7:30 A.M. Mickey is again my wake up caller. This only serves to escalate my profound resentment of him.
8:00 A.M. With the whole family awake and holding caffeinated substances, it’s time to start the most important part of our day: the application of sun tan lotion. This is a daily ritual down here, but especially important today because we’re going to Typhoon Lagoon, one of Disney’s water parks.
This is my first chance to show off the color I’ve started to develop as a result of our first full day here. I forgot to put on lotion that morning and ended up with a sunburn on my chest in the shape of a trapezoid, right where the shirt I was wearing flapped open. I’m very proud of my sliver of tanlike skin, and hope to expand upon it today.
The application process takes a bit longer today because Timmy is unwilling to get out of bed and prepare himself. He intends to remain in the room until his car is built. As I have no intention of remaining in the room to build the car right now I think he’s hoping for a spontaneous quantum miracle of some kind to take place.
8:20 A.M. Tim finally decides to get moving, but believes he’s going to be able to take his rubber snake with him to Typhoon Lagoon. While I do think this would be a hysterical object to bring into a pool with children, there are the lawsuits to consider. I convince him it would be much more fun to leave the snake rolled up under the bedsheets so we can scare the crap out of the maid. Tim agrees to this arrangement. He might be my son after all.
9:30 A.M. The basic theme of Typhoon Lagoon is that a typhoon wrecked an entire village, dropping a lot of water on it and a boat or two. The village has since been rebuilt as well as possible, and now it’s a tourist attraction. This is an odd premise in an area that goes through annual hurricane threats. One is threatening right now, as a matter of fact.
Since we’ve spent the last four days wandering around the other Disney theme parks praying for rain and wishing we were sitting in a swimming pool rather than walking about in the heat, we expect this experience to be much more gratifying. There are, however, some disadvantages to consider.
First, and most important, one does not generally walk about in shoes when one is in a water park. If this had been the first park we had visited this would not have been a big deal, but our feet have been severely abused in the last few days. The kids at least have on these things called “jellies,” which are transparent plastic sandals. They offer no support but they do protect the bottoms of their feet. Since the walkways around Typhoon Lagoon are all made of cement (the first water park that is designed with soft, squishy sidewalks will make millions) this is a real issue.
The second problem is that we have to consolidate the contents of the two shoulder bags we carry everywhere with us into one small waterproof container that isn’t even large enough to hold a pack of cigarettes. Obviously, this is not possible, and so we rent a locker as soon as we enter the park. Now all of our towels are a short walk, a long jog, and a brief sprint away.
The third problem is the map. As is the case with all the other parks, there is a fold-out map one can attain at the entrance. Said map provides the locations of all the water rides, as well as a ratings system to quantify our odds of survival. It’s a splendidly useful map, especially for us since we’ve never been here before.
But it’s made out of paper. As I’m sure many of you know, paper is not the best product to introduce into a largely water-based environment.
I pick up two maps. One I carry for as long as it takes us to get onto our first ride. The other I put into the locker, which will come in handy if I can ever find my way back to the locker again.
10:00 A.M. Our first ride is on something called Castaway Creek. This is a slow-moving river that circles much of the park. What you’re supposed to do is grab one of the many inner tubes floating in the Creek and hop aboard, and then lazily drift downstream, eventually ending up back where you started, or, at another part of the park, if you wish. It’s sort of like a low-tech monorail. We each get on our own tubes and start to drift.
This is very pleasant and relaxing. I could drift all day, it’s so relaxing. So naturally, the kids hate it and start complaining almost immediately.
10:15 A.M. We don’t drift at the same speed. I can’t really explain why this is, lacking as I am the appropriate mathematical skills necessary to apply chaos theory in relation to aquatic turbulence to the issue. I’ll just say Tim drifts faster than I do. I try steering myself along by waving my arms about in the water, but this doesn’t seem to help. Deb and Becky are behind us a fair distance, so there’s no chance they can catch up to him unless he laps them. It never even occurs to me to hop off the inner tube and swim. Or walk, even; the water is only three feet deep.
