6:30 A.M. I’m guessing the character on the other end of the phone is Dopey, because this time nobody says anything after I pick up the receiver. Pluto, maybe, but I think he could muster at least a bark or two.
7:30 A.M. I’m not very good with wake-up calls. There’s no snooze button. I climb out of bed, finally, and wander over to the food court. (I do stop to put on clothes.) The food court at the Caribbean Beach is near the main swimming pool, and since we’re staying at Trinidad, which is right next door, it’s a pretty quick walk to half-decent coffee.
7:45 A.M. I return to the room with two cups of coffee and a bag of donuts. The children want absolutely nothing to do with the donuts. They want the candy in the minibar.
Every room comes with a fully stocked minibar with a little window displaying some of the goods available in there. Naturally, all the candy is fully visible in the window. The very first thing I did when we got to the room was remove the key to the bar and lock it in the room safe, then pocket the room safe key. Since then, the children have spent every available moment trying to figure out how to jimmy open the minibar. They even went so far as to go though my pockets looking for the key. They found the safe key, to their credit, but it of course doesn’t open the minibar.
So they have no interest in the donuts and I’m not going to let them have pez for breakfast any time soon. Deb is equally disinterested in the donuts. I happen to think they’re pretty good, and based on the amount of sugary glaze covering them, they should last at least a week or two.
8:45 A.M. We’re dressed and out the door. On today’s agenda: Epcot, which Disney refers to as “where we put all the boring rides.”
I’m looking forward to getting there, though, since I read that Disney has upped its efforts to make Epcot more exciting. They recently added a ride called Test Track, which, according to the Birnbaum’s Guide is the “most keenly anticipated in Epcot history.” It also calls it a “thrill ride of the highest order.” Reportedly, the Test Track is the longest ride in all of Disney World. It involves a journey in a faux car along a faux track. We get to sit in for the crash test dummies. Or something like that. Anyhow, it sounds like a lot of fun.
9:30 A.M. We get to Epcot and immediately start checking signs that will direct us to the Test Track. We find one. Apparently it’s located in an area called “Coming Soon.” This is coincidentally the same area it was located last year. Birnbaum will be hearing from my lawyer.
10:00 A.M. We find ourselves in line for “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.” According to Birnbaum, this is a highly recommended show, but what the hell do they know? Still, we have some time to kill, given that we have a 1:00 P.M. lunch reservation in Japan, and there’s nothing else to do except shop. Not that we wont be doing any shopping. But three hours of it is a tad much.
10:20 A.M. I have been to 3-D movies before. I saw “Jaws 3” in 3-D, and I enjoyed it all right, even though it was the most awful film ever made, with the possible exception of “Jaws 4”. (As I recall, the ad line was “Jaws 3-D: because 3-D is the only way to disguise just how much this film sucks.”) But the basic point I am striving, and failing, to make, is that 3-D movies are usually about as scary as a bad film with Michael Caine in it. No, wait, that’s “Jaws 4.” Um, forget I mentioned Jaws altogether. Let’s go to the next paragraph.
The children have never experienced a 3-D film, and “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” seems pretty much tailor made for their introduction to the genre, despite all the warnings. Just about half of the rides have warnings on them, by the way. Disney is very worried about our children. If you’re a child or a pregnant female person, and you’re going there, expect to be warned a lot.
The warning in front of this film reads “this film may be too intense for young viewers. And your wife. And you might pee your pants yourself, pal. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.” We ignore it.
To start things off, we’re ushered past a helpful Disney employee handing out special glasses, and into a large room with nothing vaguely resembling seats. There is a long pre-film film that introduces the basic premise of the actual film. It is a very long and boring pre-film. I think they do this to get an actual head-count of the children in the room, because by about halfway through it all of them are announcing just how boring they find this.
Finally, the doors open on the side of the pre-film film theater room and we all walk into some fairly standard rows of fairly standard seats where we sit down in a standard fashion to watch the film film. Then the fun begins.
To say that the effects are realistic is to grossly understate things. At the very beginning of the movie a glass neon sign is rolled forward until it appears to hover over the audience. This sign is subsequently shattered. Deb actually tries to brush the broken glass from off of the children. Already, Becky and Tim have adopted the fetal position.
But this is nothing. When a hundred cinematic white mice are accidentally let “loose” into the audience, gusts of air blast our feet, creating a sensation fairly similar to how a mouse might feel as it brushed past your leg. This is followed by lots of spontaneous screaming.
