Having gotten myself lost, Magic Kingdom lost most of its magic for me. I wandered in the general direction of the exit gate, trying to decide what to do next. I could go on some rides by myself. I couldn't remember the last time I'd wandered around alone at an amusement park, although it used to happen fairly often when I was a teenager. But the crowds did not feel welcoming. What had been fun minutes ago with all my relatives around me seemed pointless now that I was alone.
I could leave. I'd planned to go back to John's in another two hours or so anyway. This way, I'd get home early and have time to rest before going to Panera for the art jam. It wasn't such a bad idea.
But I felt a wave of moroseness wash over me. I wasn't ready to leave yet. I hadn't said goodbye to my father or the others, and it'd be months if not years before I saw them again. The saddest part, I thought, was that practically everyone else had a cellphone. I could've just called them -- except that I didn't have any phone numbers on me. Not even the one for their resort.
A parade was forming up on the circle before Cinderella's Palace, and going down the road to the entrance. I had to detour around it as a high school marching band began their performance. Oddly, I started to think, what would level_head do in this situation?
Well, first off, he wouldn't be glum about the situation, because being glum wasn't going to make anything better. I tried to perk up and enjoy the parade, and soak in the general enjoyment of the people around me. Or frustrated. Frustration won't help either.
Second, he'd decide what he wanted to do most -- I decided I didn't want to leave; I wanted to reunite with my father and the others -- and then he'd find a way to make that happen.
OK. So I didn't have any phone numbers. However, I did know the name of their resort, and my mother was still there. And she would have access to phone numbers. All I had to do was find a phone book and a payphone. I decided that my best bet for both of these was the customer service desk, which was just inside the entrance. My plan of action settled, I hiked around and alongside the parade and wended my way into customer service about ten minutes later.
Here is where the staff at Magic Kingdom got a chance to shine. I explained my predicament, and the young woman at the service desk looked up the resort phone number for me and dialed it. Then I spent another several minutes on the phone with my mother while she wrestled with my father's laptop to try to get it to retrieve phone numbers from Outlook. The service representative waited patiently for me, and didn't even try to take the next customer waiting until I stepped to one side and suggested she do so.
When my mother finally got the computer to behave, she wasn't sure which ones were home and which ones were cell phones, so I copied them all down and thanked her. At last, armed with several phone numbers -- all of them long distance, of course -- I asked if I could try one. The representative said, "Certainly!" and dialed the first one I gave her. That turned out to be my brother's phone, which I'd picked because I felt the most confidence that it was a cell and not home number.
A few minutes' of conversation established that they were en route to "Snow White's Scary Adventure", and I'd meet them there.
My new sandals had given me a couple of blisters, and my father had earlier suggested that I stop by the first aid station to get bandaids for them. I'd waved off the idea at the time because it seemed like too long a hike to the station. I'd thought about doing it while on the way to the exit, but the parade had put me on the wrong side of the road. However, it was on the way to "Snow White's Scary Adventure", so I made a quick detour for bandaids. I reflected that I felt, once again, that peculiar sense of pride and shame: pleased with myself over finding a solution to my scrape, and ashamed over having gotten into it in the first place.
In due course, I showed up outside the ride, where Sil was eating a lemon ice. She apologized, saying, "You know, I'd thought you said you were going to come right back and join us, but as soon as you left, everyone else got up to leave. 'Wait, what about Rowyn?' 'Oh, she's going to Space Mountain with the others.'"
"That's OK, it's my fault for not being clearer, and for taking too long to say goodbye. I actually was considering going with the teens instead, for a minute there."
My father showed up, and was even more apologetic. "I didn't mean to abandon you!" That made me smile and completed my sense of being a little kid again -- even when it your own fault for getting lost, your parents still blame themselves. :)
He'd been eating a lemon ice, too. "You've completely corrupted your father," Sil said. "Now he's decided that having had ice cream for lunch, he can have a lemon ice as a snack."
I was thirsty by then, and Sil kindly let me finish the rest of her lemon ice while we waited in line for the ride, which was my younger niece's idea. The "scary adventure" turned out to be not enough to scare even my seven year-old nephew. But it was all right.
After that, we went to "It's a Small World". Earlier, I'd joked with my father that this was the one ride I would not go on, but I went anyway. And lamented that "Margaritaville" ("Salt! Salt! Salt!") would soon be displaced from my mental soundtrack. We discussed this while waiting.
"But this is my favorite ride in Magic Kingdom," Sil said. "What's wrong with 'It's a Small World'?"
My father saved me from having to answer. "The ride," he said, "is great. I like the ride, too. But it's the song: you hear it once and it's stuck in your head for the rest of the day."
My father and I also had a brief debate over whether the conductor waving to the passengers from a booth above the ride was real or animatronic. My father was sure he was animatronic from the almost-mechanical wave-and-smile we caught at a distance (and a bad angle), but I could tell he was real.
The line was long -- it's still quite popular -- but it was a pleasant wait and I enjoyed the ride. There's something oddly charming about this old and thoroughly un-PC, stereotypical presentation of global cultures. And some of the animatronics were eyecatching and particularly amusing, like the belly dancers whose bellies were actually animated to roll.
When the ride let out, it was 4PM. Sil and the others were going on the "Magic Carpet" ride next, which had an hour wait. I was curious about the ride, but not enough to make me stay for it. I'd planned to leave at 4PM anyway. So I said my goodbyes and made my way out of the park.
I got back to my car at 4:45. I hadn't realized earlier just how long it takes to arrive and leave DisneyWorld. First you have to get to the exit, then take the ferry or monorail back tothe front gate, then take the tram to the parking lot. This must be one of the selling points for their on-site hotels: no hour-plus commutes between park and hotel. I was afraid I'd be stuck in the middle of rush hour again despite my early departure. Traffic back wasn't too bad, however, but it was a long drive. I made it back to John's house shortly before six.