Published on May 7th, 2015 | by Richard Black0
Going Disney: Day Five, Mingling with the Drunks at Epcot
It’s a little known fact but two hours off the coast in the central part of Florida lies a portal to hell. That’s probably overly harsh. There is no gateway to eternal damnation in central Florida it just simply feels that way when one happens to be in Epcot.
Hyperbole aside the correlations to be made between an afterlife of fire and brimstone and Epcot are compelling. It’s hot for starters and there’s no shade anywhere if one happens to be outside which is generally where one spends the bulk of one’s time in Epcot. Lines to visit shows or rides are effectively interminable which is also consistent with mu understanding of hell. One can generally expect to wait for an hour and a half winding through a labyrinthine maze for a remarkably mediocre experience. For shits and giggles there’s also a lagoon that reminds one of how nice it would be to take a dip and that parched park goers can expect to pay fifteen dollars for a quart of water.
Epcot is not the worst place in the United States but for the expense I would have cheerfully vacationed in another, albeit less desirable location like downtown Detroit or a project in South Central L.A. If I had a mind to save money and time I could have saved myself the hassle of the 16 hour drive (again thank you MapQuest) and visited East St. Louis. Sure the city regularly tops the FBI list of cities for the highest murders per capita but at least it’s close to where I live.
The first ride Laura and Darcy and I hit was “Soaring”. It took us fifteen minutes with a fastpass while others waited in line for almost ninety minutes and it wasn’t bad, the ride that is. The four mile walk though the building as I carried my daughter on my shoulders, whose legs felt “wobbly”, was nothing short of interminable and yes I used that word again because it’s appropriate and I don’t have access to a thesaurus.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure “Soaring” mimics the experience of hang gliding over various landscapes. Participants are strapped into a set of seats that rise about fifteen or so feet from the ground that tilt and bob in front of a giant curved screen whilst pine forests, citrus groves and rendering plants pass beneath and various scents are pumped out along the way to enhance the experience. Again that’s not entirely true. We didn’t really fly over a rendering plant. My biggest gripe was the fact that “Soaring” is based upon the suspension of disbelief. If you’ve got a front row view to the ride then the experience is almost worth the wait. If you happen to be one of the poor saps in the back set of seats then you get to view the aforementioned citrus groves and pine forests through someone’s feet which, from my perspective, hadn’t seen a washcloth or a pair of toe nail clippers since the Berlin Wall fell.
The highlight of Epcot was Turtle talk with Crush, the loveable stoner turtle from Finding Nemo at least I’ve always assumed he was stoned and not just stupid. The experience, and there’s really no other way to put it, involves a decent sized room with benches facing a wall sized screen. A cast member seats all the children on the floor in the front and after a few minutes Crush swims up and interacts with the audience. The cast member moderates between Crush’s comments and questions posed to the audience (How old are you? Are turtles really as delicious as I hear?) while Crush makes the appropriate response (100 years young. That’s cold dude really cold). It’s really a lot of fun and an are that Disney shines by bridging fantasy, technology and the analogue world seamlessly.
Unfortunately that was the peak of our day. Just shy of 11:00 in the AM we decided to tour the countries which was the precise time Epcot began serving alcohol. I can honestly say that I have never wanted to pimp slap more people within a confined area that didn’t involve a meal with my extended family. Guiding a stroller with an exhausted four year old through herds of drunken chicks wearing bedazzaled Mickey Mouse ears isn’t my idea of a good time. Then again I’m forty. Twenty years ago I would have thought that this was the best place on earth, a Frat party in every country and pussy in every port. As a father it was about as fun as wrapping my lips around the exhaust pipe of a semi truck without the possibility of losing consciousnesses.
To make matters somewhat more enjoyable and irritating in equal measures the entire state of New Jersey decided to vacation at Epcot as well as a sizable portion of the UK and a Canadian province I don’t have the fortitude to look up and spell correctly. Technically all three groups, Brits, Canadians, New Jerseyians speak English but the dialects have diverged enough to make communication between each faction somewhat challenging. The situation was rife for misunderstanding as well as a number of cheap laughs.
“Are yous guys need that extra chair?” I heard an orange and burly New Jerseyite asked an elderly Canadian who promptly handed over his wallet.
