Park Peeves 2010

by Steve Russo, staff writer

Let me take you back for a moment—all the way back to the spring of 2008, when I wrote a column called Park Peeves. In that column, I borrowed a bit from my book and poked some fun at a few of the things or people (OK, mostly people) that might try my patience just a tad at the Disney parks. Do you remember the Dead Stoppers? How about the Esca-Waiters?

There was a terrific reader response to that column and many of you sent in additional suggestions, so in the spring of 2009 I published a sequel which I entitled Park Peeves 2009. (I know. It’s hard to believe I can be that clever, isn’t it?) In that second column, the list of Peeves expanded to include the FastPass Blockade and one of my personal favorites, Touristo Oblivioso (a reader suggestion.)

So here we are in the spring of 2010 and I began contemplating a third column in this series. My thoughts turned to one of my favorite movies of all time: The Godfather. It’s a great film and some would argue that its sequel, The Godfather Part II, was its equal…and maybe even better. The Godfather Part III? Not so much. The consensus is Francis Ford Coppola should have quit while ahead. Will the same fate befall me? Have I gone too far with this concept? Is three just one too many? I hope not, but you will be the judge of this, the third in the series, which I have even more cleverly named, Park Peeves 2010. (So I’m not the most original person in the world… sue me.)

The concept behind Park Peeves is simple—I list and describe those little things we encounter while vacationing at Walt Disney World; the things that make us sigh, scratch our heads and wonder just what that person was thinking. The list will include the occasional rude guest, but in all honesty, most of these come simply from those that have been overwhelmed by all that Disney has to offer. I use that term, “overwhelmed," rather than a far more graphic phrase that involves their cranium and an act that, I suspect, is anatomically impossible. However, this is a family-friendly column so we’ll just stick with “overwhelmed."

Nevertheless, that won’t stop us from poking fun—but remember that this column, like its predecessors, is aimed at those other people that commit these heinous acts—not you or me. Lord knows we could never be guilty of these infractions.

This time around, let’s begin with the transportation aspects of our Disney trip…

This first one may only strike home if you fly with Southwest Airlines. Just a few years ago, your Southwest Boarding Pass only contained the boarding group: A, B or C. At boarding time, you jostled and threw elbows with the rest of your group attempting to board sooner than the next person—all for the privilege of getting your choice of the 9” wide wafers we call airline seats. It was common for some folks to sit for hours on the floor, under the A, B or C sign, just to be the first in their group to board. Now, the process has changed so you receive a boarding group and a boarding number, guaranteeing you a specific spot in the line of boarders. I’ll say that again for effect: You are guaranteed a specific spot in line. Yet, the Early Bird will still be sitting on the floor under the “A” sign, 90-minutes prior to boarding. Can someone explain this to me?

You finally board the plane but find yourself backed up in the aisle, with thirty or forty others, while you wait patiently for the Color Guard Guy to take his seat. Before he can sit, he needs to stow his jacket in the overhead bin and he’s folding it with as much pomp and circumstance as a flag at Arlington National. He then gingerly places it in the overhead compartment where, three minutes later, it’s demolished by…

… the Carry-on King (or Queen.) This person has never checked a bag in his or her life. The thought of wasting time after arrival while waiting at Baggage Claim is so distasteful, they’ll toss all their worldly belongings into a cardboard refrigerator box, duct tape a rope handle on it, then cross out “Frigidaire” and write “Samsonite” on the side in red magic marker. They’ll drag this thing on board and stuff it into an overhead bin—completely crushing anything that had been placed there before.

The Air-Diner is a new breed, spawned by the steady decrease in anything resembling food being offered by an airline. Not satisfied with the six-peanut bag offered for the four-hour flight, the Air-Diner has thought ahead. As soon as a “comfortable cruising altitude” is reached, he begins to pull out a seven-course meal that has been cleverly disguised as a carry-on bag. Normally, this wouldn’t be terribly disturbing but, in most cases, their culinary choices seem to be focused on the most aromatic selections: things like Yak Flambe, Road-Kill Fricassee and Broiled Blubber. The aroma has me pining for the smell of burning rubber.

Moving on to the parks…

Have you ever found yourself in line at a FastPass machine? This usually occurs at a popular FastPass attraction like Soarin’ or Toy Story Mania. The line seems to have stopped moving when you discover you’re queued behind the FastPassinator. This person either has a large family or is part of a tour group and they’re holding something close to a bazillion tickets to run through the machine. It always seems that half the tickets are bent and this is the first time this person has ever used a FastPass machine. Ultimately, the machine jams and you’re forced to watch as he/she gestures wildly and shouts “Excuse me” at a nearby cast member. As an added bonus, about halfway through, they'll forget which of the two piles of tickets they have made on top of the machine have already been run through… and they'll start over again.

Have you ever been in a queue and been forced to listen to one side of a conversation? Some folks just can’t seem to pass even a few minutes of idle time without the compulsion to call someone at home and talk about absolutely nothing. The disease is called Cellular-itis and you’ll find the person afflicted will annoy you and the person they’ve called simultaneously. “So guess where I am right now…” Sheesh! Here’s something to try when this person is standing next to you… respond aloud as if you were the person on the other end of the call. Just make sure the caller is smaller than you and not armed.

