Walt Disney World
I slept in on Thursday morning and went about the starting of the day in an unhurried manner. This is the thing I need most when I’m on vacation, even when I am at Disney. I just don’t get commando about it until I am actually in the parks, and even then, not single-mindedly so. I just like to follow my whims on vacation, and not really have a rigid itinerary – I’ve got too much of that on Wall Street, and I find it liberating not to have an agenda that is scheduled wall-to-wall, non-stop.
Did the Fug Pilgrimage, noted that housekeeping had dropped off a hair dryer as promised, and I was at the bus stop by about a quarter of 11, where I noted a group of teens playing a prank on one of their friends – they put one of those little native lizards on his shoulder, and when he went to pick it up, he found that it was dead, and it skeeved him out greatly. I noted that it was a bit easier to tune out the tunes blasting away, probably because they were starting to be repeats. Was once again treated to some ECV-related delays in boarding the bus – I should have been easily able to get on the first one, if not for the crowd that got on with the ECV…I’m really close to becoming politically incorrect here.
Our bus driver, Pauline, led everyone in a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” for someone, and encouraged way too many people to squeeze onto this bus – “If you can see floor, there’s room for more”. Not appreciated, because what it amounts to is giving rude people license to be unconscionably ruder, pushing and shoving and crowding as though it were the NYC subway system at rush hour. I believe that if I’m going to allow someone else’s hot, sweaty flesh to be pressed intimately up against my own, it should be my choice, and not that of some damned half-witted, overly-cheerful Disney bus driver.
Is it me, or does this just not happen at non-Value Resorts?
While on the bus, I was half-listening to a family sitting down and an older gentleman strap-hanging along side me as they struck up a conversation together. I had the impression that they were just random strangers conversing at Disney, just as I often do in the queues or on buses. Soon, we had reached Epcot and as we were strolling the path from the buses to the entrance, a snippet of their conversation perked my ears:
Older Gentleman: I’ve got four more years of my own social security payments, and then I’m living on yours (laughs).
Father in Young Family: And why not, that’s the way it should be…
And while I’m thinking, “Not!”, they then digressed into conversation about the CMs, how they make so little money, wondering how they would survive in the future that threatens that what we are putting into the system is already being consumed, leaving nothing for the current working generation when they become old.
Perhaps none of us will ever be able to retire the same way in which our parents were able to, knowing that if all else failed, we’d at least have that little bit of a social security payment each month to help us get along. This is a grim and daunting enough prospect for any worker, but it must be particularly hard on the CMs. There is so much demanded of them, in terms of both physical and emotional labor, and they get so little in return. And then you read things about Eisner’s multi-million dollar compensation, even when the company is in the toilet, and you gotta wonder at the mind-boggling greed mentality of corporate America. The man gets a couple of million in a year when the return to the shareholders was extremely disappointing (to say the least), yet the CMs struggle in the wake of slashed resource budgets to deliver the same Guest experience with a severely reduced staff.
For those CMs who are “lifers”, what are their prospects for ever earning enough to become one of the sun-blistered, socks-and-birkenstocks, out of shape consumers who have the discretionary income and vacation time to spend at Disney? And aren’t their prospects for financial security in their waning years, never mind prosperity, even dimmer?
The definition of success in corporate America is always the bottom line – how much/little did the company produce to line the pockets of the shareholders, and how little were they able to get away with spending to reach those shareholder targets? What they had to do to achieve success does not factor into their success/failure ratio. Employees who suffer the ever-increasing demands of a constantly whittled-away workforce, degradation in the quality of the product, rising costs for the consumer – none of this is called “failure”. It is all about how much gold goes into the chests of the shareholders and the upper echelons of management.
The biggest challenge when coming to grips with the inequity of it all – the amount that goes in the shareholder’s pockets vs. worker compensation - is the answer to the question, “How much is enough?”. And also, “How much is too much?”
And the other big challenge – it is not within the charter of any company to care about the inequity of it all. Therefore, there will never be any hope of hitting the economic “reset” button.
