“I’m so scared,” she whispered. Her grip on my arm tightened. I felt my arm beginning to buzz as it fell asleep, blood being harder and harder to come by. The doors of our elevator clanged shut, and we were plunged, once again, into utter darkness.
A disembodied voice rumbled in the black. “You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination…”
The elevator fell out from under us. We screamed.
For those of you that have been to Walt Disney’s “Disney World” (named after Walter Disney’s last name, Disney), you’ve likely already guessed that I’m referring to The Twilight Zone’s Tower Of Terror. If you haven’t been, the ride is scarier than realizing you accidentally ordered tofu at Chipotle.
Recently, I tricked my wife into accepting that I’m still thirteen years old in all the ways that matter (namely, my child-like wonder). While she, understandably, would likely have preferred we go to to the Bahamas or Jamaica or Naboo or somewhere “adults” like to go for our first married vacation, I reminded her that I, like Anakin Skywalker, find sand to be repulsive.
It’s coarse, and rough, and irritating and it tends to jam my pistol up something fierce.
But, thankfully, my wife is a much greater, more generous person than I am, and I used her wonderful personality to my advantage. We made our way south to “The Happiest Place On Earth” for a week of walking around and screaming. Not necessarily in that order.
We’d both been before, but neither within the last decade, and I thought it could be a fun way to do literally anything besides be close to sand. My wife thought it could be a good way to win every argument for the next year or so.
The thing with Disney is, it’s not really about “adult” stuff.
No, I don’t mean 50 Shades of Mickey, but they also don’t tend to offer rides named Crotch Crusher or Brain Vomit To The Max 2: The Pukening. The rides and attractions at Disney aren’t solely built around being so extreme that they only pair with a Mountain Dew: Code Red (the most extreme drink in existence).
Every box comes with your own bottle of Tag body spray to amp your extreme sense of smell.
But that’s the whole point. Every ride at Disney (heck, the whole experience) is built around some sort of story or context. I guarantee the Tower Of Terror line would move a lot faster if they didn’t shepherd a bunch of scared eleven-year-olds into a dark library and have them watch a film about the deaths of previous elevator riders. As family home videos have shown us, there’s nothing quick about mandatory film screenings.
It’s context like that, though, that both makes the ride a little scarier (my wife being a perfect example of somebody who “bought into” the narrative) and helps you forget that you’re standing in a line.
Fortunately, we visited during the winter when fewer people are there, but Disney’s peak is usually in the summer. That means people can wait for multiple hours just to sit on a ride for five minutes. There are few things more frustrating than sweating through your underwear while your child whines about not having enough fun. I assume. My only kid is a dog. She wasn’t allowed to ride.
By contextualizing the experience, that sort of exasperation can be mitigated. Lines don’t seem so long when there’s actually something to do or look at.
Multiple times my wife and I would just stare at the fantastic decor built into every wait line and marvel at how much time and effort must have been spent developing those aspects of the ride. I don’t know anything about Mt. Everest, but after standing in the line for the ride, I felt like I’d legitimately learned some things about Tibet and the culture of the surrounding areas. Did you know they’re constantly attacked by massive snow Yeti? Culture!
“My other vehicle is a Yeti.” – Tibetan Bumper Sticker (probably)
All of this made me think about what our lives would be like if we had better methods of contextualizing them. What if we saw our jobs not as boring necessities we must overcome before “real life” can begin? Work shouldn’t just be a stepping stone; it’s a very real part of our lives. We should be present for it, and notice how even something as seemingly mundane as data entry is contributing to us as people and growing the world more into what it is becoming.
And it’s not just jobs, what about laundry? If we don’t do the laundry, life is going to be hell. We’re going to smell terrible. Nobody wants to hire a guy with mustard stains on his pants. Nobody’s going to want to see a movie with the guy whose shirt armpits are so drenched in old sweat that he invites a horde of flies to follow him wherever he goes. Laundry is an exercise and a part of the natural rhythm of our lives. How can we do it in such a way that we see its significance? Is there a way to make it more fun, more interesting?
Disney’s “magic” is just finding ways to apply meaning or interest to the things we usually hate. Standing in lines is a preparation for our participation in a story. We buy food at places that make it feel like we’re in a different country or time period. Everywhere you walk, you feel like you’re a part of something special.
I’ll admit that I don’t have a perfect answer for how to do this (and that my wife does basically all of our laundry), but I wonder if we couldn’t try to find ways to view all of our experiences as significant.
Disney has realized the magic of context. How can we?