Park Peeves 2011by Steve Russo, staff writer
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages… it’s that time of year again. Let’s discuss that (seemingly) never-ending list of things that tick me off.
The inspiration for Park Peeves came from a 2007 trip to Walt Disney World. I was hustling through Epcot’s Future World and running late for a dinner reservation in World Showcase. During that power-walk, it seemed that three-quarters of the people in Epcot that day managed to get in my way. It felt as if total strangers were conspiring to make me late for that reservation. In my book (another shameless plug—see the link below), I poked some fun at a few of those people and categorized them as Dead Stoppers, Center Talkers and Wide Walkers. In 2008, I expanded the list and wrote a column about those little annoyances we all find at Walt Disney World and entitled it Park Peeves.
The enormous reader response to that article was surprising and, to be honest, a bit overwhelming. Most folks caught the intended humor and many responses included suggestions for a few additional Park Peeves. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, the next year I followed up with a column I titled Park Peeves 2009 (Clever column titling, eh?) That one included some jibes at the FastPass Blockade, Scooter-rorists, Turnst-oppers, the infamous Touristo Oblivioso, and the Flasher.
Once again, your awesome response demanded another follow-up so… the next year I turned out Park Peeves 2010. It is truly amazing how imaginative I can be when naming columns. I’ve provided the links to all three of those columns for your reading pleasure, but I’d prefer you didn’t go back to re-read them less you discover just how much I steal from myself from year to year. (Wait, can you steal from yourself? It’s only borrowing if you intend to give it back, right? Where was I?)
Here we are in 2011. It’s a new year and I’m a year older, and as I age ever so gracefully, I continue to be amazed at the increasing number of things that annoy me. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I’m getting a bit crotchety. I figure by the time I’m ready for the retirement home, everyone on the planet will have ticked me off at one time or another—according to my wife, most of them already have.
Before we jump into this year’s list, let’s refresh ourselves on exactly what a Park Peeve is: it’s the term I use to describe my unofficial list of the folks we find at the Disney Parks that just seem to be a bit overwhelmed by it all. It’s important to note here that the majority of my Park Peeves are guest infractions that are purely innocent in nature. They’re performed by people that are caught up in the moment, bless their souls,and are usually oblivious to the mayhem they may be causing. They’re simply overwhelmed by all that a Disney Park has to offer. On the other hand, there are a few miscreants that make the Peeves list through intentional and typically selfish acts. We dislike these people and cast a pox upon them and their vacations.
It’s important to note that none of the following is directed at you, gentle reader—yes, I stole that term from Miss Manners but I kind of think it fits here and, let’s face it, how many Miss Manners readers read my tripe? The following refers to the other guests at Walt Disney World—the ones that tick me off—not you and certainly not me.
Ready? Let’s begin with…
The Humpback Dad
I know you’ve seen him. He’s the dad of a family of five and he’s wearing a backpack crammed with everything his family requires for a week in the Himalayas. Unfortunately, this usually means the backpack extends approximately 48” behind him and he has absolutely no control over the damage occurring out of his sight.
I typically encounter the Humpback Dad in tight quarters—usually in the aisles of a store like the Emporium. One of his kids will shout, “Hey, Dad” and he turns quickly, knocking over several small children and clearing a complete shelf of Stitch plushes. Trying to maneuver around this guy in a store is akin to attempting to waltz with a grizzly.
The "Not So Fast" Award
This award is given to the person that can innocently delay the transportation of several dozen people and goes to… the Bus Delayer. You’re sitting on a Disney bus, anxiously awaiting departure so you can make it to a theme park or dining reservation; or maybe you just want to get back to your resort for a rest. Then it happens… the Bus Delayer boards and stops dead in his or her tracks, right next to the driver. What follows is a game of Twenty Questions with the driver while 30 people sitting or standing on the bus just want to get moving. I can (almost) understand a single question such as “Will this bus, which, by the way, is clearly labeled ‘Magic Kingdom’ not once but twice on the outside of the bus, actually transport me to the Magic Kingdom?” Outside of, “Are you sure?” what could the other 19 questions be about? This situation is painful but becomes excruciating when it follows…
The Bus Driver Change
I swear this happens to me every time I take a bus back to my resort from Downtown Disney. We leave the Marketplace and pull back into the parking area for the stop at Pleasure Island. There’s no one waiting there so I expect a quick departure. Unfortunately, the driver stands up and I can sense the dreaded Bus Driver Change is about to occur. For the next 10-minutes, I watch as the exiting driver packs up his hat, jacket, backpack and lunch cooler. We then get 5-minutes of conversation between the outgoing and incoming drivers, followed by another 5-minutes of the new driver stowing his hat, jacket, backpack and lunch cooler. He then spends another 5-minutes making entries on a clipboard, performing a walk-around outside the bus, and applying multiple adjustments to the driver’s seat and mirrors. The final indignity is when we then have to stop at an empty bus stop in either Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon—even when it’s below 40-degrees and no one in their right mind would be there. I sometimes believe I could walk back to my resort and be there faster.