A similar group of offenders, the Blue Toothers (should that be the Blue Teeth?) just scares me. They talk incessantly and, if I haven’t noticed the earpiece, I think they’re talking to me. It’s only after they’ve ignored me saying “Pardon me” three or four times that I realize what’s going on.

Several of you wrote in complaining about the Script Showoff. This is the person who, thanks to either owning the CD soundtrack or having ridden a half dozen times today knows the complete attraction script by heart and wants everyone onboard to know that he or she knows it.

Many of you wrote in to comment on the Stroller Stuffers. These folks will first stuff a stroller with a child that’s about six years too old to be in that stroller. This “child”, in order to fit, will have to sit/lie diagonally across the double stroller yet his knees are still up around his ears. The parents will then load every remaining square inch of the stroller with enough cargo to support a Marine battalion for three months.

In a similar vein are the Stroller Folders. For some unknown reason, they wait at the stop until the bus arrives before beginning the 15-minute process that will collapse their SUV-sized stroller down to the approximate dimensions of a Mini Cooper. The fun part is watching these poor souls trying to maneuver these things through the bus door and down the aisle while they juggle the stroller, four bags, two backpacks and three children.

Speaking of buses, have you run into the Back-Door Brigade? As the bus pulls up and 20 people line up to board at the front door, members of the Brigade decide they have no patience for lines. They simply cut to the back door to try to ensure they’re able to grab one of the few seats still available. I’ve been known to cheer wildly when the bus driver will catch them at this and make them exit and re-join the line.

Here’s one I’ve been guilty of… The Stalker will stand outside the head of the line for a character meet and then take pictures of that character regardless of the fact that no one from their party is in the line. The picture would usually be a character posing with a complete stranger. In my defense, I’ve only done this once but you’ll need to cut me some slack—it was Jasmine! The guys will understand.…

Hey! It's Jasmine. Photo by Steve Russo.

The Mad Hatters are those who enter a store to try on the hats and take pictures of each other. They clearly have no intention of buying anything but they’ll don Sombreros and Rastafarian wigs while giggling and clicking cell phone cameras. I’m just hoping that shampoo has been on their shopping list somewhere in the last decade.

The Rack ‘em – Stack ‘em Dads can often be found directly in front of me at fireworks or parades. I find a spot and think I have a great view until the show starts and the six-feet six-inches dad puts little Johnny on his shoulders forming a nine-foot wall that successfully prevents me, and the dozen or so around me, from seeing anything. This is particularly perplexing when said dad took up his spot about three minutes before the show started and I’ve been waiting for 30 minutes.

The Space Invaders also strike during parades and fireworks shows. You’ve staked out your spot amidst the crowds and, just prior to the show starting, three people slide into the six inches of empty space between you and the person in front of you. So much for personal space—I’ve gotten to know a few of these people better than most of the girls I dated in high school.

Although it sounds like the name of a Native American tribe, it’s anything but. The U-Owe-Mes have somehow become very prevalent at Walt Disney World. They can usually be found at a resort’s front desk, a restaurant podium or bending the ear of an attraction cast member. They’re loudly complaining and usually looking for something extra… for free. I’ve seen attraction cast members berated because of a lengthy wait. I’ve also seen restaurant hosts/hostesses try unsuccessfully to explain the facility is completely booked and there are no tables available yet the U-Owe-Me will have none of that. The cast members work very hard to make our vacations magical—they don’t deserve that.

I have a new Park Peeve that has nothing to do with guests—it’s with the characters and, most notably, the Big Cheese his own self: yes, Mickey! Several years ago, they introduced a newer technology for a few of the masked characters, Mickey included. This technology allows their eyes to blink. While this is very lifelike, it’s ruined more than a few of my photos when Mickey’s eyes are half closed. It looks like he’s falling asleep or, in some cases, it’s that semi-drowsy look that comes with a wee bit too much of the mouse juice.

Has Mickey fallen asleep here? Photo by Steve Russo.

Lastly… a plea. With each previous Park Peeves column, I’ve received a good number of responses and suggestions (for which I thank you.) I’ve also received more than a few pleas from wheelchair and ECV users and I’ve promised to plead their case here. They chuckle with us over the Dead-Stoppers, Bull-Rushers and Wanderers that present a problem to us all… but they ask to publicize the particular problem they present when you’re riding in a motorized vehicle and lack the ability to stop on a dime. I’ll relay their message and ask all of us bipeds to be cognizant of those around us and try not to cut off, stop dead in front of, or overly crowd the folks in these vehicles. They have to spend a lot of their time staring at our butts in line so the least we can do is cut them a bit of slack and give them a bit of room. On their behalf, I thank you.

That’s it for Park Peeves 2010. Does anything here strike a note you’re familiar with? Let me know and send in your suggestions for next time, assuming there will be a Park Peeves 2011. As always, thanks for reading.