Tim disappears around a corner briefly, and when he comes into view again I see his tube but not him. I’m not TOO concerned about this (although my mother is; she’s reading it right now, and if you listen carefully you can hear her go “oh my God…!”) because Tim is a very good swimmer, and not one to panic in this sort of situation. Now I decide to get off my tube and work my way to him.
When I get there I find him just climbing back onto his tube again. He had evidently decided that since there was now no parental person near him it was a good time to get off the tube.
Tim is upset. Apparently, one of the “jellies” came off.
“Where?” I ask.
“Back there!” he says.
This is an utterly useless description. Who knows how far he drifted from the spot where it came off? It’s not like I can work my way upstream, either. For one thing, this would be very hard to do, for another, it would be suicidal on account of the large number of people on inner tubes behind us.
Fortunately, a man who had been near Tim when the shoe came off caught it before it floated to the bottom. This man is now named in my will.
10:30 A.M. We’ve now officially done one lap, and we’ve had enough of the drifting. Tim and I get out and then catch Becky and Deb when they reach us.
Believing this is all there is to this park, both children begin pining for the hotel room in rather loud and abrasive voices. We insist there are real water slides here and attempt to find one to keep them quiet.
10:40 A.M. We find something called Gangplank Falls. It looks like fun partly because all four of us can go down on a single tube. There are two drawbacks. First, the line is long. Our children have lost all patience with lines. We have too, but we’re quieter about it. Second, we pick up the raft at the bottom of the ride and then one of us (me) has to roll it up a long flight of wooden steps to the top of the ride. We encounter a second line along the way.
10:55 A.M. We go down Gangplank Falls. The ride lasts about thirty seconds. It’s so exciting we decide to never go on it again.
11:05 A.M. The children have stepped up their attack on our ears. But we’re not ready to give up on this park so soon.
We lead them along a pathway that goes under Mount Mayday. (All of the water slides come down this fake mountain. It has a boat on the top of it. You didn’t actually need to know about the boat, but I felt like telling you anyway.) Once on the other side of the path we realize we have absolutely no idea whatsoever where the heck we are. We stop for a drink.
11:15 A.M. We decide to split up for a moment, because Tim is no longer enamored of his “jellies.” We bought these shoes for him at the beginning of summer and he’s already outgrown them, and they’re hurting one of his toes. As we do not have any bags with us and we’re unwilling to carry his shoes for the rest of the afternoon, it falls upon me to attempt to find our locker. I’m hoping he doesn’t outgrow his swim trunks before I get back.
While I’m gone Becky, Tim and Deb go check out Shark Reef.
Shark Reef is a fun little spot Disney has set aside for those special visitors who may be clinically insane. I can think of no other explanation. What you’re supposed to do is put on snorkeling gear and swim from one end of the “reef” to the other, gazing pleasantly at the teeming variety of undersea life on the way. Included in this panaply of undersea creatures are a few real, live, non-animatronic sharks.
My wife actually said to me prior to our arrival here that she WANTED to swim with the sharks. I imagine if there was a skunk and porcupine petting zoo she’d be interested in that too, but I’m just guessing here.
11:30 A.M. It takes me this long to go to the locker and back, mainly because I get extremely lost. But once I return to the Shark Reef I can find no evidence of the rest of my family. It takes me several minutes to spot them on the platform leading into the pool. All of them are dressed in appropriate snorkeling gear. I nearly join them, until Tim chickens out, proving above all that he is smarter than he looks. Soon after, Becky follows suit.
Deb never does get to swim with the sharks, but that’s okay. One of my minimum requirements for a successful vacation is returning with the same number of limbs you left with.
11:40 A.M. One of the things I stumbled upon while hopelessly lost and looking for the lockers was the Storm Slides. I think maybe if I send the children down one of these they might consider having enough fun to stop complaining about how little fun they’re having. For at least a minute or two.
