Park Peeves

by Steve Russo, staff writer

A trip to Walt Disney World is filled with wonder… and dreams… and magical moments… and pixie dust… and (with apologies to Seinfeld) yadda, yadda, yadda. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. If you weren’t aware how special a Disney World trip is, you wouldn’t be visiting this Web site or reading this column. Disney World trips are all special. I’ve never had a trip that was anything less than magical, but during every trip, there are always few things that I will categorize as my Park Peeves. Most are purely innocent and will cause no more than a smile and, possibly, a shake of the head; others… not so much.

Among the things that make me smile are the various walking styles we see at the parks. If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed them but didn’t consider any to be a particular problem. They weren’t for me until we needed a five-minute power walk from Soarin’ to the Canada pavilion, so we could make it in time for a reservation at Le Cellier. Then I became very aware of them and decided to name the various styles we see at the Disney parks. So, without further ado, here's my list and feel free to add your own where appropriate:

  • The Dead Stoppers – can be a single or a group that you’re walking behind when, for no apparent reason they stop dead in their tracks causing a massive pileup of humanity behind them. They’re frequently holding an open park map. These people need brake lights or, at the least, hand signals.
  • The Center Talkers – we’ve all seen this group of four to 12 people who decide to circle and have a conclave in the center of a walkway, aisle or anywhere else it forces others to detour around them.
  • The Wide Walkers (also called the Rotated Caravan) – this group of four or more insists on walking abreast regardless of the walkway’s width; and they won’t move. For some reason, I see more of this in Disney’s Animal Kingdom than anywhere else, probably because the paths are narrower.
  • The Slow Walker – you will, typically, only encounter this walking style when you are racing to get to a restaurant to meet your reservation time. Every step you take is blocked by these people walking so slowly that, if they're going in the right direction, they actually move backward because of the earth's rotation. When you try to pass, they become Wanderers.
  • The Wanderer – walks slowly on the right until you’re about to pass. They then alter their course to "wander' in your direction—effectively preventing the pass.
  • The Bull Rusher – usually, but not always, is pushing a stroller or wheelchair. They’re coming down the center of a walkway, with traffic moving in both directions, and heaven help anyone who happens to be in their way. Unlike the Wanderer, they never deviate from a straight-ahead path.

This next group of Park Peeves involves some of our fellow guests that are simply overwhelmed by their surroundings. Again, there’s no real malicious intent on their parts—just a real need to be introduced to a clue.

  • The Esca-Waiters – these folks may be found predominantly in the Land pavilion. They are the people that reach the top (or bottom) of an escalator and are suddenly in awe of what’s in front of them. They slow considerably or stop completely, oblivious to the pile of people stacking up behind them (kind of like the conveyor-belt chocolates heading for Lucy and Ethel if you get that reference). There’s absolutely nowhere for the folks being pushed off the escalator to go.
  • The Menu-ally Challenged (or, if you prefer, the Procrastin-eaters) – you’re standing in a six-deep line at a counter service restaurant. In the ten minutes it takes you to reach the register, you’ve scanned the menu and taken the orders from your family. The couple in front of you reaches the register and… now they start reading the overhead menu while muttering “Let’s seeeeee. I think I’ll have the Cheeseburger with fries. No… make that apple slices. Wait. Are the apple slices fresh? Are they coated in cinnamon? What do you want, Harriet? No, they don’t have Chicken Strips. Do you have Chicken Strips?” Thank goodness they don’t allow firearms in the parks.
  • The Menu-ally Challenged-2 – I was in line, behind six or eight others, at the snack bar in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, hoping to bag a pretzel and a bottle of water in the 10 minutes I had before the lights went out and the show started. I was amazed at the number of people that would place their order, pay for it, receive change, pick up their food and then… suddenly remember, “Oh, yeah. Can I also get a large Diet Coke?” Aaaarrrggghhh!!!

I think you’d agree that most of those Park Peeves, listed above, are just people being people. After all, we’re all on vacation and we should be able to take a step back, exhale completely and go with the flow.

