Monday, 27 May 2013

Disney World MADNESS

On Friday I stared directly into the ugly face of humanity and lived to tell the tale.  Let me set the scene:

It was a warm, refreshing evening at Disney World; joyful, excited parents, children, and teenagers became one as they enjoyed together the beautiful firework display put on by the park.  We all watched as Disney imparted his message to the world- “Make a wish, and do as dreamers do, and all your wishes will come true.” Tinkerbell flew overhead, sprinkling us all with magic dust.  The fireworks thundered to their dazzling climax, and left us all realising, for the first time, that we had no idea how we were going to get out of the crowds of people forming around us.  That’s when it became ugly.

We’d accidentally chosen to go to Disneyworld on the one day where the park was open for 24 hours; 6am to 6am.  This was great, we thought, as we’d be able to do the Haunted House ride when it was dark, and I’d get to go to the Enchanted Tiki Room as many times as I wanted.  Nobody, however, including the Disney World staff, had expected that 20,000 people being in the same place at the same time would cause a problem.

For those of you that haven’t been to Disney World, it is set up thus; in the middle lies Cinderella’s castle and a large circular area where people can stand to watch the fireworks and other shows that happen during the day.  Jutting out from this area are roads to other parts of the park, and a large path that goes back down to ‘Main Street’ and the park’s exit.  Because I am not a bird and don’t have a map anymore, I can only give you a rough approximation:

 The trouble arose as a result of every visitor to the park being in exactly the wrong place.  Those families with children for whom the fireworks would be the final event of the day planned ahead and got close to Cinderella’s castle to watch the show.  Those people who had come just in time for the fireworks either from dinner or from other parks and who wanted to go on some more rides afterwards, came later and so were restricted to Main Street.  This meant that after the fireworks, everyone on Main Street wanted to get into the park (blue) and everyone who was already in the park wanted to get out of it (red):

Being British and naturally inclined to queue sensibly and not minding waiting my turn to get anywhere, I was shocked and horrified by the inability of the workers at the park and by the people in the crowd to respond calmly and rationally to the situation.  Everyone panicked; everyone was shouting.  There was no camaraderie or “let’s make the best of this” attitude amongst the people there.  Three main groups of people formed:

1.   Entitled parents who kept making comments like- “my baby is tired, please let me and my baby through” when SEVENTY PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE CROWD HAD TIRED BABIES.
2.   People who, with no regard to anyone’s physical safety, would actively elbow and shove their way through the crowd, even harming small children and older people while doing so; Foofy’s mummy got shoved in the chest and Foofy’s daddy got practically tackled to the ground.
3.   People who were overly sensitive to other people touching them and wanted to start arguments.

We started off halfway up Main Street and then turned left to, what we learned, was an exit that had just been opened up.  We were not going to use the exit, but we would be able to go North to Adventure land once the crowd coming South had cleared.  During this half hour we spent waiting for the people exiting to clear, we saw a woman shouted at by a worker because she tried to escape the crush by climbing over a barrier onto a patch of empty grass while yelling at the worker to "SHUT UP!", three first-aid emergencies (one was especially bad because some people in the crowd pretended to be with the ill woman so that they could squeeze their way out of the crowd before everyone else), and a man who threatened to kill the next person who touched his daughter.  This last man was absolutely justified in saying what he said, seeing as, moments before, somebody had pushed in front of him and practically sat on his little girl sitting in her stroller.

Just as we began to move, I came into contact with a particularly nasty woman who accused me of pushing her forward, when, in fact, Foofy’s bag had just brushed slightly against her bag as we moved into an available space beside her.  I’m not one to judge on appearance but she had the look of someone who was used to shoving herself about to get what she wanted:

“You just PUSHED me!” She said, feigning injury.
“I didn’t push you.” I said calmly.

I didn’t bother to explain to the woman how crowds work, and that, if you are in a small group of two, like Foofy and I, it is helpful for EVERYONE in the crowd for us to move into spaces when they become available, like one did beside her.  She was in a party of about seven people so they were restricted.

