Part of being a normal Mormon husband is taking the annual family vacation to ensure that we are hitting our quota on wholesome recreational activities. Because we live in North Carolina and all of our family is in Utah, our vacations have normally been saving just enough money to buy four plane tickets and then enjoying a week or two back home. This year we ended up with a larger than expected tax return and decided to take a week-long vacation to Disney World in Orlando. Our son, Brandon, is six and our daughter, Whitney, is almost four. They are the perfect ages for the Magic Kingdom.
Instead of describing the parks, rides, shows, etc., I decided to keep a running diary of the odd, quirky, humorous moments that make vacations like this so much fun. There was so much bizarre zaniness that this post will be broken up into two parts and I will post Part II later this week. So for now, here are some of the random moments of the normal Mormon family vacation to see Mickey Mouse:
Day 1: Pioneer children watched as they drove, and drove, and drove, and drove.....
9:12 a.m. - Just passed the first gas station of our 1,500 mile round-trip journey. I am overjoyed to see that gas has fallen to only $11.86 per gallon.
11:48 a.m. - The kids have been watching their DVD players for nearly three straight hours. Meanwhile, Andrea and I have been having wonderful, uninterrupted conversations the entire time. I hope the kids watch those things for the next nine hours. Does this make me a bad parent? Lazy? Normal? Outstanding? Call me a parental slacker if you want to, but portable DVD players and Game Boys that can mesmerize kids on day-long road trips are my best friends on the planet right now. Bless the nerds who invented them!
3:46 p.m. - We have traveled approximately two miles in the last sixty-seven minutes. Our Georgia interstate is at a complete standstill. But in the Easter spirit, instead of people honking, punching, and brandishing firearms at one another, complete strangers are getting out of their cars and talking and laughing on the freeway. Kind of a surreal moment. I love the South.
9:58 p.m. - Arrived to our Hotels.com $39/night special - the Kissimmee Best Western. Oh, wait. A large tarp is covering the Best Western logo and this place is now called the Florida Inn and Suites. Not a good sign when a place is bad enough that even the Best Western wants to distance itself from it.
10:11 p.m. - Go to our room only to find that there are no sheets, blankets, or pillow cases. There are cracker crumbs on the floor and I'm pretty sure a family of raccoons is living in the closet. The room smells like feet, but none of us have taken off our shoes off yet....Hmmm......
10:24 p.m. - Placed in a new room that we will call home for the next seven days. Fortunately, it also smells like other people's feet.
Day Two: EPCOT (Extremely Politically Correct Outdoor Themepark)
9:15 a.m. - While waiting in line, my three-year-old daughter reaches up to hold my hand but accidentally grabs the hand of the man in front of her. I am about 6'6", 215 pounds, and Caucasian. The man whose hand she just grabbed is about 5'1, 115 pounds, and Indian. In fact, he looks quite a bit like Ghandi during his younger years. Me. Gandhi. What's the difference?
11:32 a.m. - I have been blessed with three supernatural gifts - 1) A hair that grows straight out of my forehead that we loving call "The Unicorn". 2) The ability to see potential car accidents a split second before they happen and then avoid them (17 accident-free years and counting). 3) The ability to spot European tourists from six miles away. My "Euro Alarm" has been beeping since the moment we entered the park. They are everywhere! My spidey senses perk up when I see a person wearing a fanny pack on both hips, a tattered backpack, a dangling camera, soccer jersey, oddly colored and striped shorts, Birkenstocks or leather shoes, and unwashed hair. I mentally say to myself, "He's got to be European" , and then my suspicions are confirmed as he walks by saying, "Können Sie langsamer sprechen?" So far I'm 13 for 13 while playing Spot the Europeans. Does anybody else play this or a similar game?
12:32 p.m. - Whitney and I are in the waiting room for Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable. It was the only option to pass twenty minutes before rendezvousing with Andrea and Brandon. There are television monitors all over the waiting room showing Exxon Valdez footage and then displaying stats such as, "14 billion pounds of garbage are thrown the ocean every year", and, "Driving makes up 30% of air pollution." We were then treated to a movie informing us that humans are the most evil plague ever unleashed on mother earth and that we should all be ashamed of ourselves. Good times! Look, I know that we do need to take care of the planet and be wise with our resources. But having Disney Corporation shove the "earth first" message down my throat makes me want to give Goofy a black eye. There were probably 30,000 cars in the parking lot from Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, Canada, and Outer Mongolia. Thousands of people literally flew half way around the world to enjoy the Disney experience. Disney probably leveled about twenty thousand acres of pristine Florida grassland to build the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, etc. There is probably enough food thrown away at Disney every year to feed tens of thousands of starving people around the world. Disney's 2007 revenues were $35.5 billion with Net Income (earnings) of $4.7 billion. Disney corporation does more damage to the environment in an hour than I could do in several lifetimes, yet they want me to feel guilty for driving from North Carolina to Orlando? How does that scripture about beams and motes go again?
3:53 p.m. - Just visited the Norway exhibit and met employees with name tags that read Ingri, Kiim, Jan, and Stian. They were all blond and at least 6'8. The Euro Alarm just exploded.
