BERRY: A magical time at the happiest place on Earth

My family just returned from a five-night vacation at Disney World. I won't bore you with the details of our trip, because that would be like inviting you to dinner and then showing you home movies.
Dec 6, 2012


Instead, I'll just give you the condensed version of our adventure and then I'll move on. 

We flew in a plane rode on a bus stayed in a hotel spent lots of money rode some rides watched some shows saw Mickey Mouse ate some food rode on a bus flew in a plane. 

Whew! There. Done. 

Now that I got that out of the way, I can talk about the truly cool stuff we saw at Disney World — the people.

When I say people, I don't mean Ariel, Snow White, Cinderella or Prince Charming. I mean real people with real warts, crooked teeth, thick waistlines and thinning hair. Y'know, people like you and I.

When I arrived at Disney World, I quickly realized that everyone was nicer. People held the door for me just to be courteous. They said, "Excuse me" or "Pardon me" if they even slightly bumped my arm. They didn't push in line and they waited patiently even when it took me a long time to decide if I wanted Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Barg's Root Beer at the soda machine.            

On the second day of our trip, while waiting in line to ride in a giant teacup, I accidentally bumped into a young, attractive, dark-haired woman and she cursed at me. Then I realized she was speaking a foreign language like French or Brazilian, and everything she said sounded like a curse word.

I quickly found myself holding the door for others and letting people sit on the bus while I stood. And I think I know why my behavior became so passive and non-aggressive:  It's because I spent a lot of time and money on my vacation and I wasn't going to ruin it by being hostile toward others. I also discovered that they served beer at Hollywood Studios Theme Park.

I soon discovered that there were a lot of kids at Disney World. Many of them were jacked-up on mouse-shaped ice cream bars, orange soda and lollipops — so I wasn't the only parent standing in line, eager to pay $9 for 12 ounces of light-brown edge-killer.

I started looking around and I noticed that there were kids having monumental meltdowns all over the Magic Kingdom. When they got over-stimulated or over-tired, they didn't even seem to care that they were in the happiest place on Earth.

My kids were no exception. I guess I expected that when my kids got their first glimpse of Cinderella's Castle, they'd be instantly transformed into perfectly behaved little Disney characters.

Instead, Evien and Maggie argued about whether we should see Belle's Castle or Ariel's Grotto first, so Amy and I got them a $14 pretzel and an $8 bottle of water. It was the best money I ever spent because it kept their mouths full and it kept their hands occupied, so we all got in line for the Haunted Mansion.

My family actually started counting meltdowns. The mornings were usually pretty slow — but by the early afternoon, the tears started flowing. Some kids took to sobbing right in front of Goofy, but he just kept right on grinning. In the evenings, after kids had missed their usually scheduled nap times, we saw many frayed parents and howling children.

About then, I decided that Disney World would be a much better place if they didn't allow children.

Walt Disney World is truly a magical place. With its clean streets, professional productions and organized chaos, you can really get lost in the fantasy. In a land of make-believe where the boundaries of reality and fiction overlap, you can lose track of what's real and what's not. 

For example, I saw a squirrel foraging for popcorn on the busy street in downtown Disney. "Look!" I said. "Isn't that cute?"

Amy looked at me and said, "It's a squirrel. You hate squirrels. They tear up the yard, remember?"

"I know, but they seem so magical here."

I also saw a lizard scamper across some pavement and under a bush. "Did you see that?" I asked.

"Yes," Amy said. "It was a gecko. They're everywhere in Florida."

Still, I wanted to catch one — because I'm sure, if I turned it over, it would have batteries in its belly.

I started wondering if the trees, clouds and sunshine were real or if they, too, were a fictitious spectacle created by Disney engineers.

By the final day of our trip, I wished that my family could bring some of that rare and genuine magic home with us from Disney. But as soon as we entered the airport security check line, all the pixie dust was blown from our heads and shoulders in one quick blast.

Now we are back home where people push to the front of the line and cut you off in traffic. But we will forever have these great memories of a place — a magical place — where people treated other people with respect and courtesy. And, for five short days, my girls were true princesses.

— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist



Do you seriously have that many people in the Grand Haven area push to the front of the line and cut you off in traffic?

I just do not see that here in our community. I am not saying that everyone is courteous or that everyone is an angel ... but I certainly do not feel I would classify our community as rude and bad drivers. I think we live in a pretty nice place with generally nice people.

Also, I have no problem with Orlando and the Magic Kingdom, but we have our own special things here that we should cherish as well.

I am very glad you were able to make good memories.


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