The curse of the double-wide stroller…
Disneyland is, of course, the happiest place on earth. My daughter and I just spent two days roaming the vastness that is Disneyland and California Adventure as a celebratory march into her 16th year of life. There is something about this place that brings back that childhood joyousness and innocence, nudges us to let go of all things stressful and painful, to enjoy the absolute pleasure of being in the moment and having FUN.
My daughter’s birthday has the unfortunate timing of falling at the end of the school year. Thus, we found ourselves at the Disney parks with many, many grads, gleefully marking this life event by roaming in packs and all wearing Mickey ears that bore the “2016 Grad” notation. All in all, however, they were well behaved and their excitement and pride was a welcome sight, save for when they decided to shout out to 8 of their friends to join them in line at California Screamin’ after we’d already been queuing for a good half hour. I’m happy to say, this did not happen often. It could very well have been the “I’ll kill you if you even try to cross the barrier and cut me in line.” looks they received from the less than enthusiastic adults and kids already in line, but I like to think they were just using the good judgement passed down to them by their loving but stern parents.
I have to report, however, that there were some things I noted over the course of our wanderings that did leave me with, at best, a shrug of a malcontent, but at worst, a full on WTF response. First up, the scourge of the double-wide stroller. Honestly, why? I get that many a parental unit decides (or, oops, doesn’t decide) to birth two mini me’s in quick enough succession that they find themselves in need of transport for not one, but two (or gasp, three!) tiny humans at the same time. But as I recall in the dim recesses of my cobwebbed mind, double strollers were single file models. Long and slim, and yes, you could still see those little buggers right there in front of you. Apparently, these are now passe. The modern parents who have doubled down on tiny people now must be able to see them side by side. Or perhaps it’s the little people who need to be side by side? Perhaps the little ones of the past bore some sort of mental scar as the result of always feeling there was someone behind them, stalking them, watching their every move. No matter the cause, the double-wide has taken over!
Ok fine. Double-wide it is. There should be rules about where and when you can use these monstrosities. I approve them, for instance, in the wide open spaces of Yellowstone National Park. And the Gobi Desert. And the Appalachian Trail. They do not belong anywhere near a place where there might be throngs of people. You know, places like the airport, a shopping mall, a sidewalk in New York, a Disney park. They should not be in a Disney park. Ever. Unless you rent the whole park out for yourself and your double-wide stroller. And not even then, because that’s just not fair to the rest of us. Parents with double-wide strollers should have to take them to work, maneuver them around their employer’s hallways, into and out of meetings, to business lunches and dinners, to any and all events that are otherwise adult centric where a double-wide stroller does not belong. I’m certain this will result in the demise of the double-wide stroller. I, for one, would not miss them. Ok, moving on.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of any and all advances that allow the disabled to take part in the happiest place on earth. After all, it’s not “the happiest place on earth for the able-bodied only”. But here’s the thing. If you are able-bodied, you ought to be using that able body to get around. The Disney parks have long made wheelchairs available to those who need them. This makes sense for those unplanned times when one finds themselves in need of one, like when your 70 year old mom sprains her ankle disembarking from “Mr. Toads Wild Ride”. Basically, it’s quite handy for those times when the able bodied suddenly become not so able bodied, folks who do not normally use a wheelchair. Got it. Makes total sense to me and thank you, Disney, for being so thoughtful and planning ahead for your less than graceful guests. This does not make sense, from my perspective, when it comes to their latest offering of…. are you ready for this?? Electronic convenience vehicles. Yep, you read that right. ECV’s. Huh?
The only requirement for renting an ECV at Disney is that you are 18 years of age and have a valid license. Need is not an issue. Frankly, if you need an ECV, you likely came with one. It’s hard to imagine the circumstances in which you would find yourself at a Disney park with a sudden need for an ECV. Ok, I suppose if you find yourself otherwise un-able bodied (see above) and you are at Disney alone and thus without a designated wheelchair pusher, or your designated wheelchair pusher has zero interest in being your designated wheelchair pusher, then having an ECV available would be quite handy. But let me tell you, the sheer number of them zipping (ok, that might be too strong a word, but you get my point) around the park was astounding. And I would say that most of them were not carrying around an un-able bodied individual. This would lead me to believe that they were, in fact, carrying around a lazy able bodied individual. And that’s just sad. Not to mention annoying. As if it isn’t hard enough to dodge the double-wides, we now have to factor in the possibility of having our feet run over by the ECV drivers. It’s craziness. Really. Where is your pride people? Half the fun of Disney’s massive parks is the walking around while looking at your map, trying to find the shortest route to It’s a Small World. I bet those ECV’s come with GPS. Remember the movie Wall-E where the humans are, uhh, large-ish and zipping (again, an exaggeration!) around on their personal hovercrafts, too lazy to even turn their heads to talk to the person next to them? Yeah, not so far fetched is it.
Lastly, let’s talk food. I know Disney parks are not a place to worry about eating organic, or locally sourced, or, let’s face it, healthy in any way, but I must take issue with this craze for oversized turkey legs. Seriously. It’s gross people. The only time it’s appropriate to eat a turkey leg that big with your hands is if you’re playing King Arthur in a movie. And even then, walking around with it is not condoned. Putting aside that this is meat (so sorry, you vegetarians) and that it used to belong to, you know, a turkey (apologies to the animal lovers…you must just cringe), it’s a form of barbarism that’s just, I don’t know, yuck. A hot dog is fine. Pizza, go for it. The list of other things you can ingest while walking is endless. Do you really need to eat that while standing in line, on a hot day, where there are people, and flies? Let me help you here. No, you do not.
Really, I had a great time at Disney. I really, really did. My daughter and I laughed. A lot. And not just at the other people. It was a great way to usher in her 16th birthday. For the most part, the folks we shared our time and space with were great. But I do wonder about what this little microcosm of the world shows us about where we are going as a species. We tout ourselves as an advanced society, but are we really? I’m not convinced, to say the least. My experience would lead me to believe we might actually be digressing. We are self-centered enough to not consider the inpracticality of bringing a double-wide stroller to a place packed with people, we are so lazy that walking around a Disney park is unthinkable, and we are so without a modicum of manners (Ms. Manners must be rolling in her grave….wait, is she still alive?) that eating a massive turkey leg (come to think of it, how DO they get them so big??) while milling about in public has become totally acceptable. Maybe we should start calling it the “happiest but laziest, most self-centric, gastricly stomach churning place on earth”. Not very catchy though, is it.