Then there’s the lion. It’s supposed to be a tabby cat, created by one of the contraptions in the film to hunt down the mice. It transforms into a lion’s head before they shut down the machine. The lion proves to be too much for Tim. He loudly announces that he doesn’t like this any more. Becky concurs. We remove their glasses, which solves the problem neatly.
After the lion we are treated to a gigantic snake (actually, it’s normal-sized; we’re shrunk) and, in the end, a gigantic dog. It’s hard to say objectively which is worse. On the one hand, the snake is infinitely more terrifying. On the other hand, the dog sneezes on us, and we’re all pelted by a fine spray. This isn’t terrifying, but it’s pretty disgusting.
11:00 A.M. Having escaped the movie, Timmy announces that if he ever sees that again he’s going to have to sit in a different seat. The seat he was in, it seems, was bad, because “everything was coming right at ME!”
11:15 A.M. We take a boat ride.
Here’s a travel tip. If you’re looking at a map of the Magic Kingdom compared to a map of Epcot, keep in mind that the two of them are drawn to a different scale. Epcot is much larger than it looks. There are boats that cross the World Showcase Lagoon. Use them.
11:30 A.M. We reach Morocco, which, as everybody knows, is right next to Japan, especially if you don’t unfold your world map all the way.
Since we have nothing special to do until 1:00, we decide to do a little shopping. The World Showcase is just about the only place you can go in Disney World to find products that do not have anything resembling a Disney character on them. I don’t think I need to tell you how appealing this is.
I have also decided to go into shopping mode in order to attempt to silence the children. Since our first day we’ve been telling them “no” on a fairly consistent basis. This is not because we’re terrible people. We don’t like saying no. Really. But neither child can walk more than ten feet without seeing something they want. I’m hoping if I start saying yes a little more often, maybe, just maybe, they’ll stop asking for a little while. Of course, given the heat, my ability to reason is questionable.
In Morocco, Tim and I spring for hats. I find a fairly practical one with a wide rim to keep the sun from my eyes. Tim finds a fez, which is thorougly impractical, but since it’s the same kind of hat Aladdin wears, he MUST have it.
12:15 P.M. We reach Japan.
Now if you’re looking for some really cool stuff to buy, Japan is the place to go. Say, for example, you really really want to buy a sword. They’ve got ‘em. Lots of ‘em. Reasonably priced too. Well, I assume they are; I haven’t done a lot of bargain-hunting for swords. I’m not allowed to buy a sword, but I do buy a kimono.
Becky and Deb discover oysters. Using ancient pearl-fetching techniques, an authentic Japanese person will coax an oyster of your choice open using special words in her native tongue (“open sesame”) so that the pearl may be removed, cleaned, and set into jewelry. All you, the consumer (“stupid American”) have to do is choose the oyster and live with the pearl you end up with. So Deb and Becky get pearls.
Meanwhile, I buy Tim a car.
Well, not a real car. He finds a section loaded with model cars that need only be assembled. “No glue necessary” the box reads (in English, of course,) “parts snap together.” Since this sounds kind of neat, and since I’m in my yes mode, and since it’s less expensive than the pearls, I buy it. (The swords are also less expensive than the pearls, but do you hear me complaining?)
1:00 P.M. We eat at a restaurant called Teppanyaki. This is a unique dining experience, to say the least.
Apparently, there’s a shortage of tables in Japan. I say this because it appears to be common for them to eat on their cooking grills. I have been telling my children for years now not to go near the stove when I’m cooking, and now I’m telling them to eat ON the stove.
Not that this isn’t entertaining. Both kids are rather impressed by the expertise of the chef. (Now they’ll be expecting me to do this.) At one point, right after the first course of food is set on our plates, a hostess comes over to Tim and asks him if he knows how to use the chopsticks he’s brandishing. He says yes, and proceeds to demonstrate his skill by holding them in two hands and flailing the food just about everywhere but in his mouth. She politely removes the potentially lethal weapons from his hands, folds the wrapper they came in, sticks the wrapper near the top of the sticks, and puts a rubber band around them. They now work perfectly, and require minimal dexterity to operate. She does the same for Becky’s chopsticks. Mine she leaves alone. This is my own fault. I usually make sure nobody’s looking when I lean over and suck the food directly into my mouth to disguise my utter inability to use chopsticks with any modicum of success.
2:00 P.M. Having eaten well– except for Tim, who’s still on a hunger strike– we wander over to The American Experience. Given that there are a lot of pavilions here representing a lot of other countries, Disney felt olbiged to include an American one as well. I don’t really understand why. But the “Let’s Slaughter Some Native Americans” show is very impressive. Be sure to catch it.
