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Sunday, 13 July 2008

US Diary #4

It starts off like a tiny insect bite. Mostly unnoticed, then a gentle swelling which itches, or nags with a lull that eventually comes to your attention. Eventually, infection sets in, swells rapidly to a torrent of toxins which overrun your system with such violence you start to bubble and melt inside. Your hair falls out, your internal organs liquefy, you pee blood and regurgitate bile and toxic pus.

What am I talking about? Why, American theme parks, of course. And specifically, the ones in Florida which I am currently forced to endure for the pleasure of my little boys who want to see Barney, and Shrek, Buzz Lightspears, Mickey Monkey, Spiderspunk and bloody Donald the bloody Dunk.

OK. I love the US. I love the people. But the gradual toxic poisoning of my system leading to total mental meltdown and a loathing so great you could bottle it and sell it to serial killers began with theme park car parking. So simple, you inquire? Well, yeah. After queuing to get into the damn park (in this case Universal, but hey, count Disney in this tirade as well) you then queue to pay for parking. This is on top of the extortionate park pass fees you’ve just stumped up for. Pay. To. Park. Then, you trudge for klicks to the bag searches, where you queue to have your bag searched by an incompetent. Really. I could have smuggled a thermo-nuclear device past these goons. Then, you trudge again, and queue to buy tickets (if you’ve foolishly arrived without, which many people have). Then you queue past the queue for tickets, queuing to get into the damn place. All of this in the broiling Florida heat meaning you stink like a fish market before setting foot on park. However, at least this gets you in the general mood for the gig, for your main activities of the day will be a] trudging, and b] queuing. You see, you’ll trudge halfway across the park (as always happens, daddy daddy, I want to go on Jaws) and you arrive, either to find the queue is an hour long, or the ride has shut down due to leaves on the track, inclement weather or mysterious ‘technical difficulties’ which doesn’t really instil faith, especially on the fast rides. So you trudge around some more. Then you queue, more often than not in the sun with a foot-pedalled fan drifting warm, oddly-smelling air over you as loud people talk loudly around you and at you. But what’s really amusing is that you queue for the entrance, but with most ‘rides’ they let you through the entrance and you think ‘thank Donald for that’, only now you’ve shuffled into a room and the doors are closed, like cattle being taken for slaughter. As you all stand, mooing, you’re shown some pointless video and you gradually realise the ‘ride’ hasn’t yet started, but that you’re now enduring filler. Yup. That’s right. It’s a mind-job. You’re being conned into thinking it’s started, when in reality you’re stood in a room, now in another queue. Sometimes, you go through two of these cattle-slaughter pens, thus queuing a total of three times to get to the dam ‘attraction’, which is then regularly so pathetic that you wished you just spent the previous hour with your head down the toilet. Even somebody else’s toilet.
You queue for the rides. You queue to queue for the rides. You queue for a coke, a beer, a pizza, a pee. You queue to queue. What a joke.

Today, as I (surprisingly) queued yet again, I realised what a wonderful, wonderful scam these theme parks are. Not only have you paid for entry, and paid to park, paid for warm coke etc etc, but the majority of what you’ve paid for is to queue. I don’t like queuing. I don’t queue. I was an English teacher. Straight to the front of the dinner queue, slapping the little kids on the back of the head with my dinner tray. The Chinese don’t queue. They have the right idea.

And this, dear reader, is why I hate Florida theme parks. But the greatest irony, and why Universal and Disney will always win (and take my dollars, the scheming con-artists), is that my kids love it. And so, as a dutiful father, I am forced to endure Barney in perpetuity. Or until the little brats are 18. I’ll get back to you later. Much later. My thoughts are now in a queue.

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