Right away, on the walk from the buses to the entrance, there stood a beautiful, sprawling topiary of a peacock. I was thinking it was too bad that it’s ABC that Disney owns, and not NBC! Once past the security checks and the ticket turnstiles, topiaries of Mickey and the whole original gang are there to greet the guests – including a towering topiary pile of pixie dust crowned by Tinkerbell herself. I was patient, and tried to wait for as many people as possible to be out of the viewer before clicking away at these icons of Disney pop culture. I got some especially nice shots of Tink with the Spaceship Earth geosphere as her backdrop.
It was the kind of day at Disney where it is warm and humid but not too much so; where the sky is an impossible shade of blue, with a few white, puffy clouds drifting by for contrast. Structures such as the geosphere and Imagination were especially effective at capturing and reflecting that impossible blue. The crowds were fairly light, and the royal blue “Magical Gatherings” banners, from which Tink beamed, brandishing her wand, flapped gently in the breeze at every turn. Ah, I’m here!
I was pretty hungry by this time, having had nothing more than coffee as yet, and so made my way to the Fountainview for some sustenance. Note to self: never again order a café mocha at the Fountainview. Very uninspiring and bleh. I am spoiled by Starbucks, I admit it. I enjoyed the pecan cinnamon croissant, as well as the mist from the nearby fountain as I sat in the sunshine on the Fountainview’s patio. As I dined, I kept thunking those economic thorts I’d been having since hearing the comment about social security payments made by the elderly gentleman. I was wishing that I’d stayed at Coronado Springs or the Boardwalk – one of the resorts where one can get away from the crowds and the noise, and enjoy quiet time. I guess I am spoiled. I’ve not had to really budget myself for years. The Value Resorts are definitely not for me, but there may be no way around it for the time being as I’m saving to buy a house. Which I may never be able to afford if the prices of decent housing on Long Island keep rising ridiculously out of synch with increases in compensation…
After my breakfast, I made my mandatory turn on Spaceship Earth. I will miss it when it is gone, but I’m eager to find out what will replace it. Also, it is rather strange to be dumped out into a dark, empty exhibit area – can’t believe they could not find something to do with this area since AT&T pulled out.
I photographed my way up to the lagoon, and went into the Festival Center, where I collected many pamphlets with gardening advice and techniques and browsed the garden-related art work. I was really excited to see the work of Stephen A. Malkoff being displayed. Malkoff travels all around America sketching famous trees. I’d read about him in Guideposts recently, and it was really cool to see his work up close.
On my quest for topiaries, I found the whole gang from Beauty and the Beast, and also a large display from Lion King. Each display-area played music from the associated film. Belle spun around daintily in her ball gown while the Beast bowed. Rafiki lifted baby Simba to the sky, and the really excellent thing is that the placement of this particular topiary afforded a great photo op with the geosphere, Spaceship Earth, precisely behind it. Other displays included stuff from Fantasia – Sorcerer Mickey with the broom brigade was set before the lagoon, with the little dancing mushroom guys, the ballerina hippo, and the ballerina ostriches nearby. I wandered a bit up the Rose Walk and found the Doggone Maze. Pluto, some of the Dalmatians, and Stitch (“nahtadoggie”) topiaries were displayed there, each helping the Guests to find their way through the maze. It was here that I discovered how tough it was to shoot topiaries, when all the background stuff was also foliage. I could not get enough contrast for Pluto to “pop”, and the picture kept coming out like a disembodied nose and collar floating among the shrubbery, so I eventually gave up on that particular shot.
I wandered back to The Land pavilion to take in Circle of Life, first picking up a Fast Pass for Living With The Land. The pre-show video footage and statistics always stun me, and I always feel some guilt over the limitations of the recycling programs on Long Island as opposed to those in, say, California, where my friends recycle EVERYTHING. As usual, the actually Circle of Life film had me in tears toward the end (hope always makes me weep), and I found myself wondering if Disney had ever actually considered building a hotel called Hakuna Matata All-Ecological Family Village Resort. (Lo and behold, a few weeks after returning from this trip, I received an email invitation to participate in a survey, which featured several questions about interest in staying at an eco-friendly, all natural resort!).