2:30 P.M. We take a boat back to the other side of the lagoon, and hop aboard the Spaceship Earth ride, where we get some much needed sleep.
3:00 P.M. We reach an impasse.
We would like to hop aboard the monorail and head to the Magic Kingdom to spend the remainder of our evening there. A race track ride we saw from our gondola on day one is one of our targets, plus we want to eat at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Our problem is, Tim has announced he’s too tired to continue walking, and wishes me to carry him for the remainder of the day.
It’s entirely possible Tim really is too tired. He hasn’t slept well, and of the 47 acres that Disney owns, Epcot takes up about 70 acres, so he’s been walking a lot. His diet has also consisted of nothing except candy and soda for basically the last two days, so I’m wagering this might have a bit to do with it. Plus he’s complaining of a stomach ache. This, too, may be quite genuine.
We all sit down at a bench in Epcot and hashed it out. This is basically how it goes:
Tim: Daddy, will you carry me?Me: No.
Tim: But I’m too tired to wa-ha-ha-lk. (This is “walk” with a lengthy whine in it.)
Me: Then we’ll have to go back to the hotel, because there’s no way I’m carrying a conscious child in this heat.
Tim and Becky: NOOOOO!
Deb: Well what do you want us to do?
Becky: We want to go to the Magic Kingdom!
Me: Then you have to walk.
Tim: But I’m too tired to walk!
Me: Then we have to go back to the hotel.
Tim: I don’t WANT to go back to the hotel!
Me: Then you have to walk.
Tim: But my stomach hurts.
In the end we decide to accept that Tim’s stomach does in fact hurt, given that we are well aware of exactly what has been going into that stomach. Deb comes up with the stoller solution.
Disney has strollers available for rent. They’re large enough for an average sized four year old. Neither of my children are four years old or average sized. It’s going to be a stretch.
Also, I get to carry Tim to the monorail. Becky is jealous. But Becky is also almost ten pounds heavier.
4:00 P.M. We arrive in the Magic Kingdom and rent a stroller. Tim’s knees almost completely obscure his view. Becky is of course required to get a turn in it as well, on the grounds that she too is tired, and not giving her a turn would be unfair. When she sits in it she runs a serious risk of bloodying her nose with her thigh.
We take Tim directly to the First Aid area, on the grounds that while his stomach ailment is probably psychosomatic (we could actually hear the gears clicking in his head when he thought of it) he has been eating so poorly there’s always a chance there’s actually something wrong with him.
The nurse suggests that perhaps the reason Tim is having so much trouble is that he hasn’t had a bowel movement since we left Boston. We get some Maalox (child sized, pill form) and hope it cures him of the urge to claim his stomach hurts.
5:00 P.M. Having temporarily solved the problem of the Case of the Whining Child, we head once more to Space Mountain and add to our frequent flyer miles.
6:00 P.M. We exit the ride and discover it is raining. It last for two minutes. This is the only time we see rain fall the entire trip, despite the fact that a hurricane is hovering near the Carolinas. Last year it rained every day, which was actually rather pleasant.
7:00 P.M. We eat dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. All except for Tim. I think he’s shooting for Gandhi’s record.
8:00 P.M. The race track we observed earlier is called the Tomorrowland Speedway. Let it be known that the very first time one of my children drove me somewhere in a motorized vehicle was at this track. Let it also be known that based on the proficiency exhibited, this will also be the last time one of my children ever drives a motorized vehicle.
The cars are stuck on the track by way of a tall bar in the middle of each lane. Whenever the car veers too much in one direction or another, the tires hit the bar. Tim seems to enjoy hitting the bar whenever possible, even if it means swerving madly on a straightaway.
Becky is apparently even worse. According to Deb, the cars in OTHER LANES had to swerve to avoid her.
8:45 P.M. We catch the fireworks display. Lots of stuff explode. You know how this works.
9:10 P.M. After returning the stroller, we catch the bus back to our hotel. Tim starts asking me to build his race car before the bus even pulls away from the curb.
9:45 P.M. He still wants me to build the race car. I immediately regret having made the purchase in the first place.
10:30 P.M. Becky is asleep. Tim is wondering if perhaps, before he goes to sleep, I could maybe take a little time out and build his race car.
11:00 P.M. Now that Tim is asleep, I take his car outside and throw it in the lake.
Not that I didn’t consider it.