We’re young. We’re in love. We’re getting married. And then, WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD.
But first, there’s the whole wedding thing. The girlfriend was never one of those “OMG WEDDING” girls. She wasn’t the type of girl who had dreamed about getting married since childhood. She recoiled from phrases like “my special day,” and things like t-shirts and hats that spelled out the word “bride” in plastic rhinestones. She had no desire to plan a wedding. So in the beginning, we were just going to go down to the courthouse and have dinner with our families afterwards. That would be it.
But then her mother suggested throwing a small reception. And then my mother wanted to do the flowers. And then the girlfriend’s coworkers started looking up dresses for her. And from there, it basically became a thing. A freakishly snowballing thing that involves more than a hundred guests, a caterer, a DJ, dancing lessons, round-table lunches, and fancy table cloths with names like Taj Mahal and Dazzle Ocean.
Then, the other day, while the girlfriend and I were in Target, she paused in an aisle that had wedding stuff. She picked up one of those baseball caps with plastic rhinestones that spelled out the word bride and placed it on her head and looked at me.
Now I’m even on a diet. Yes, the freaking Surfing Pizza is on a diet. I’m the one that counts Sun Chips as a vegetable. (I won’t back down on that one, either.) For breakfast, I’ve been having protein shakes. For lunches, salads. And for dinner, I eat my own tears.
Initially, we weren’t even going to go on a honeymoon right away. Yeah, it’s a celebration of starting our lives together, but we already started all that last year. We’ve already pooled our money together. We own a freaking house. It would be better to save money. The house needs new windows. The driveway is going to need a re-surfacing.
I don’t even know how it happened. I kind of blacked out. I decided to check out the Disney website, and from there I went on a clicking binge. Suddenly I’d booked us five nights at The Polynesian, Disney’s swankiest resort. I don’t know if the Polynesian is actually swanky. I just wanted to use that word. I do know that’s it’s ridiculously expensive. It has its own volcano. It has its own waterfall in the lobby. The monorail has its own stop at this bitch.
In the pictures, it looks like a magical, peaceful, romantic oasis. In reality, this pool will be wall-to-wall with hundreds of little roly-poly butterbeans splashing and swallowing the chlorinated water by the gulpfuls.
Like many American children, both the girlfriend and I experienced the rite of passage in going to Disney World when we were kids. Mostly, I remember only being thirsty and hot. And really thirsty. And really hot. And the crushing disappointment that the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse was not a ride and just a bunch of stupid steps to walk up.
We’re not those people. We’re not really Disney weirdos. From doing research on Internet forums, I can assure you, they exist, and in frightening numbers. They seem to refer to themselves in third person a lot. It’s kind of spooky. They use words like “dad-a-tude,” and refer to Cinderella as “Cindy.” I’ve been preparing myself for the culture shock of leaving our mid-Atlantic liberal bubble and going to a scary state like Florida. For the onslaught of overzealous parents and their entitled children in matching t-shirts, for creepy mid-westerners in over-sized Winnie the Pooh shirts, for fat people on scooters, and for people in fanny-packs. OH GOD, WHO STILL CALLS THEM FANNY PACKS? WHAT IS THIS THE NINETIES?
I’ve been reading everything I can about Disney, researching the attractions, and planning our trip. Just as the girlfriend isn’t a “bridezilla” with the wedding stuff, she also does not care to plan trips. She would prefer to experience Disney World existentially, wandering down the carefully-designed paths, meeting characters, and happening upon the attractions. She has no expectations or worries or schedules. She is a free spirit.
Me, of course, I’m the complete opposite. I’m too neurotic. I’m counting the cobblestones on those carefully designed paths. I need a schedule. I’m even terrified of flying. Or really, of dying in a fiery plummeting tube. Without blinking, I’d easily choose driving the fifteen hours to Orlando. But the girlfriend won’t let me do it. We’ve already booked our flight.
“You need to relax,” the girlfriend tells me.
I like the Woody Allen quote, “Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.”
I don’t like spontaneity. I’m the one who gets all bent out of shape if we run out of Ranch dressing in the refrigerator.
“Just use the light vinaigrette,” the girlfriend insists. I don’t even know how it’s possible, but she has a seemingly infinite supply of light vinaigrette. IT’S ALWAYS IN THE FRIDGE. IT NEVER GOES AWAY.
“But I hate light vinaigrette,” I say.
“But you liked it when my parents served it to you,” she says.
“I was being polite!”
I want a plan, a routine, the I-word: an itinerary. I’ve become Honeymoonzilla. Clark Griswold and Danny Tanner are my heroes. Remember that episode of Full House when they went to Hawaii and Danny made everyone follow the Clipboard of Fun? They were on a boat trying to find an island. Then it turned out the island was just a potato chip crumb on the map. Uncle Joey!