The Not-So Magical Express Driver
Speaking of bus drivers… Is it too much to ask that Disney’s Magical Express drivers simply do their jobs and transport me from the Orlando International Airport to my resort? I’m now subjected to a non-stop commentary of how “happy happy” I should be to be here. I then get a breakdown of park hours and parade/firework show times that are usually days old and wrong. Once, and I swear this is true, our driver made a pistol of his hand and forefinger and fired to open every automatic gate we encountered moving from resort to resort. Each firing was accompanied by gunshot sound effects (made with his mouth) and a whispered, “Magical Expresssss…”.
Please… just let me watch the video and/or stare out the window or, heaven forbid, talk with my traveling companions.
The “Who Me?s”
It’s time for Spectromagic or the Main Street Electrical Parade. Viewing areas are roped off and some people have staked out their spots for 60-90 minutes prior to the parade’s start. Cast members are waging a losing battle against traffic as they attempt to keep people flowing around these areas.
With all this going on, small groups of people will stop and stand to watch the parade in an area where cast members are frantically trying to keep traffic flowing. They feign not being able to understand the cast member’s urgings to “please keep moving” and you might think there’s a language issue but… they also seem to ignore the frantic waving of arms and flashlights that should be universally understood—unless you truly believe they’re guiding a 737 on to Main Street. All the while, they stare back at the cast member with an expression that says, “Who? Me?” C’mon, people!
The Tour Group
The Tour Group may be a specific national group or simply an organization of cheerleaders, Boy Scouts or the Little Sisters of the Poor’s traveling softball team. It doesn’t matter. The fact that you are together, wearing identical t-shirts, and being led by a person carrying a pennant on a stick does not entitle you to special attention or privilege. You should not walk through a park, or stand in a queue, while singing or chanting for no other reason than to call attention to yourselves. It’s annoying and disturbs me… er, others. You should not walk through a park six abreast forcing everyone else to walk single file around you. You should not snake single-file through a crowd of several hundred people so you can be closest to the front at rope drop. Similarly, you should not walk en masse into a fireworks or parade viewing area 5-minutes before the show starts and insert yourself in front of the scores that were there before you. And… when you do (because you know you will), please lower your flag so I can see. Thank you.
The Fanatical Zealot (aka The Commando)
The Zealot feels obligated to squeeze every single bit of park enjoyment out of a visit, often disregarding how tired or bored their traveling companions are. The Zealot is easiest to spot in the late afternoon, when the energy boost from lunch seems to wear off and exhaustion and overstimulation set in, especially in younger children. They’re typically recognized by crying and/or whining children and frustrated parents. The Zealot’s slogan is, “We paid a lot of money for this trip and, dammit, we’re going to have fun.” The best two words of advice I could offer the Zealot at Walt Disney World? Afternoon break.
Reader Katherine N. suggested this one and I think it’s a beauty. It’s named for that terrifying little girl in Finding Nemo who had a less than stellar record caring for animals. I’ve witnessed a number of Darlas at Walt Disney World, mostly at Animal Kingdom, but Katherine’s experience best sums it up.
Katherine and her family were sitting in La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion eating lunch, when they noticed two white ibises had wandered over from the nearby lagoon and were walking around the cafe, likely looking for food scraps. One young lad of about seven or eight years old (our Darla) lured one of the ibises over with a piece of food. Once the bird came to within a few feet of him, he began throwing pebbles at it and laughing. He repeated this act at least twice and, as Katherine reports, his parents did nothing to make him stop. Maybe we should lure this young lad over with chicken nuggets… then pelt him with apple slices so he gets the idea.
So… there you have it—the list of Park Peeves for 2011. Each year, I suspect this may be the last word on the subject, because frankly I’m (gasp!) running out of gripes. However, as I’ve indicated, the older I get the more things seem to annoy me so I guess that holds promise for the future.
Until then, let me know what you think about my Park Peeves and send me your own… and thanks for reading.