from the snack.  But there's no trash can in sight.  None.  You'd think there would be one conveniently located at the entrance/exit of this building, like there is at every other building in the world.  But no, not this one.

At least the dinner was good.  And this time someone actually brought us food instead of us having to go get it our own damn selves.  The food wasn't bad.  Still not worth what we pay for it, but not bad.  And it's finally some light seafood, as opposed to heavy buffet food all the time.

As a final thing to do for the night, Jeff and I went to check on that Test Track thing again.  On our way there I saw tons of people running around, trying to get out of the mild drizzle.  And they were all wearing flip flops.  As if flip flops aren't retarded enough, have you ever seen someone running in them?  They look certifiable.  The stride is wrong, they slap against the puddles like little retarded children, etc.

So we used the remaining two priority access passes to walk directly onto the ride.  Well, actually, we walked directly onto the pre-ride video briefing.  It's basically a useless little five minute video designed to make you forget that you're standing in a line.  Then, after the video, we get dumped back into a regular line for the actual ride.  Priority access, indeed.  We basically got priority access to... a line.

The ride itself is just a car, which seats six people (two rows of three), which goes through some stupid little car stress test things before getting to the meat of the ride, which is a high speed banked track.  That last part is actually kind of fun, but the rest is just stupid.  While waiting in line, various teenagers were disembarking the ride after their car emerged from some tunnel.  One group of teenage boys decided it would be funny to emerge from the tunnel screaming in terror.  How bloody original.  You're not being funny, you're not being witty, you're not the first people to have this awesome idea to scream on a ride that everybody already knows is lame because it's a Disney ride.  You're just idiots.

Did the ride, enjoyed the last few moments of it.  Now we're done for the night and it's time to go back to the hotel for a final terrible night's sleep before I can go home and relax after my... what was it called again?  "Vacation"?

Day Eight

The last day was like any other final morning in a hotel.  Pack everything up, make sure we have everything, get ready to leave, etc.  It was fairly uneventful, as vacation days go.  (At least within the scope of this story, anyway.)  I said good-bye to my girls, and understandably the reality of when I might get to see them again won't really sink in for them until sometime after I'm gone.  They're small children, their attention is on toys right now.  But for the most part they get it.

By just before noon I was to board the Magical Express airport shuttle to go back to the airport.  It was a little unintuitive, though.  The ticket said to wait out front where the shuttle comes.  Out front, off to the side, I found a sign that said "Magical Express Departures."  Makes sense.  While sitting there, a Magical Express bus arrived, drove right past me, and stopped in front of the lobby.  So I walked over and asked if they were taking departures.  The guy informed me that the departures are over by the sign.  So... these buses are one-way?  Is that somehow supposed to explain the array of empty buses back at the airport last week?  Those weren't for arrivals?

Eventually the bus came and I went back to the airport.  I'm almost done with all of this Disney bullshit.  But they had just one more thing to fuck up before they were done with me.  When the bus arrived at the airport, the driver told us to remain in our seats while he gets the luggage ready from under the bus.  Well, I don't actually have any luggage under the bus.  I have my 1.5 bags with me.  (Recall that I don't bring everything I own when I travel somewhere.)  So I figured I'd ignore him and just get off the bus and go into the airport.

But no.  Mother fucker closed the door after he got off the bus.  I didn't know you could even close a bus door from the outside.  Nor would I feel comfortable trying to operate the mechanism to re-open it.  I've been detained by Disney.  I now must sit here and wait while he helps someone else with their luggage.  Just like the bitch in the tollbooth.  Just like the bitch at the Lion King entrance.  Just like the bus drivers who have to help handicapped fat people get on a bus.  Fuck you, Disney.

I finally get off the bus and out of Disney's reach.  Now I'm in a normal airport, with normal people and normal businesses who operate in normal ways.  I can go home now.  I can handle this.

Never again.