The Storm Slides are what are affectionately known as “body slides” which means you don’t need a raft or an inner tube or any other sort of flotational device. You just have to have a body, preferably your own.
The Storm Slides turn out to be our salvation. There are three slides to go down the line is short and it moves quickly. It lands the participants in a large pool that does not contain any sharks. And the trip to the bottom is rather rapid. We like it here.
12:15 P.M. It is time to move on again. We’ve done each slide about seven times. It is enough. We head back to the little pathway under the mountain and find ourselves at Keelhaul and Mayday Falls. These are two inner tube rides– individual tubes this time– that are almost fun enough to justify the lines. Almost. Tim would still rather go back to the hotel and build his car.
12:40 P.M. There is one more thing we haven’t tried yet. Right in the middle of the park is Typhoon Lagoon itself. This is an enormous wave pool, for people who find the ocean icky, I guess.
The lagoon is easily the most entertaining aspect of the entire park, if only to hear the sound “WHOOOOOOOMP” followed by the shrieks of several hundred people. Every five minutes or so a huge wave is begun at the deep end of the lagoon– hence the “WHOOOOOOOMP” sound– and all the persons foolish enough to be in the water at the time suddenly realize exactly how foolish they are, scream, and try desperately to make it to shore. Then once the wave has passed, they swim out again. If nothing else, this says a great deal about the attention span of the American public. We spend a long time in the lagoon, just to prove we’re not that bright either.
1:15 P.M. It is definitely time to go. We enjoyed ourselves, but our feet hurt a lot, and we have had no food. We hop a bus back to the hotel.
2:00 P.M. When we arrive at the room we discover Tim’s rubber snake is now sitting on the window ledge, hissing at us through the curtain. I think the maid got the joke.
2:10 P.M. I am sent away for food. The food court at the Caribbean Beach has a very large variety of digestible substances, only some of which is available at lunch time. I am sent for a bucket of chicken but am forced to return with burgers and fried chicken fragments instead. We still eat it, as we are very hungry. We consider eating the styrofoam containers, but fortunately, there is still more food in the minibar.
2:30 P.M. It is time to build the car.
Let me say a couple of things about the misleading nature of the company that makes these Japanese snap-together toys. I have since checked the box several times and see no indication whatsoever that a screwdriver is needed. I also see no indication that the car comes in its original, ready to assemble, atomic particles.
What we find when we finally open the box is a very large quantity of very small objects, including gears, random pieces of rubber and plastic, a supply of extremely tiny screws, an engine, and directions for smelting metal.
This will take some time.
Knowing there is no way I’ll be able to construct this vehicle with Tim and Becky “helping,” Deb takes them both to the pool.
3:30 P.M. I’m still working on the car. I actually have to build the on-off switch, the battery compartment (thank God we HAVE batteries for it,) and the complex gear system to hook up the engine to the drive shaft. As I child I would have loved this. As an adult, my fingers hurt too much to appreciate it. It does not help that my screwdriver is a pair of tweezers that only fit in the screws because they come to a point.
The plastic does actually snap together, a fact I discovered almost immediately when I broke a piece on my very first try. I’m hoping it’s not too important for that one piece of plastic to be firmly connected to the other piece of plastic.
4:10 P.M. The good news is, it works. The bad news is, that one broken piece is what ultimately holds the chassis to the bottom of the car. Consequently, every time the car hits something solid– as it is wont to do considering it approaches the speed of sound– the top pops off. Tim might actually consider this a GOOD feature. But I’m not going to find this out right away. Instead, I put the car down on his bed and fall asleep.
5:00 P.M. My family returns. Deb is somewhat less than happy that I opted for sleep instead of heading to the pool, but I can barely hear this over my throbbing fingers.
Tim is extremely happy with his car.
