Disney World can be a confusing place. For the three parks we visited (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios), trying to find specific attractions can be difficult if you haven’t spent much time there. Even by the final day of our trip—our second day at Magic Kingdom—our familiarity with the park layout made it easier to move around but by no means easy to find specific attractions. Our daughter loved the Haunted Mansion, so we quickly learned how to find that specific ride no matter where we were, but that was the exception rather than the rule. Getting lost is easy is what I’m saying.
Epcot is easier to navigate than the others. It’s a park that essentially goes in a big circle as you walk your way through the various lands of the world. I know because we walked it. A lot. We also spent an hour or so in the rain, fighting both our growing despair that the day would be nothing but rain and a three-year old that didn’t want to wear a poncho (very useful those ponchos when actually worn) and grew increasingly wacky as the hours passed and her no sleep goofiness set in. After the rains passed, we sort of wished for them back as the day became something like an Orlando sauna. This isn’t me complaining. The rain was miserable. Humidity I can deal with.
After a long day, we were all fairly exhausted as the hour neared for dinner. As we walked our way back to the various lands to find a place to eat, we passed under a sign that pointed us toward the Test Track. The description for the Test Track sounded promising: you get to design your own car and drive it. Well, that sounds rather anti-climactic, so let me rewrite that so it sounds more enticing: you get to design your own car and take it for a thrilling “high-octane” ride like you were testing with General Motors. The waiting time for this ride had hovered around 60 minutes all day long. The posted time as we passed sat at 20 minutes. It was my chance to enjoy a thrilling adventure. My wife wasn’t interested in the ride, but she agreed that she could wait 20 minutes while I went through the line. Time for dad to have some fun.
Yeah, well, about that confusing part.
I quickly found my way into a not so intimidating line. Everyone was being ushered into another room. This made sense to me. There were televisions showing old Mickey Mouse cartoons with little blurbs about when they were created. Hey, that’s neat, I thought. Those folks at Disney really wanted to keep the kids happy while the dads came in an lived dreams of being a race car driver. Weird, though, that it was all cartoons. Why not videos of cars? Well, no matter. Disney has its way.
There were kids in line. I wasn’t paying attention at this point. I was reading Grantland on my iPhone. The Japanese couple in front of me were really excited to show the kid working the line their Mickey Mouse shirts. Whatever. People really love Mickey Mouse, I guess. After about 10 minutes in line, I soon found myself in another room with excited kids holding autograph books and parents snapping photos with their phones.
Where was I?
I soon learned that I wasn’t anywhere near the Test Track. I was in a room with Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy snapping pictures and signing autographs. I was in the one place we wanted to take our daughter in Epcot but we could never find a wait time that actually made sense. You can check these wait times on the Disney app, so we were monitoring it from time to time. I texted my wife. She texted back. I panicked. My God, I’m a grown man without my wife or daughter about ready to meet iconic Disney characters.
Note: If you’ve ever been to Epcot, it’s impossible to actually confuse the Character Spot with Test Track. I’m an idiot.
One thing you’ll find out if you go to Disney World is that my situation isn’t all that weird. Adults lose their minds when they visit Disney World, and all sense of decorum and self-respect is sort of thrown out the window. When we’d spent time in line for our daughter to get pictures with Cinderella and Rapunzel, there was a man in his 40s flying solo to get an autograph. No one batted an eye. Not even Rapunzel. Me being there didn’t seem odd at all. I wanted to leave. Could I escape?
I stayed in line. My reasoning was thus: if I’d spent 20 minutes waiting in line already, wouldn’t it be weirder to just leave? I was sort of shamed into staying in line because the greater embarrassment would be to admit I’d made a mistake by going in there. Oh no. I was there to stay.
I got my pictures with Mickey and Goofy. I skipped out on Minnie. Both Mickey and Goofy were excited about my choice of apparel: a Moon Pie t-shirt. Goofy was particularly impressed. Unfortunately I didn’t have my daughter’s autograph book to get their signatures for her. Of course, that might have been even odder to see a 39-year old man asking for a cartoon character’s signature.
Maybe not. It’s Disney World after all.