“I didn’t push you.” I repeated.  “I would never push somebody.  I didn’t even touch you.”
She argued more, muttering to the people in her party about how rude I was.
“Are you sure you were pushed?” One of her companions said to her doubtfully.
“Well I didn’t just fall forwards!” She shouted back.
At this point I stopped walking.
“Please go in front of me.” I offered.  She gave me a filthy look.  “No, I’m serious, please go in front of me.” She gave me an even filthier look and carried on walking.  A person behind me helpfully said to me-
“Just ignore her, some people are crazy.”

Damn right.

At this point, the crowd moved more quickly and Foofy and I could escape up to Adventure Land.  By this point my delayed onset fear of people shouting at me had kicked in and I was openly weeping and bad-mouthing Disney World.

“This is a toxic, evil environment!” I cried.  “I can’t believe how RUDE people are! Rude entitled people!!!!”

I sat down on a chair for a bit and cried some more, then Foofy took me to the Enchanted Tiki Room, my favourite ‘ride’, to cheer me up.  By this time, however, the floodgates had opened and everything was setting me off:

We later went to the Haunted House and I was set off once again by the site of a zombie dog that looked too skinny:


“IT PROBABLY STARVED TO DEATH!!!!” I yelled at the top of my voice. Foofy tried to reassure me by saying that the dog only looked skinny because it was dead, and that all the ghosts looked like they were having a terribly good time.  I was still crying when I got off the ride- I must have looked like a complete weirdo.

So, in conclusion, though I had a lovely time during the day at Disney World, getting to go on all the Mountain rides with my ‘Fastpasses’, the whole thing was tainted by the dreadful experience of the evening, which is the closest thing to a disaster movie I’ve ever seen in real life; in fact, Foofy’s mummy compared it to a scene from “The Blob.”  I’m amazed nobody was seriously injured.  Shame on you, Disney World, for your lack of crowd-control and allowing that many people to be in the park at one time.  SHAME ON YOU.   


Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Last Nine Months

It is just over three weeks since the end of my nine month European tour and I have just about scraped the shattered remains of my former self off the literal and figurative stages of Europe in order to write my first real post in AGES.  Once I have found myself again and remembered what funny is, you will hear more from me, but give me time, for I am still delicate.  As an actress, I need to be grateful for every job I get, for they are so sought after, and, in this sense, I am incredibly glad to have done the tour and very flattered and thankful for everyone who made it happen for me.  However, now that the job is over and I can bask in the knowledge that I did my very best, I feel like I've only recently woken up from a very strange dream where I was a completely different person and behaved in very uncharacteristic ways.  It was the same length, and probably just as traumatic as, a pregnancy, and included throwing up and bizarre food cravings: In February and most of March, for example, I lived almost entirely off crisps, mini babybels, and that fake mashed potato you have to pour water into, and every possible combination of the above. 

I do not like the person I was on tour, and it is hard being in the same body as a miserable bitch for nine months; I’m not used to hating myself, so it was a new and unpleasant experience.  It is difficult to describe what exactly made me feel like this, because a lot of the time I really was having a lot of fun, but it was the kind of fun that quickly vanished leaving me feeling a bit empty, like eating a whole tub of jelly beans instead of dinner, which I may or may not have done on the tour at one point.

Probably the most negative part of the experience was the fact that I constantly felt very disconnected from everything going on around me, and that was a large factor in the lack of blog posts; the thought of writing for an audience when all I was doing in my working life was performing for an audience seemed frustrating and exhausting, and caused me to retreat into myself.  On the surface, travelling around 14 different countries and getting applause at the end of every working day should be a very good thing, and I put myself under an enormous amount of pressure to appreciate every moment of it.  Throughout my nine months, I saw some beautiful sites and was immersed in a large number of different cultures.  Driving alongside the alps, for example, was an incredible opportunity and I very much enjoyed it, but it was clear that the scenery seemed to have much more of an effect on other people than on me.  To be polite, I’d always join in with exclamations of ‘wow, yeah that’s awesome’ Before going back to my book or my DS, but if I’m honest, I didn’t really see what the fuss was about.  While I celebrate others’ rights to appreciate things like mountains and blue skies, when I looked out of the window of the van, I couldn’t help but think that it just looked like a postcard, and so something that I’d seen before.  It looked too perfect; too unreal, to actually be real.  My mind couldn’t fathom it, so I just didn’t engage with it.  In contrast, at one point we passed through a field of cows and I got VERY excited.