I apparently missed a showdown between my son and my wife at the pool. You may have noticed his name is getting mentioned an awful lot in this account, and that’s because he’s been doing the most complaining. Becky, who is not nearly as quiet as I might have indicated, has been a comparative angel. What happened at the pool was that Timmy insisted they return to the room so that he may see his new toy. But Becky didn’t want to leave yet, and Deb felt Becky had earned the right to have some say in the matter by now. So they had a contest of wills, which Deb won, thank goodness.
6:00 P.M. We make reservations at the Coral Reef, which is at Epcot. We ate there last year and not only thoroughly enjoyed the food but also liked the view; there are windows through which one can see the gigantic salt water tank from Disney’s Living Seas plaza. Also last year, when the waitress brought our food, she mistook what Deb had ordered and brought her crab cakes, a mistake Deb promptly corrected. Since that evening Deb has been regretting this. She is looking forward to having the crab cakes this time around.
Our ulterior motive for returning to Epcot is to take the children to see the fireworks display. We think they might just enjoy it.
7:20 P.M. On our way to the Coral Reef the children spot one of the game rooms. There are large areas of Epcot devoted to video games, under the auspice of bringing us the future of entertainment while at the same time engaging in rampant displays of corporate sponsorship. For example, there’s an entire plaza devoted to the joy that is Nintendo.
We drag them past the game room, unwilling to miss our reservation to provide Disney with more quarters.
7:30 P.M. The first indication that things are not as they were at the Coral Reef is the maitre d’ at the podium OUTSIDE the restaurant. This is new.
After we confirm our reservation we are escorted to the point where there are ordinarily a set of doors to the restaurant. These doors are closed. This is also new. Instead, we enter a different set of doors, walk through a lobby, and take an elevator to another floor.
We find ourselves in the executive dining room. As you have no doubt surmised, we are not Disney executives, so this is not where we expect to find ourselves.
Apparently, the actual restaurant is being renovated. Typically, Disney can do renovations very quickly by working around the clock, but this is not possible here because the sounds of construction upsets the fish. No, I am not kidding.
But the real drawback is that the executive kitchen does not come with a deep fryer, and so there are no fried foods on the menu. This includes crab cakes.
I can’t imagine it would have been a huge loss of revenue to simply close the Coral Reef altogether until the renovations are complete, especially at Epcot, where there are more restaurants than there are in the entire state of Missouri. But that’s just me.
8:20 P.M. We’ve eaten, and now the children are desperately interested in the damn game room. The fireworks start in forty minutes, though, so there’s no chance of this happening. We do, however, go on Spaceship Earth again, which, as I might have mentioned before, isn’t so much boring as it is extremely dull.
8:40 P.M. Because we don’t learn from our own mistakes, we walk the children all the way around the World Showcase Lagoon to try and get to the same spot where we previously witnessed the fireworks. To get them to walk at all, I had to promise to take them to the game room after the fireworks were over, knowing full well the game room would be closed by then. I’m a bad person.
9:00 P.M. The children both enjoy the fireworks show a lot. But not enough to forget about the game room. Deb points out that although the Epcot game room will be very closed by the time we get back to it, there is a perfectly good game room at our hotel. She is even kind enough to volunteer me to take them there. Words cannot describe the love I feel for my wife at this very moment.
10:15 P.M. It’s entirely possible that, if pressed for details concerning their favorite part of this trip, my children would list their visit to the hotel game room right at the top. And they’re terrible at video games. But they are here for only one thing: the candy claw game. You’ve probably seen these before. You have to manipulate a metal claw to get it to drop into a bin of candy and pull out whatever candy it can, dropping the booty down a chute. It looks a bit like those devices scientists use in the movies to pick up radioactive substances. This game does not end until candy has been gotten, thank goodness, or it would cost us a whole lot more.
11:15 P.M. Yes, we do stay this long. I can’t believe it either. The kids now have enough sugar in their possession to medicate an entire ward of manic depressives, and it is time to go.
11:30 P.M. Bed time. Finally. This would be the best time to hide all of the candy, but I am unfortunately too tired to consider it.