Island Packet – Having just returned from a trip to Disney World, which is the Happiest Place On Earth — particularly if your happiness revolves around spending $34 for a horse-worthy feedbag of french fries — I’m hesitant to write about anythingthat makes people there not happy, something that actually makes them grumpy, something that takes what should be the happiest day of their year and turns it into an inky-black godless horror show of misery.
I am talking, of course, about the Carousel of Progress.
Sweet head of Walt, have you ever been on that thing? It’s animatronic, it’s got that ghastly “It’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” song and it takes about four hours to complete. Listen, I like Disney World, and I like progress, but I’d rather take an hour-long bath in a scalding hot spring of ranch dressing than ever set foot on the Carousel of Progress again.
But also, there’s this thing called the FastPass, a semi-new (to me anyway) Disney development that allows you skate by the suckers in the regular line and get right up front. It’s part of a somewhat recent trend here in our convenience-happy America that allows people to obtain (pronounced “purchase”) means to instantly jump to the front of lines or, more importantly, feel like they have. You may be familiar with this if you’ve ever bought a “pre-sale password” for a concert or first-class airline tickets.
And let me tell you this: You may have walked a picket line, you may have been in jail, you may have spent the last three weeks facing down your oppressive Burmese government, but there is nothing on this giant melting Earth to equal the resentful looks you get while using a FastPass to scoot right by a couple of monorailfuls of sweaty Midwestern vacationers who have been waiting an hour and 10 minutes to go on a 90-second roller coaster involving Aerosmith. It was like our party was traipsing around the Fat Camp with a box of piping hot Krispy Kremes, rubbing the glaze all over ourselves and laughing maniacally like comical animated pigs, or maybe Larry Craig.
Here’s how we landed the FastPass: Twenty minutes into our day of Disney magic, which cost $43,500, we stumbled into a Disney-MGM Studios representative handing out what amounted to FastPass variety packs: lanyards that had FastPasses for six rides on each. For someone like me, who enjoys standing in lines at theme parks about as much as, say, clawing out my eyes with a straightened-out paper clip, it was like a golden ticket to FastPass Shangri-La. I hate to be hyperbolic, but when you’re walking around Disney with a FastPass lanyard, you feel like I imagine God does, when he’s at Disney World, anyway.
So not only did we get to whiz past the jokers in the regular-jerks line, we got to do so a fairly unbelievable six times in a row. It goes without saying that about halfway through our FastPass adventure we were pretty well hammered on our own power, and felt like we were in some alternate Disney universe, where lines did not exist and you were welcome to all the mouse you’d care to eat.
It felt a little like this anyway, as I must confess here that though we have a small and vibrant 3-year-old at home, he did not accompany us on the Disney trip. Why would we leave a 3-year-old at home on a Disney trip, you might ask, shortly before calling Child Services? The answer is simple: I am an unconscionable swine. Not only did we not take him to Disney, we didn’t tell him we were going to Disney — only to Orlando, which he seemed to buy, indicating that even 3-year-olds want nothing to do with Orlando. (One day, my son will read this column and realize that the time Daddy told him his parents were going to the “newspaper conference,” was the first official time they lied to him, setting off a lifelong string of appalling untruths that would include, but not be limited to, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and what actually happened to many of his goldfish).
Anyway, the FastPass lanyard got us through Disney-MGM Studios, so we headed to Epcot, now without lanyards but still feeling pretty invincible. As such, we got a regular old FastPass for something called the Maelstrom, an alleged attraction in Epcot’s Norway that may be the second-worst ride ever. The Maelstrom is less like a ride and more like a casual afternoon stroll through some kind of fjord; I don’t know how you make Vikings lame, but the Maelstrom totally nailed it. Point is, using a FastPass to bop past 40 minutes’ worth of Maelstrom riders made us feel pretty awful about ourselves, actually, and we decided then and there to use our future FastPass powers only for good and not evil. Unless, of course, we could use one to shut down the Carousel of Progress.