Friday, December 08, 2006


Well, I've been ruminating over a post about the recent trip I took to Florida for a convention on my particular (peculiar) profession. Y'know how some things seem like they will be great fodder for a post, but it never seems to quite gel? That's the case here, so here are the disjointed "greatest hits" that I wasn't able to work into a greater whole.

The elevators at the hotel we stayed were wired backwards. There were two elevators on each side of the lobby, and if you pushed the button on the south side, the north side doors would open, and vice versa. All day you'd see groups of people waiting for the elevator make the trek across the lobby to get the elevator on the other side. There was a person stationed at a desk who watched this all day. Finally I went up to him and said, "Have you noticed the elevator buttons are wired backwards?" He seemed legitimately surprised by the observation, even though he sat there all day watching folks go to and fro.

The trip took place during the election, so the TV news in Florida was brewing with nothing but the local controversies and bias. Florida is uber-republicanland, so you can imagine - Fox news everywhere, all the time. What was striking was how localized it was, as if the rest of the country didn't exist, and how little it had in common with the topics that were hot in Colorado.

We, of course, had to do Disneyland with the chilluns. It was mostly fun, so know that whilst I dive into the things that weren't so great. (The rides really are unlike anything else anywhere else.)

Most amusement parks have gone to this ridiculous practice of selling "premium access" tickets that allow the purchaser to jump to the head of the line. So on all the popular rides, we, the unwashed peasants, got to watch as Marie and the Antoinettes walked past in the walkway built just for them. It was especially galling when you'd be at the front of the peasant line and these croutons would walk up hop into the seat that should've been yours. That alone has assured the fact that the Yahmdallah clan will not be attending amusement parks very often in the future (our local one does that, too).

Disneyworld is huge, of course; you have to take 3 forms of transportation just to be delivered a city block away from the front gates. It's divided up into "worlds." Futureworld, frontierland, fantatsyland, etc. Well, each of those worlds typically has only one major food place that has something besides popcorn or pretzels. There are two restaurants at the front of the park, but you have to get advance reservations for those. So, we literally could not get anything to eat other than popcorn from 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM that night after we'd left and found a restaurant near the hotel. The baby had breast milk to subsist on, but the rest of us were beyond famished. Now, how come they can't figure out they don't have enough food places when the lines to each are over 30 people deep at all times, and the minimum wait was over a half hour. At Seaworld, the wait just to buy a soda from a cart was 45 minutes.

And they wonder why they're going broke. (And there's a master's thesis for someone - the politics of standing in line, and the results of hour long waits for a drink and letting the wealthy skip past everyone in line for the rides.)

UPDATE: Sleemoth tells me had I merely done my homework, I could have procurred the golden ticket without extra cost to moi. See comments for details. Thanks Sleemoth!

One of the more pleasant aspects of the trip was the flights. No kidding. We got major deals on Southwest, and were a little concerned about the "first come, first serve" seating, but actually, it made things nicer. You could move away from those people who harmed your soul. And our baby let out a few ear-splitting cries on the return flight as she was fussy (maybe the no food for a day thing had changed mom's milk), and we saw the seats around us empty out. Yay for them. But the seats themselves were the most comfortable I've encountered outside of first class (the one time I've been there via a lucky upgrade).

The best part, however, was the crew. They were allowed to have a sense of humor! When I worked for an airline, everything was deadly serious and any levity around passengers was shunned. (I have that situation, again, btw, in my current IT job. We've got a buffoon kinda high up who considers any levity to be a mark of unprofessionalism. Yes, he's an asshole in the first degree.)

On the flight out, as we were taxiing toward the gate after landing, the pilot came on the com and announced he had lost a bet and had to sing us a song. I thought he was kidding, but no, he began warbling away, and his voice wasn't half bad.

On the flight back, as the flight attendant was announcing all the safety stuff she threw in little bon mots that illustrated just how many people ignore said announcements. Only a few of us snickered. Here's a sample:

"We don't anticipate a sudden depressurization of the cabin, or we wouldn't have come to work today. However, should such an event occur, oxygen masks will (yadda yadda). Ladies, for those of you traveling with small children, please secure your own mask before assisting your husband with his."

The end result is that I've once again affirmed I do not like to travel if it involves any sort of waiting in line for anything (check-in, security, food). I think the Yahmdallah clan has officially moved into the era of short trips in the mommyvan to interesting places that can be reached within daylight hours.


Sleemoth said...

Too bad about the negative stuff you experienced, dude. I hate to say it, but a little homework would have saved you a lot of trouble.

The "premium access" tickets (they call them "fastpass") are included in your admission. There's no extra charge. They're a quasi-reservation system, where you pick up a pass for the time later in the day, when you can ride without waiting in line. At that time, you just show up and you go directly to the ride - no waiting.

A similar system is set up for the restaurants. You just have to call and get an advance reservation. You can do this weeks in advance of your trip. Most travel books and websites stress how important it is to get advanced reservations, especially during peak season. There are a lot more than two restaurants in each park. I was there in '99 and there were lots of choices. The typical wait if you don't have reservations is 30-60 minutes, but cancellations do occur.

The only way to avoid the transportation problem is to stay onsite. It's more expensive, but everyone I've talked to who have stayed there say it's worth the money. It certainly was for me. The security alone was reason enough. They have it down to a fine art. Every employee in the company is trained on handling lost children. Plus, nobody is allowed on hotel property without a pass. This pretty much guarantees the kids are safe from kidnappers, pedophiles, etc.

Anonymous said...

BooHoo..some people don't even have enuf money to eat, and you complain about some rides and such at an amusement park. Just be happy you got to go.

yahmdallah said...

to anonymous: Cheap shot across the bow! All hands! All hands!

(And thx for the advice, sleemoth, I'll use it next time I hit Disney. The local amusement park makes you pay about $20 extra per ticket for the "Fastpass".)

Sleemoth said...

And while we're on the subject, here's another example of Class warfare being alive and well in the USA. You can now buy your way through the airport lines: