Tuesday, June 17, 2008

WTF, Walt?

Nothing beats the excitement of an energy-filled car ride to Disneyland, especially if you haven’t been in a while. It’s a Tuesday, barely into Summer, and since our passes black out for a few weeks during the busy Summer, we thought it would be a great idea to hit the Magic Kingdom one last time until Fall.

Apparently, so did a lot of other people.

We assumed it would be busy today, as it is the start of Summer; school’s out, and all of those people clutching their newly minted diplomas and shouting, “I’m going to Disneyland” when asked what they are going to do with their lives after graduation, did exactly what they said they’d do: They went to Disneyland, today.

The family got up early, and early for us means that we were out the door around 9:45, trying to avoid the freeway traffic from the regular working stiffs, but getting to Disneyland before it got too crowded. I hoped that the heat would keep most people away, but oh how I was wrong.

Sometimes, you don’t even realize that it is going to be a stampede at Disneyland until you’re in the gates and standing in a two-hour line for a thirty-second ride. You start to look around and see that the throngs of crowds are elbow-to-elbow in one swirling sea of humanity. Then you ask yourself, “what am I doing here?” and promptly leave and give it a try another day.

This time, it appeared obviously crowded as soon as we got off the freeway… at Ball Avenue, three miles from Disneyland. The left lane packed up early, and so we sat there and sat there and sat there, creeping our way toward Harbor Boulevard, then up the hill over the I5 Freeway and slowly down the other side toward Ox Road, where the employees turn left.

By this time, I was in the right lane. Looking over the top of the cars in front of me, I surmised that I needed to be in the left lane in order to make the left turn from Ball Avenue onto Disneyland Drive, as there were two left-hand-turn lanes but both of them originated from the left lane on Ball.

I turned on my blinker, and as I suspected, especially after sitting in about 35 minutes of traffic waiting for this moment, nobody let me in. Then, the left lane moved forward as the light at Ox Road and Ball Avenue turned green, allowing for a few people to sneak through the intersection to the other side. As that happened, a space opened up in front of the car next to me, so I took it, nosing my truck into the spot. It wasn’t like I cut off the person next to me; just took advantage of the fact that she was a little slow on the gas pedal. As I began to straighten out, the lady guns her car, jerks around me on the left and tries to get back in front of me again, pulling her car into the left-hand-turn lane that goes to Ox Road (where the employees turn).

Well, folks, I consider myself a patient man, not one to easily rile or one that is quick to lose his temper, but after 35 minutes of sitting bumper-to-bumper in traffic and only going a short distance, I was not going to be overtaken by some arrogant mom in her Tercel.

I laid on the horn, for about three seconds (which is a long time in car-to-car communication) and threw my hands up in the air at her in a double-fisted objection to her existence. I’m sure I swore, partly because what she did and the suddenness that she did it, startled me. I wasn’t expecting to be abruptly passed, especially since I didn’t do anything to make her take defensive maneuvers. Sure, if I had cut her off and she had to slam on the brakes in order to avoid slamming into me, I can see how she’d be upset. I would too. But she wasn’t moving quick enough and I took advantage of the open spot.

So, she’s next to me, slightly ahead and trying to edge her way back into the lane in front of me, partly in the lane and partly in the turn lane. I stomped on the gas and put my mirror right over the top of hers. It wasn’t going to happen, and I’m sure at that point, I would have caused an accident before letting her get in front of me.

I was about to roll down the window and let her know what I really thing of her and her driving… but I stopped. I didn’t do it nor did I do anything else because she had her daughter in the car. One of the many things I cringe to see or hear is someone getting demeaned or humiliated in front of their kids. So I let up, but I would be damned if she was going to get in front of me, regardless.

She sat there next to me until the turn-lane light changed, and instead of continuing the battle with me, she turned left onto Ox Road (where the employees are supposed to enter). A few minutes later, I saw her car appear on Ox Road, facing me, preparing to turn left.

As she sat there, I knew she wasn’t done with me… and I completely predicted what she did next. As she turned the corner, she glared over and gave me the finger. It was hilarious! I always find it funny to be flipped off, especially for something that wasn’t my fault. So I did the only thing I knew to do that would piss her off for the rest of the day: I laughed. Big, open-mouth laugh.

But if you think that’s how our morning at Disneyland turn out and that’s the end of the story, you’re sorely mistaken, as it went downhill from there… if that’s possible.

Finally, we were blessed by the Disney gods to make the left-hand turn onto Disneyland Drive. From there, the road splits into two destinations: the left lanes swing down and around to the parking garage for Disneyland itself, and the right lanes go up and over to the hotel parking lots. Normally, we would want to be in the left lanes for the garage because we were going to Disneyland, but for some reason, they had those lanes blocked, for reasons which I assumed were because the park was so crowded that the parking garage was packed to the gills.

Okay, so where are they going to send us? To the hotel parking? That seemed unlikely, but it was were the cones routed us. Up and over the hill to the east of the parking garage, the two lanes that service the Disneyland Hotel were merged into one lane for the right-hand turn onto Magic Way. Then I assumed they were going to route us into the back way, a one-lane alternate entrance into the parking garage from the south side. There were no signs directing us that way, and when you’re all going to the same place, a herd mentality takes over: just follow the car in front of you and soon we’ll be following each other in line to Space Mountain.

Nobody turned left from Magic Way into the Downtown Disney and Hotel parking lots, as it seemed that everyone around me was veteran Disneyphiles, all well versed in the various parking situations at the Magic Kingdom. Only a few cars turned left, which made sense because people go to Downtown Disney to shop. The rest went straight, along the road to the backdoor entrance to the parking garage… or so we thought.

That small entrance was blocked, closed, and we all ended up on Walnut Avenue, the western-most outside boundary of Disneyland… outside Mickey’s four-fingered grasp. What now?

I felt abandoned. They shuttled us away from the normal entrance to the garage, led us to the alternate entrance and never bothered to tell the guy responsible for it to open the gate. Instead, we ended up pushed away. I flipped a U-turn and went to the next logical place, the Downtown Disney and Hotel parking, thinking that they were opening that lot up to normal park goers. It turns out that they weren’t. It was taking tickets as much as any other day, but the lanes were thronged with similarly confused and befuddled visitors, all inundating the one poor guy stuck at his post, dealing with packed lines, malfunctioning gates and endless questions all with the same theme: “Why am I here?” and “Where do you expect me to park?”

I was surprised when his answer was “I don’t know, but you can’t long-term park here. You’ll have to turn around.” So, this is why this post is called “WTF, Walt?” I would like to think that Walt Disney would have never let something like this happen. Perhaps I’ve deified Walt or maybe I have an out-of-whack perception of the history of Disneyland and/or Walt Disney’s value of his guests.

We decided to leave. After all that, we decided that it wasn’t going to be worth it to even venture into the park to see what the lines were like.

But what to do? Go home? Do something else? We decided to go to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which is why there is a picture of an aquarium and not giant mice.

And boy was it nice. Instead of spending $58 to get the family in for a one-time visit (plus $7 for parking), we bought a year-long family pass for $125 which includes discounts on food and souvenirs, special passes to other events and free parking. Sweet!

A good day was had by all.

1 comment:

Ryan or Kara said...

I still say the crowds were there for the unveiling of the new Toy Story ride. Oh well, we had a great time touching the rays.


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