Life Lessons I Learned at Disneyland:
1. Mick Jagger must have been singing about Disneyland when his lips famously flapped, “You can’t always get what you waaaaahhhh-nt.” The price of admission to Walt’s theme park is more than the cost of a new Lexus or Audi. Even so, don’t expect to get everything you want. Jerry and I signed up (and paid extra) for the “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour.” The tour promised a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland. Unfortunately, Jerry and I chose to take the tour the day before Disneyland kicked off its 60th Anniversary Celebration. Our Disney tour guide flat-out told us, “Ordinarily our tour goes to the Dream Suite, but we won’t go there today.” (sad face) And, “Yes, the Peter Pan ride is on the tour, but not today. It’s under construction.” (another sad face) The comment that should have been said but wasn’t, “Actually, this tour has hours to waste since we cancelled just about everything featured on the tour. Let’s start by killing time at The Enchanted Tiki Room, an attraction not on the tour and that you already paid for with your admission ticket and would probably not go to anyway.” The only thing Jerry and I got on the tour that we expected for our extra charge is a stroll through Walt’s apartment above the Firehouse on Main Street. We were not allowed to take any pictures inside Walt’s apartment, but the tour guide promised she would take our picture for us. “You’ll want this for your Christmas card,” she said (wink, wink). Once our tour group stood inside Walt’s tiny apartment, our guide noticed a woman preparing to snap a picture of Walt’s Victorian armchair. She gasped in horror, “No! No! No! Only ‘I’ can take pictures in this apartment.” She took deep breaths to calm herself from the tragedy she had narrowly averted. Jerry whispered to me, “What’s so special in this apartment that we can’t take pictures? Are they afraid we’ll take a picture of Walt’s grilled cheese-maker?” We didn’t know the answer and still don’t. One thing I do know. The tour made me realize that sometimes in life you get disappointed and don’t get the Dream Suite, plus unfulfiled promises of Christmas card quality, (yes, we got blurry photos), and when you least expect it, you’re surrounded by fake tropical birds singing, “In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room.”
2. Baby strollers are killer machines. Gone are the harmless baby strollers of the 80s, known as umbrella strollers. You could fold up the 80s stroller and pop it into your diaper bag. Today’s strollers are like Hummer strollers with massive truck wheels and ramming speed. Decked out in every modern convenience a mom could want, like a stereo sound system and kitchenettes to make snacks for the tired, often screaming, child, Hummer strollers not only run you down, they seek you out no matter where you are in Disneyland. Once they see you, they slam you hard. The child inside grabs you with sticky jelly hands as mom shoves you twenty feet off the sidewalk. Then to top it off, the Mickey Mouse balloon tied to the stroller bobs and bounces 10-feet behind and the ribbon attached to the balloon wraps around you and entangles you so that you begin to fight for your life. Jerry swatted and punched the Mickey balloon as hard as he could to avoid a painful demise by colorful ribbon.
3. People will spend lots of money to purchase fun Disney hats they plan to wear for one, two, or three days. They sport silly Goofy hats with droopy dog ears, or Minnie Mouse hats with big red bows in white polka dots. Hundreds of people don Mouse ears. More than likely no one will wear these hats once they return home. They will toss them in the closet or under the bed. In real life, people don’t wear a Goofy hat to the bank or Minnie Mouse ears to the DMV. I do think, though, the Minnie Mouse hat would add some interest to the standard driver’s license photo with the hung-over look.
4. Real life doesn’t come with music piped-in wherever you go as it does in Disneyland. You don’t often walk down the street while a Barber Shop quartet serenades you, or a giant, fuzzy bear from The Jungle Book kisses your head, or a vintage fire engine passes by making “ooooo-ga” sounds with the horn. Instead, real life gives us Walmart where people with green mohawks and pink pajamas do their grocery shopping.
5. Disneyland makes the perfect training ground for learning patience. You get plenty of practice by waiting in line so you can wait in another line for the actual line to the ride. You can get a fast pass to avoid the standard ten-hour wait-time, but you may only have one fast pass per hour. Plus you would miss the opportunity to practice patience. So you practice by waiting in a crowd to get into the long line to a ride, restroom, restaurant, gift shop, or popcorn stand. Real life, of course, is all about waiting. We wait for everything it seems; Fridays, vacations, a table at Olive Garden, loan approvals, our big break. Real life does not have a fast pass. If it did, I’d be in Tahiti right now and singing in a real Tiki-Tiki room.
6. In Disneyland, salespeople say in a zippity-doo-dah tone, “Have a magical day!” In real life, salespeople ask in monotone, “Did you find everything you need?” and you reply, “No.” They say, “Oh, okay” and continue scanning your purchases. You could ask them, “Why did you ask if you don’t care?” But you already know the answer. They are told to ask that and they really don’t care. They don’t want to call an employee to check on the item you couldn’t find. They certainly don’t want to write up an order report. At Disneyland, you are told to have a magical day and when you tell them you can’t find the 3D Crystal Puzzle Castle, a salesperson actually helps you look for it, finds it and then, if you ask, I’m sure they would assemble it too.
7. Real life, unlike Disneyland, does not have fireworks every night. Well, maybe at your house, but most places don’t. Perhaps you live near a pyromaniac and get a fiery firework display every night. Lucky you. But most of us don’t have neighbors engaged in fire play. Disneyland fireworks are especially stunning. They blaze the sky in sparkling twinkles of glittery red, purple, white and blue above Sleeping Beauty’s castle aglow in purple. In real life, we get The Bachelorette lighting up the TV on Monday night, which is quite unlike the dazzle of fireworks but still something to marvel at. Why, you wonder, does Kaitlyn find the guy with the greasy-slicked blond hair attractive?
8. Real life doesn’t shut down at 6 p.m. as happened at Disneyland. Or in our unfortunate case, 4 p.m. On our way to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride around 4 p.m. hoards of people began stampeding toward us. A Disney cast member (an appropriate title since they’re all playing a part in the Disney fantasy) hollered above the stampeding crowd, “This side of the park is closed. Move to the other side of the park.” Apparently we were all suddenly unwelcome in over 50% of Disneyland. The staff needed to get the park ready for the next-day’s 60th celebration to welcome their “real” guests, so they needed to get rid of us. Real life, however, doesn’t shut down at 4 p.m. Oh wait. Quartzite, Arizona shuts down for the entire summer after the snowbirds leave and it’s mostly real life there.
What real life give us that Disneyland doesn’t is a life with love and friendship, and dogs and cats who welcome you home with kitty kisses (or dog kisses) after you stumble in and collapse from your trip to Disneyland.
(My tip if you plan to visit Disneyland: Avoid going the day before one of the park’s major celebrations.)
“I think what I want Disneyland to be most of all is a happy place…where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life.” ~Walt Disney♥