Plastic Magic

Okay – you’re completely stressed out over a couple of projects at work that are in the midst of coming off the rails, sleep deprived, and just barely staving off a cold. What’s the best thing you can possibly do to ensure a few days of calm in which to regain your footing and sanity? Why not pile into the family car and drive the wife and cantankerous kids to Disneyland on what may be the busiest weekend of the year? Hey – why not?

And that’s just what we did. “Trepidation” does not begin to describe my emotions as we headed south. I pictured all the ways my sanity could snap, all the inconvenient opportunities for them to push me over the edge (figuratively) to the point of me pushing them over the edge (literally). The plastic kingdom of rampant consumerism and mass marketed manufactured fantasy made real. Screaming kids, teeming crowds, intolerable boredom fed by lines next to which the Mao’s rice shortages would have paled by comparison. A practically perfect recipe for disaster, and the stuff epic songs are made of.

And yet, it wasn’t. Somehow, against all odds, this has been a blissful vacation (so far). Met by our ex-Pittsburgh friends Britt and Dayne, who drove up from San Diego with kids Alex and Greta, we repeatedly stumbled into kindness and flat out good fortune. Bursting into Tomorrowland full of plans, we passed the always favored “Star Tours” and noticed its inexplicably empty “10 minute wait” queue. Was it out of service? We wandered in and raced halfway through the turnstiles to discover that, yes indeed, it was running right and proper, if damned near deserted, at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon. We were on the ride in just over 11.5 minutes.

Next up, Space Mountain! Okay, here the sign claimed a 45-minute wait, so we wandered ahead to our next POI – the Matterhorn. Where again, inexplicably, there were perhaps 20 people ahead of us in line. Yehaw! Climbed on, launched, and barreled through the tracks (with Andy unleashing a continuous rendition of her “rollercoaster shriek” in my ear) less than five minutes later. The kids were ecstatic when we hopped out – “Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again!” but when we got back to the line, it now stretched halfway around the mountain – as it should have. What had happened during those moments we found it empty? (We did swing a “Fast Pass” to catch Space Mountain the next morning, and woohoo – this is not the clunky old ride I remembered. Fabulous – completely fabulous. I’ve got to stop sitting next to Andy on these coasters, or I’m going to be deaf as post by week’s end.)

And so it went throughout the day. We were disappointed in Fantasyland to discover that the Peter Pan adventure spoiled our luck – the line had a 40 or so minute wait, and our kids were running out of steam. I suggested we try the ever-so-less-interesting Pinocchio ride, but Jeremy wasn’t going for it. He and Devon offered to hang out by the sword in the stone while the rest of us went for a cruise through Geppeto’s woodshop.

When we got out, Devon informed us that we’d been “magicked” – a young Disney employee approached Jem and asked if he’d like to try the Peter Pan ride. She waited for the rest of us to return, then led us all in through the back entrance and plunked us down in the first available cars. “Enjoy your stay!” she called, and disappeared back into the crowd.

With luck like this, we couldn’t stop playing. Er, riding. Kept going until way past the kids’ bedtime. Caught the fireworks display from Main Street – possibly the best fireworks I’ve seen anywhere – then headed back in for more. Devon and the kids (who’d split up from me and Dayne while we got their luggage) got “magicked” again in front of the Indiana Jones ride, and by the time we all got back to our rooms, everyone was ready to collapse into happy little exhausted dreams.

There had been no fights. There had been no screaming. The longest we’d waited was maybe 20 minutes, for “It’s a Small World”. Through all the plastic, mass-marketed artifice, the kids had had a magical day. More perhaps importantly, and more improbably, so had we.

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