Speaking of that episode, whose outfit was more amazing in this photograph? Discuss.
I needed something. Something to reel in my neuroticism. Something to guide me and help me to focus. I needed a way, a road to travel.
This is the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2011. Or alternately titled, the Pathologic and Obsessive-Compulsive Guide to Disney:
It’s 854 pages of how to do Disney World only for the most hardcore and utterly psychotic. It spoke my language.
Here’s an excerpt on how to book dinner at Cinderella’s Castle:
“To get a table, you must dial in at exactly 7AM, exactly 180 days before you want to eat with Cinderella. Synchronize your watch to the second with the correct time as determined by the US Naval Observatory. About 18 seconds before 7AM EST, dial Disney’s phone number, waiting to dial the final number at seven seconds before the hour. As soon as a live agent comes on the line, interrupt immediately. Do not engage in pleasantries. Even two seconds will seriously diminish your chances of getting a reservation.”
The entire book is filled with this sort of intensity. How to cut your wait in lines by four hours per day. How to get on every ride in the park in one day. How to gain an advantage at the opening “rope drop” at the fifty-yard point where Disney employees will step out of the way. How to discreetly steal and drain the blood of a newborn infant for afternoon re-hydration.
With this level of intensity, the reader must make a decision. Some readers might back down, shy away and decide not to go. Walt Disney World is not for the feeble. Or the reader may decide to take on that intensity, to rise to the challenge of it, to slay Mickey Mouse and to conquer the Magic Kingdom, WITHOUT STOPPING TO PEE.
The book offers precise touring plans dictating what park to go to on what days and what exact minute to get on each ride. It requires militaristic discipline, including waking up at 6am to be outside the Magic Kingdom turnstiles 50 minutes before park opening.
“6AM?” the girlfriend asks.
“Well, the park opens at 9AM, and we have to get ready and eat breakfast and be at the gate at 8AM. Okay, we can wake up at 7AM,” I explain.
“I have to blow dry my hair in the mornings! Especially with the humidity! That means 6AM for me. MAYBE EARLIER.”
And we won’t be happening upon and exploring the Disney attractions at our whimsy. Oh, no. There is no spontaneity in The World. The researchers in this book have calculated an exact formula, a science to boarding each Disney attraction with a wait of less than ten minutes.
DAY 1. MAGIC KINGDOM. Make a beeline to Tomorrowland at precisely 9:01AM to ride Space Mountain, and then immediately cross the park to hit up the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, sprinting afterwards to Adventureland to go on the Jungle Cruise. IMPORTANT NOTE: At this time, if 10:30AM has passed, we must skip Buzz Lightyear in order to make Peter Pan’s Flight before 11AM, at which point it could be expected to have a 40 minute wait, which could have dire consequences on the rest of plan. In other words, COME ON WE HAVE TO RUN THERE.
“What kind of honeymoon is this?” the girlfriend asks.
This is not a honeymoon. THIS IS A CRUSADE. There will be stops for food, yes. Water, yes. I’m not a slave driver here. But not for resting. There won’t be time. We can not be distracted by Disney characters. Not even Mickey in his safari outfit. Besides, he’ll swamped by a massive horde of children, and I’m afraid of children.
The World is not for the weak. We’ll plan for thirteen to fifteen miles a day walking. We’ll have to start training for endurance. We only have six months. I think we should go to the gym this week and start with a 10k on the treadmill.
“What do you think?” I ask.
“I think I’m not going with you anymore,” the girlfriend says.
“You’re going to have to get on board. The CLIPBOARD OF FUN. Besides, I’ve already told them it’s our honeymoon. And that it’s our first time visiting.”
“That’s not true. We both went when we were kids. I met Figment the Dragon.”
“I know, but maybe we’ll get special treatment.”
And oh yes, I’m expecting extra special treatment. Not just a room upgrade. Not just courtesy mints and towels folded like origami Disney characters. Not just a hand-written letter from Michael Eisner on my pillow, personally congratulating me on my marriage. Yeah, so Eisner hasn’t been the CEO of Disney for what, a few years? But I have no idea who is now.
I also want a private special luau thrown in my honor and hosted by Mickey Mouse, in his safari outfit. No children around. Just me and Mickey Mouse. Holding my hand in his over-sized four-fingered glove. Gazing at each other under the moonlit sky, around a crackling camp fire on the beach.
And oh yeah, the girlfriend. Well, by then, the wife. She can be there, too. But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, there’s the whole wedding thing.