The Happiest Place on Earth
Three ancients on mobility scooters just manage to clear the wooden bridge to Liberty Square when an enormous marching band from Cleveland, Texas bears down on them.
Ed, who sports a craggy face that looks like Expedition Everest but which is topped with a Korean War Veterans baseball cap, clears the bridge first. Traveling at a clip (No doubt to be first in line to get his photo taken with Ariel) he nearly pancakes Betsy Ross hand-painting Cinderella on a parasol.
Ed’s friends, a married couple with his and her scooters, trail behind, quibbling like uncooperative shopping carts with funky wheels.
A young park visitor skips past us all to catch up with friends. He’s dressed like Tinkerbell – green tights, green tutu, green wings.
My 8-year-old reaches for her autograph book then pauses. “He had glitter on his face!” she whispers.
A strange sound prompts me to look up. A skywriting airplane is magically looping a new letter:
Welcome to Florida’s Magic Kingdom.
We hope you enjoy your stay. And will the last freak to jump on the monorail please turn off the lights?
The quibbling Scooter Couple rolls into earshot.
“Don’t be ridiculous. That was a girl. She had glitter on her face!” the man growls.
“No, Stan. I’m telling you. That Tinkerbell was a boy.”
Gerard, a Disney Cast member dressed like a train conductor, trots out his frantic adult voice to speed the oblivious duo on. “Please clear the road!” he cries. “Please clear the road NOW!”
Three expressionless, enormous Texan teens – a drum major and two assistants carrying a banner that’s clearly capable of decapitation – take the bridge by storm. They’re backed by a swarm of piccolos, clarinets and sweaty brass players that explode into the Mickey Mouse song.
Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?
Scooter Couple looks back in horror.
Topping the bridge, the shocked drum major finally spots Scooter Couple. His martial composure cracks.
The drum major’s clueless band director has apparently failed to drill him on proper evasion tactics when the Cleveland High School Band encounters mobility scooters in the middle of the football field.
In my head, the unfolding drama becomes a cartoon looping back at the Caribbean Resort’s check-in desk. The drum major stutters to a halt. The trumpet players slam into him. The clarinet and flute players become a huge, undulating accordion, spiked with arms, legs and band instruments. A bass drum rolls by. The trombone players collide. Their slides rocket into the air and the tuba players blunder over the bridge and swallow the mass whole.
Then the tuba players suck in deep breathes and blow so hard their legs lift off the road.
And the entire marching band is safely ejected over the top of Scooter Couple, falling into proper formation, all the slides arcing perfectly back onto the trombones.
Because at Disneyworld dreams really do come true.
At the last possible moment – with inches to spare! – Scooter Couple drags their hawgs over to Sleepy Hollow, Fine Purveyors of Funnelcakes and Waffle Sandwiches.
And Gerard the Train Conductor exhales a sigh of relief.
After nearly killing Betsy Ross, Ed has inexplicably halted in the middle of the road. Now he’s digging through his shirt pocket for a windshield-sized sunglass visor to drape over his eyeglasses.
Gerard the Train Conductor breaks into a run. “Get off the road, sir!” he cries.
But Ed is apparently the deafest individual currently spring breaking in Florida.
So spring broken he can’t hear a Texas-sized marching band crashing and banging and tooting and blaring right before smashing into him.
“Oh, this is gonna be good,” my wife says.
Scooter Couple, who just survived their own near miss, joins the cacophony of Disney Cast Shouters.
“ED!” Scooter Couple Man screams, “GET OUTTA THE WAY!”
“ED!” Scooter Couple Woman screams. “ED!”
“What is he doing?” I say.
Ed scratches his chin and looks up.
“ED!” Scooter Couple Man waves his arm frantically, “GET THE HELL OFF THE ROAD!”
“What is he doing?” I cry again.
Ed reaches up. His arm extends into the sky. With his finger Ed begins tracing the letters.
Ed is completely stuck at the F, unable to puzzle out just what that tricky Jesus has up his sleeve.
A half dozen members of Disney’s Secret Service, earpieces glued to their heads, leap from bushes and doors and swarm Ed.
Ensconced in the Disney rapture, Ed and his scooter, are blissfully lifted out of the way.
And the high school marching band from Cleveland, Texas barrels past.
Like pixie dust flung to the wind, the Disney heavies quickly transform back into street sweepers, pin traders, ice cream vendors and harried train conductors wiping perspiration from their brows.
And Ed rocks on.
We wander over to Tomorrowland, concocted by futurists in the late sixties back when I was born. They might be disappointed. Turns out, instead of everything being made out of sheet metal and rivets, the modern world is made entirely out of sheetrock and stucco.
And instead of using the People Mover, half of America has gone retro-cowboy. They ride scooters with enormous cup holders and just bang into everyone.
You want a better bet about Tomorrowland?
In 50 years, all 14 Disney princesses will be eating ice cream and riding mobility scooters down Main Street U.S.A. during the 2 p.m. parade.
And Jesus will still love you.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher