I’m currently at my daughter’s place in the tourist mecca of Washington DC, waiting on my in utero baby grandson to finally make his delayed debut. There are people everywhere – not just those who live and work here, but scads and scads of tourists. Why someone would decide to vacation in Washington DC when the heat index is 105 degrees, I can’t fathom. It’s seriously like a steam room out there! The crowds make me feel a little claustrophobic – if you venture outside it’s like a real life game of Donkey Kong. Except you’re dodging people instead of barrels. And there’s no huge, angry gorilla – except this one guy I saw certainly seemed close.
Perhaps I don’t do crowds well because of earlier experiences at super crowded tourist destinations – like Disneyland. When The Loser and I got married, we had no money – any spare cash went right into the Loser’s beer or weed habit. So, our honeymoon had to be relatively nearby, inexpensive, and, of course, romantic. The Loser decided that Disneyland fit the bill and we drove from Utah to Southern California. I’m still puzzled by why he would think Disneyland was romantic – but maybe he thought that the darkness and gentle lapping sounds of water against the side of the boat on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride would send me into a lustful frenzy.
Now, you have to remember this was over thirty years ago – tickets to Disney were a bit on the pricey side, but nothing like they are today. Now you have to take out a second mortgage on your home and commit to eating beans and rice for the next three years in order to afford tickets for you, the spouse, and your 2.5 children! But because the tickets were a big part of the budget, The Loser picked out a special hotel for us to stay in as we celebrated our nuptials. When I say “special” I mean that it was the cheapest place he could find. We had winos and hookers for neighbors. The place also had roaches. When I flipped on the bathroom light that first night and saw the mass exodus of over a dozen of them, I first screamed – and then told The Loser we had to move to a better hotel. He argued with me about the inconvenience and extra cost, but finally, ruefully, he complied.
Even thirty years ago, the crowds at Disneyland were overwhelming – and there were no such thing as Fast Passes. You would attempt to make your way around the park, perpetually stymied by large family reunion groups who blocked the walkway or aimless meanderers who sloooowly strolled, but still managed to cut you off and block you if you attempted to pass them. The five minute walk between Space Mountain and the Matterhorn turned into twenty and was an obstacle course as you dodged unattended children, leapt over fallen snow cones, and serpentined around old folks who would suddenly come to a confused stop as they debated the merits of turning right or left on Main Street, USA.
After a day, I’d had enough – after three days, I was ready to kill someone.
Fast forward to about three and a half years later. My firstborn was going to be celebrating her third birthday (yes, yes – I imagine you’ve done the math and have figured out that I was in “the family way” when I got married. Don’t be all judgey.) For God knows what reason, we decided another road trip to Disneyland was in order – in the heat of August – while school was out and the place was crawling with hundreds…nay, thousands of others.
My marriage to The Loser had not been going well since…well, since the first trip to Disneyland. I naively thought that perhaps this trip would be a chance for us to bond as a family. I was so stupid back then. The Loser brought along his weed and made sure he had a cooler full of beer for the drive down (because nothing says “family outing” like driving under the influence). This time, I had made the hotel reservation myself and it was perfectly acceptable. Knowing what to expect at the park and having my daughter to focus on (who was having a fabulous time – between having meltdowns when she got overly hot or tired) helped me to focus less on the hideous crowds. It would have been a tolerable…maybe even enjoyable trip…except for the fact that The Loser was with us. As always, he was focused on himself – often disappearing for long periods of time to smoke a joint as we waited in the sun for him to return or having his own meltdown when he couldn’t find a place to buy a beer.
By the time the trip was over – I knew that my marriage to The Loser was over as well. As we drove home, my daughter asleep in the back seat, I told him I wanted out. He agreed quickly and didn’t seem remotely upset (it was only later that I found out he was already involved with a teenage radio groupie).
Did Disneyland doom my marriage? I can’t really blame Mickey and the gang (although there is something incredibly creepy about that Small World Ride) – but to me, Disney has never been and will never be the happiest place on earth. Although I might be persuaded to change my mind about that if they want to let me have the entire park to myself.