4:41 p.m. - Just visited the Mexico exhibit. They must have been short on staff today because I am almost positive that I just saw Ingri from the Norway exhibit dressed in Mexican garb and with a name tag that said, "Rosalinda". Tramposos!
5:23 p.m. - It is raining outside and I just put on my enormous neon yellow poncho. I look and feel like a dork. If Nelson Muntz walked past me right now, he'd slug me in the gut, laugh, walk away, and then punch the next tool wearing a poncho. After looking at how silly we all appear, I had a an amazing realization - ponchos are the great societal equalizer! When you see a person in a poncho, you cannot tell if they are fat, skinny, wear expensive clothes, have multiple visible tattoos, etc. We all just look like nerds! I am proposing right now that when dating, both parties must wear ponchos for the first three dates to look past any superficial external beauty or expensive fashion. Presidential debates and high school student body elections should also be conducted in ponchos so that the constituency focuses solely on the messages at hand. Behold the power of the poncho!
6:50 p.m. - I am sitting down outside of a gift shop next to an Indian grandmother who is holding a sleeping infant. She has no backrest but manages to sit as still as a stone for twenty minutes while the baby sleeps. My rear end and back are killing me after two minutes. How does she do it? She is also not wearing any shoes. The callouses on the soles of her feet are so large that it looks like she walked through wet cement and then let it harden. She could strike matches on those things!
Day Three: Easter in the 'Hood
11:30 a.m. - Attended the block of church meetings on Easter Sunday with the Kissimmee Ward. I always enjoy being a visitor to other wards. There are no callings to worry about, assignments to accept, or lessons to prepare. You simply show up, listen, learn, feel the Spirit, and go home. We obviously grow spiritually from our callings and the Lord needs each of us to serve, but an occasional weekend off is also nice. We even had the pleasure of hearing from the Mission President and his wife in both sacrament meeting and in a combined Relief Society/Priesthood meeting. Does it get any better than this?
3:30 p.m. - Pull in to Golden Corral for dinner and I jokingly say to Andrea, "Today at Golden Corral you will enjoy our Easter menu - the menu is the same but the prices have gone up." Sure enough, they jacked up the price and even had the gall to charge for kids! I drove away on principle and we decided to go to CiCi's Pizza Buffet even though the only time I've been there I got violently ill and threw up for two days.
4:45 p.m. - Waddle out of CiCi's Pizza Buffet after eating enough pizza that you would have thought I was in some sort of extreme eating contest.
5:41 p.m. - Go to a local park with a playground to let the kids burn off some steam. The park is not in a good neighborhood, but it was the only one we could find. There is a large, loud family doing an Easter egg hunt at the park while we play. Most of the adults are shouting and cursing as they remember the true meaning of Easter by looking for a golden egg with $40 in it. A chromed-out car across the street is blaring Snoop Dogg with the bass turned up as loud as it can go. Ahhhh, another peaceful Easter.
5:56 p.m. - I just figured out two of the phrases being yelled by the adults from the other party. I'll edit out the profanity for you. "You whame bayou whun doze?" = "Do you want me to buy you one of those?". "Das ah de eh's!" = "That all of the eggs!". Have I mentioned that I love the South?
9:30 p.m. - Uh, oh. Tummy rumbling. Taste of stomach acid in the back of my throat. Mild stabbing pain in my stomach. Darn you, CiCi's! I can tell I'm going to throw up.
9:41 p.m. - I throw up everything I have eaten for the past two days. The mild stabbing pain in my stomach has been upgraded to, "piercing".
10:12 p.m. - I thought I had lost everything at 9:41, yet my body managed to find more food to expunge through my mouth. I really should have just paid the extra money and gone to Golden Corral. Why do I have to have so many principles?
Day Four: I'm Ill (Not in the cool Snoop Dogg way, but in the lame sick way.)
8:20 a.m. - Decide I'm too sick to go to the Animal Kingdom with the family.
10:12 a.m. - Get my first work-related cell phone call and spend the next thirty minutes discussing strategy for our upcoming union negotiations. Vomiting and HR strategy calls? Now that's a vacation!
2:30 p.m. - Look up the Spanish translation for "spill" to tell the non-English speaking housekeeping staff that a drink was spilled on the sheets. I served a Spanish-speaking mission to Chile from 1994-1996 and am still pretty fluent, but I just wanted to verify that "derramar" was the correct verb. I looked it up on WordReference.com and learned that derramar is, in fact, the right word. It even used it in the following sentence, "Sorry, I've spilt some whiskey on your sofa." Now there's a sentence that an active LDS returned missionary uses all of the time! What Mormon doesn't know how to say that in Spanish?
4:30 p.m. - CNN showed a segment that studies have shown that marriages are happier and more enriching to both partners when the wife is more attractive than the husband. No wonder Andrea and I have been so happy for the past ten years.
6:18 p.m. - Stomach is settling down a little bit. Hopefully I can make it to the Magic Kindgom with the family in the morning. The only two things I have eaten today are two graham crackers and two cups of Jell-O. Best. Vacation. Ever!
Come back in a few days to see if I live or die from the CiCi's food poisoning and what hilarity awaits us at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Assuming, of course, that I live to make it there.