On the other hand, there might be some other experiences that will try my patience or just leave me shaking my head in bewilderment. Sure, Disney can mess up a reservation or misplace a bag but, unfortunately, most of these more serious Park Peeves are typically caused by my fellow guests. Not you, of course; others. It’s these things that will refry my beans, upset my cart, raise my hackles or otherwise take me temporarily out of the Disney Zone.

  • The Seat Savers – you have entered a theater for a show like Fantasmic! or The Festival of the Lion King (and I saw this occur at both during my most recent trip). There’s a steady stream of people entering and you know the show will be full. You watch as two people in front of you slide into a bleacher row and proceed to drop water bottles, fanny packs, and other bags across the seats, effectively saving room for six other people. I have no problem with this if six people are saving seats for two that may be in the rest room or at the snack bar but… in this case, you know the rest of the party is off enjoying another attraction. There will be six people without seats because these two acted selfishly.
  • The Line Cutter-1 – will (allegedly) head to the rest room while the rest of their party enters a queue. Some time later, they attempt to walk past everyone in the queue to join up with their party. Their favorite phrase is, “Excuse me, pardon me… just catching up to my family…” I’m a bit more tolerant of a single person coming through but, too often, it’s two to four people. Maybe we’re somewhat unique here but, when one of my group needs the facilities, that’s a cue for several others to take advantage of the "pit stop." Either way, we’ll typically wait for everyone until we enter a queue.
  • The Line Cutter-2 – I saw this when using the Single Rider line at Test Track. After moving through the queue, we were in the "corral" outside of the pre-show room. While the cast member was looking the other way, two young couples went under the rope into the adjacent corral. They used the Single Rider entrance to avoid the Stand-By queue, and then ducked into the Stand-By queue at the pre-show. This allowed them to have the shorter wait of the Single Rider line but still ride together as if they had all come through the longer, Stand-By queue.
  • The Line Cutter-3 (higher-ech version) – this was reported by a friend that witnessed it at Expedition Everest. A group sent two people through the Stand-By queue. The rest of the party left, presumably, do other things and come back when their front man got near the loading platform. He would call the others on a cell phone and ask the cast member if he would send the rest of the family through to meet him. In this particular case, the cast member said that, when they arrive, they can go to the end of the line. Yes!
  • The Moocher – I saw this only once but it stood out for the sheer chutzpah. A family was walking around World Showcase stopping in counter service restaurants with a claim that they had purchased food, then placed their tray on a table outside and left to get other items. When they returned, their tray was gone. I saw them try this twice and, the second time, a nearby guest that watched the whole thing blew the whistle on them.
  • The Lost Fastpass – I saw this happen at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but I’m betting it’s been tried before and will be again. A family of three came through the Fastpass line and, when they reached the merge point and were asked to display the Fastpass tickets, mom thoroughly searched her fanny pack several times and found nothing. She then turned to dad and asked him if he had the Fastpass tickets. Based on dad’s reaction, I’m betting it was mom’s idea of how to beat the system. “Let’s just say we can’t find the tickets and they’ll probably let us through anyway.” They were shown how to reach the exit.
  • The Center Stoppers – this is, without a doubt, my single biggest pet peeve at Walt Disney World. Whenever you enter a theater, there is a cast member urging everyone to choose a row and then walk all the way to the end of the row before sitting, ensuring there’s room for everyone (Note: This is sometimes waived when, during non-peak times, there is obviously a crowd that will not fill the theater). Invariably, one or two groups will stop in the dead center of the theater and take their seats. This causes everyone behind them to have to climb over the entire party. It’s one of the rudest acts imaginable and, to me, really demonstrates what has been termed the Entitlement Theory—“I’ve paid my money and will sit wherever is best for me and I don’t care about anyone else.”

That’s my (partial) list of Park Peeves. It's grown considerably since I started it and I’m sure there are many more. Do you have any particular favorites? Are there any that you can add to the list? Let me know.

That’s my opinion… what’s yours?