After the film, I had enough time to enjoy a salad wrap – yum! – before my FP for Living With The Land came due. As the boat made it’s way through the attraction, I was delighted to see that care had been taken to synchronize what was being grown in the hydroponics greenhouse with the International Flower & Garden Festival – nearly every garden in there had a hook into the international theme, and the CM guide took great care to point out which plants had originated in what countries.
After this, I spent considerable time in The Living Seas – there was a guy doing a dive in there, and his family followed him around the tank, snapping pics and cheering him on. He had some funny signs that he held up to them, much to their delight, and also got poked in the butt by a big turtle, which made everyone laugh.
The Finding Nemo angle they’ve built into this exhibit might seem lame to grown ups, but the kids in the exhibits seemed to be having a great time. But I would agree that after a while, it gets old seeing clown fish, seahorses, and anemones everywhere one turns.
Upon leaving The Living Seas and moseying once more past the Rose Walk, I stopped along the way to listen to a high school choir from Pennsylvania perform. This was my first realization that there was some sort of high school Music Week going on at Walt Disney World, and I looked forward to seeing marching bands and the like when I eventually made my way to the Magic Kingdom.
I also stopped to listen to Off Kilter, performing at the Canadian Pavilion, where I bumped into and chatted with the couple with whom I’d been evacuated from Rafiki’s Planet Watch the day before.
Going past the UK Pavilion and over the bridge to France, I caught a whiffs of the most heavenly scent, the same as my little quiet place at the Pop Century. Shrubby white-flowered plants were growing on the banks near the canal at the International Gateway. Mmmmm!
The topiaries in front of the French Pavilion were exceptionally well done – bottles of Guerlain’s most famous perfumes, including Champs Elysees, my old favorite Shalimar, and my new favorite, L’instant. The gardens had some interesting information about the composition of each of these perfumes – never knew that the formula for Shalimar includes mimosa, lemon, Arabian jasmine, fragrant rose, and vanilla! Once I’d had a whiff of the new L’instant, I was instantly in love, and went into the shop, where I was able to get some of the Eau du Parfum and a free box of assorted little Guerlain samples. Wow, this stuff is awesome – L’instant is comprised primarily of mimosa, with some vanilla. I had it wrapped up and sent to the resort shop so I wouldn’t have to schlep it with me.
I made an extremely leisurely tour of all of the World Showcase displays, snapping and snapping with the digital camera, getting creative with some of the angles so that the topiaries and the background foliage would not completely melt together. I pit-stopped at the American Adventure, went to the pay phones nearby, and dialed *88, which connected me to Reservations, and I made a Priority Seating for a meet with kylara. The CM was joking with me about staying at the Pop Century – when he asked how I liked it, I was blunt, and he launched into the telephone equivalent of a stand-up routine about staying at Value Resorts, kidding about having to get a Fast Pass for actual water pressure in the showers in the morning “Wait time 1 hour 30 minutes”. After I hung up with the CM, I sat in the shade and used my cell phone to call kylara (Kathie), to confirm that we were on for dinner at Artist Point the next evening. After a brief chat, I realized that Nelson was about to start the show in the amphitheater, and I hung out for a bit while they regaled the audience with some of the tunes made popular by their father (Ricky Nelson). I didn’t like them enough to hang out for long, and soon continued on my quest for more topiaries.
But first – a mango margarita and a churro at the Mexican Pavilion!
Upon completing the World Showcase, I sat on the bench outside Mouse Gear, in front of the fountain, deleting duds from the flash card. Decided I didn’t have the energy to wait for Illuminations to start, and went back to the Pop for dinner. Sat outside eating with a young couple, chatting about how tough it is to be in IT for a living these days. While he was a native Floridian, her folks hailed from Floral Park. Here in Florida, many roads lead back to Long Island, it seems!
Went back to the room with a Fug full of hot chocolate, read for a while, and turned in.
Back to Spring Fling April 2004