“Can you point me to the toilet?” I heard an English man ask a young couple from Chicago who was then kindly provided with directions to the exit to the park and the rest of Florida.
The only people who understood everyone were the employees in Epcot, employees I feel compelled to mention, who are men and women of the “countries” in which they are employed and whose first language is not English.
“I’ll have the kay sa dilla,” I overheard more than one person say and not just in Mexico. I scarfed down a plate of nachos for lunch which, the last time I was aware, was not a staple of Mexican cuisine. Then again most citizens of the United States consider Taco Bell to be authentic Mexican food and I can only assume that, in the spirit of catering to the experience people expect, Disney finally caved to the bland and unadventurous North American palate.
After I scarfed down a plate of nachos Laura, Darcy and I entered the giant Mayan pyramid which was essentially a restaurant and an open air market with a few shops. We nosed around for a few minutes and I was looking at some Oaxacan tripped out figurines of animals when I felt the rumbles of an impending gastrointestinal event. The nachos I had eaten a scant thirty minutes earlier were making their presence known. Forgoing conventional digestion they had ripped through my gut like a Cholula seasoned bowling ball and were pounding at my sphincter like an underpaid collection agent. In the miniature world of Disney’s Mexico I was experiencing a miniature version of Montezuma’s revenge. I immediately began searching for a Men’s room and, after fifteen minutes and an increasingly frenetic search, realized that Disney’s version of Mexico, a country known for gastrointestinal events, was startlingly lacking in restrooms. I had to walk to Germany to find relief which is a phrase I don’t think many people have ever uttered throughout known history unless they were looking for a hooker.
We spent the next five hours touring the countries and it was precisely as much fun as I thought it would be in large part because I decided to go through the entire experience without a drop of alcohol. Booze in large quantities is integral to the Epcot experience at least if one hopes to either enjoy it or forget that it had ever happened.
Sunburned and exhausted and after our second trip around the lagoon Laura and I wheeled Darcy to Italy to for dinner. We originally thought about seeing the fireworks which start at 9:00 p.m. in Epcot as opposed to the 10:00 hour in the Magic Kingdom but once we sat down to eat I knew it wasn’t going to happen. Service at Via Napoli was Italian (loud, chaotic, haphazzard and full of hair) in every aspect aside from being congenial. The staff appeared to be harried and apparently under threat of deportation if the manager received a complaint which made the service a bit forced and made for a less than pleasant meal.
Via Napoli’s claim to fame is the pizza. The restaurant imported three ovens as well as flour from the mother for authenticity which was nice. Apparently the meals are also ordered from Italy as it took about an hour and a half to get our meal. I would have been all right with the delay if our server visited more than once every thirty minutes and unintentionally thwarted my efforts to begin drinking heavily. When it arrived our meal was remarkably underwhelming. Darcy’s cheese pizza was fantastic but, having filled up on five gallons of Sprite, didn’t eat more than two bites. My pasta was forgettable and Laura’s Fungi pizza was reminiscent of Anna Nicole Smith just before she passed in that it was bland and flabby.
A small eternity after our meal we embarked on a larger eternity which paled in comparison to our efforts to leave the park. I would have given my left thumb to hire a rickshaw from Disney China to haul us back to our hotel but only because I’m right handed and there weren’t’ any rickshaws to be hired. The drunks had mostly left but had been replaced by hordes of young go getters, eager to stake out a space to view the fireworks and I thought, not for the first time, that it was well and good that I had never procured a conceal to carry a firearm permit.
We waited for a good forty five minutes before our bus turned up and, upon arriving at the Wilderness Lodge, fell promptly asleep at the stately hour of eight in the evening. If memory serves and just before I fell into a restful sleep the TV was on and Darcy was watching the movie Shrek. I woke some four hours later to find my daughter watching Fox News which was alarming for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I was still holding the remote. In retrospect and if I were of a paranoid frame of mind I would say that the change in channels was by design but I’m too tired to take potshots at Walt for his appalling political stances.
I turned off the television. Darcy protested briefly for a few seconds before snuggling up to her mother and conking out inside of two minutes. I spent the next three terrifying hours watching Fox News until I succumbed to sleep after having placed a pillow between my legs to thwart my daughter’s assaults on my genitalia and dreamed of a world in which teleportation was readily available to transport my family and I home.