So after dealing with all the nonsense at the airport, I drove angrily to Disney World, without getting all excited when I passed through the main gate, or looking around for all the signs and the attractions you can see over the tree-line. I just parked the car at the hotel and stomped into the lobby and as corny as it sounds, all that anger and frustration just vanished. The hotel itself is impressive; I put some pictures up on flickr, mostly for Skip but for anyone who wants to take a look. But better than that was how friendly everyone was — the bellhops, the people at the front desk, the people working at the restaurant. And it wasn’t a case of special treatment for employees, since there was nothing identifying me as an employee. And it wasn’t really anything particularly above-and-beyond, just a general level of friendliness and genuinely trying to make things easier for guests. The cynical-minded could point out that you pay a lot for that kind of treatment, but I just say that it’s nice that it even exists.
The big attraction of the lodge is the ability to see animals in the savannas all around the hotel. I didn’t see all that many — a few giraffes and a couple of zebras — but there were still plenty of neat touches. At night, near the pool, they have a cast member who gives you night-vision goggles to check out the animals. During the day they have cast members in the lobby with smaller displays of insects and other creatures for kids to check out. In the area between the two restaurants, the hosts and hostesses play African drums and invite guests to play along while they’re waiting for a table. And there are various displays about ecology and African culture and history all throughout. It’s exactly what a Disney hotel should be.
One of the worst things about losing my luggage — apart from having to wear the same pair of underwear for three days straight — was being on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and realizing that I’d become That Guy. You know, That Guy. Mid 30’s to early 40’s. Alone at an amusement park. In the single rider line. Pale, glasses, kinda chubby. Wearing a shirt from that park or a different one, bonus points for a theme park in a different country. Likely wearing a goatee and/or a ponytail and/or a single earring. Waits for the front row, gets off the ride quietly. Walks past the photo booth at the end, glancing at the picture but without stopping. The male equivalent of the crazy cat lady.
And even though I fit all kinds of qualifications (I hadn’t noticed I’ve gotten fat again until I had to buy new clothes), I wasn’t put off by it until I found myself in the front row of the coaster sitting next to another That Guy, except I was the only one in the Animal Kingdom Lodge T-shirt. And then it all came crashing down. The ride was still cool, though.
I wasn’t able to actually get to a park until 7pm, and the parks closed around 8 and 9. So all I saw of Disney-MGM was the Rock’n’Roller coaster once, and the Tower of Terror twice. That was as cool as ever — seriously, it’s so much better than the California version, because they understood that the drop is only the climax of the ride, not the whole ride. After that I took a boat over to the Swan & Dolphin hotel, walked past the Boardwalk over to Epcot, and went in to get some fish and chips and watch the fireworks. Four of my favorite Disney World things back-to-back, not bad for two hours.
The rest of the trip was taken up either by work or by dealing with the airline. Still, nice work if you can get it. And driving around “backstage” was really, really cool. At Disneyland, it was just kind of off-putting, like seeing Space Mountain with the lights turned on. But at Disney World, the parks are so big that the backstage areas are impressive in and of themselves. I’ve been going there for years, and I’d thought I understood just how big and complicated the whole place was. I had no idea — it’s really a big city. With really expensive food.
And the last bit (I hope) about my experiences with American Airlines: I’d gotten a voice message last night, while I was still on the plane, saying that they had my bag and would be sending it to my San Francisco address. I got another call this morning, telling me that the bag was at SFO and they’d be delivering it to my San Francisco address, which was correct, and telling me that they’d be in the area between 8 and 12 and would I prefer them to call me on my cell phone when they were in the area, or just leave it on the doorstep. I got yet another call this afternoon, telling me that they had the bag, but they needed my address. I pointed out that they had already called me twice with the correct address, but they needed it again. Then tonight at around 11pm, a guy showed up at the door holding the bag, said just “hello,” had me sign a piece of paper, and then walked off saying “thank you.”
At this point, now that I’ve got underwear and toothpaste and clean socks, it’s just comical instead of annoying.