“Look at those cows!” I said gleefully, “They actually have BELLS on their necks! I mean, you always hear that cows are meant to have bells around their necks, but…wow, actually seeing them?”

The others were baffled.  I was struck with an unfathomable loneliness.  I may even have cried a bit.  I still thought the cows were AWESOME.  I had a similar experience in Brazil- where my companions were looking at the view of the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches from the top of a hill, I was, instead, staring at a collection of ants which I found interesting.

Similarly, on the cruise I did two years ago, we explored the Baltic sea, which is especially nice as it’s usually frozen but very sunny, so the views are amazing.  This was also the cruise where my computer broke.  As I looked out over the front of the boat into a seemingly endless blue ocean, the sunlight made the whole body of water and ice shimmer and glisten; the boat carved its way almost noiselessly through the water and as I stood there, alone in the world but for an ocean and a sky, I was struck dumb by how little I felt by all of this, and how I would much rather have a computer that worked.

This was what visiting all those wonderful cities was like; I knew that I was SUPPOSED to be impressed, but, if anything, the beauty of the landscapes and buildings before me just made me feel empty.  The fact that other people around me kept telling me that I should be in utter awe of what I was seeing somehow made me feel even emptier, as if there was something I was lacking, which caused this vicious circle of emptiness and misery that cheap and delicious German beer only went some way to alleviate.

As a result, all the good, fun things that happened would quickly drift out of my mind, leaving a very negative impression of each city I visited:

Having a cold while everyone else was at a street party drinking free wine was not very fun.

Neither was having a 48 hour IBS attack.

Wandering the streets looking for my hotel which was only two blocks away the whole time.

This hotel (or rather, just my room,) had the slowest internet I've ever experienced.  When I was on tour, the internet became more important than food, warmth or shelter.

I don't know what happened in Munich- it was a combination of PMS, IBS and hearing the news that I wouldn't be seeing Foofy for a month rather than a week, as was originally planned.

Padua in the spring was a very bad place to have a fever; I'm surprised I didn't completely evaporate.

Our very last experience of the tour was almost our last experience on this Earth due to our cab driver apparently having a death wish.

There were some fun moments too, of course, but I can’t help associating the entire experience with feelings of anger, guilt, worry and depression, meaning that now, whenever I see anything that even vaguely represents a European country I visited, particularly Germany, I feel a growing sense of anxiety and have difficulty breathing.  Yesterday, somebody had wurst and sauerkraut for dinner and just the sight of it practically made me weep into my prawns.

I am in America now, however, for the graduation of Foofy; yesterday a puppy ran up to me and literally wet itself with excitement, and you can’t get much better than that really.  Now I have rested myself and got over the trauma of repeatedly having to get up at 6am, having to strip down to my bra in front of a total of more than 100,000 European school children, being spat on and beaten up (part of the play; nothing personal!) several times a week and having to wash my knickers in hotel sinks with the free soap they give you, I am able to look at the positives and muse upon what I have learnt.

I had a lot of fun with my touring pals and I’m sure we’ll get up to many more adventures together, but the experience really taught me how much my weirdo friends from home mean to me and how I probably need to appreciate the people who love the things I love and who think I’m awesome a bit more.  Seeing an Italian sunset is one thing, but playing Settlers of Catan while drinking mojitos and screaming about somebody stealing my 2:1 lumber port is something else entirely.  Some people like drinking good wine outside with conversation.  I prefer drinking cheap Amaretto alone while I write about fictional universes where people fight monsters for a living.  Some people like snow-topped mountains and lakes as still as sheets of glass.  I prefer singing the Act 1 finale of Iolanthe at double speed with 20 other loons while drinking half a bottle of sherry.  Some people like acting on tour; I think, mind I say I think, I kind of prefer singing, teaching and quacking occasionally.  I’m still working this one out though; I certainly haven’t given up on touring just yet.  Perhaps I’ll get the opportunity to re-live the experience with all this knowledge in mind, and perhaps, this time, I may kick ass just a wee bit more.