Welcome Home

This is what we heard from everyone as we walked towards our destination.  People waved.  People smiled.  People cried out, “we missed you!”  You would have thought we were heroes returning from some war instead of crazed Disney fans returning to our happy place in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. 

Yes, despite the fact the COVID-19 infection is still plucking away at our world, Max and I trotted ourselves out to the Magic Kingdom for a special, limited capacity passholder preview event before the park officially reopened.  It was not so much that we couldn’t stand to go another season without a Disney fix that prompted this act of recklessness.  It was more that it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and feel what an uncrowded Disney park is like.  As Disney reopened, they were severely limiting the number of people in the park.  They did not publicize the number, but experts estimated the park would be operating at only about 25% of capacity. I have lived in the shadow of Disney parks all my life.  Even with this wealth of experience and wisdom under my belt, I could not conceive of what 25% capacity would feel like.  Short of having to fight an army of fire-breathing and vomit-spewing dragons to get in, there was not much that was going to stop me from experiencing a desolate Disney ghost town.

To further convince me that I should risk a potentially fatal disease or lifelong lung damage to go to Disney for this soft reopening, the fates decreed I should go.  I have been a Disney passholder for nearly five years.  In all that time, I have NEVER attended any of the special passholder events.  I have never been one of the chosen few to receive the email invitation and respond within the first few minutes before the event reaches capacity. It is sort of like having to be the fourteenth caller when a radio station is giving away concert tickets.  Odds are, it is never going to happen.  A couple of weeks before this event, I was sitting at the car dealership waiting for an oil change.  Bored, I was checking my phone lethargically.  Coincidentally, I saw an email inviting me to register for the passholder preview event.  I did not believe for a minute that I was going to be able to claim a space for Max and I because prior experience has taught me that, if you take an breath between the time the email goes out and the time you try to book a reservation, you are going to miss out.   Just for giggles and because I had nothing else to do, I followed the link to register.  To my utter amazement, I was able to sign us up for a day of Disney with a side of hand sanitizer. 

We did think about whether going was an acceptable risk.  There is so much drama in the media telling us that the Florida coronavirus numbers are climbing out of control.  As I have said in prior posts, I have not felt particularly scared during this pandemic.  On the other hand, I absolutely want to be responsible. I do not want to do anything that will put other people at risk, especially as I am doing volunteer work which does put me in brief contact with older, immune-compromised individuals.  I decided to take a deeper dive into the numbers to analyze whether things are getting worse, better, or staying about the same.  I looked at the Florida coronavirus infection rate for the middle of April.  At that time, approximately 1% off the population had tested positive for the coronavirus.  Today, the percentage is 1.92%, so there has been an increase.  On the other hand, the percentage is still low, despite more testing and several months of reopened commerce in Florida.   It has been around the 1.9% rate for several weeks.  Less than 1/10th of 1% of Floridians have been sick enough to be hospitalized. In Orange County, where most of Disney is located, the percentage infected is about the same, but the daily infection rate amongst those being tested has been declining.  For several weeks, the percentage of positive results of people tested has been below 10%. Additionally, ½ of 1% of all Orange County residents have been hospitalized. 

Now, numbers are one thing.  Depending upon what you look at and how you look at it, they can often tell you whatever you want to hear.  I will not say that the virus is not a safety consideration.  However, it did seem that the risk was reasonable for me.

Then, there is another factor… the pixie dust prescription.  Disney has a whole lot to lose if they contribute to the spread of death and destruction.  Disney also has a corporate culture that is about excellence and innovation.  Disney also has a staff that is well-trained and resilient.  Frankly, one of my motivating factors for wanting to go was to see the creative ways Disney employed to manage the risk while still spinning the magic. 

So we decided to go, evaluate what we saw, and leave the second we felt uncomfortable.

We approached the entrance to the parking lot, excited and wary.  The line to get into the parking lot was a bit of a struggle.  I am not completely sure what was causing the delay, but I think it was due to the additional time it took to park the cars socially distant from each other.  What was kind of interesting about the socially distant parking is that Disney came up with a way to do the social distancing without having people park further away than they would need to if the cars were traditionally spaced.  I noticed when we left that the attendants must have shifted the flow of traffic to fill in the spots left between the earlier guests’ cars. 

Once we got into the parking lot, everything was smooth and comfortable.  Directed by smiling, waving, and welcoming cast members, we boarded the ferry to go over to the park.  There were clear social distancing markers on the floor of the boat to indicate where to stand.  Everyone was wearing masks.  The cast members had masks AND face shields.  When we disembarked, we stood in a fast-moving line so that only one party at a time could exit the ferry.  Later, when we were going back to the parking lot on the monorail, cast members permitted only one party on each monorail car. 

The first thing we noticed at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom was that there was no line.  For any of you who have been to the MK, you know that it is a bit of an ordeal.  Wait to get entry to the parking lot, park your car, take a tram to the transportation center, wait in line for bag check, wait in line for either ferry or monorail, wait in line to get into the park.  Even though there are always multiple turnstiles available to enter the park, there are lines at every one of them if you get there anywhere near park opening time.  On passholder preview day, THERE WAS NO WAIT. 

And no people.  At least, that is the way it seemed when we stepped foot on Main Street.  It was almost spooky.  There was almost no sign of life.  Max really, really likes getting Starbucks when we go anywhere for a day trip.  He is happily content to do pretty much anything I want for the rest of the day, but he really does want that latte first thing in the morning when we are on an adventure.  He will forgo it if we have something critical that we must get to first, but the morning Starbucks truly is important to him.  He does not ask for much, so I suck it up and factor waiting in the huge lines at Disney Starbucks locations as part of my plan for the day.  On passholder preview day, there was no line.  I think there were two people in the coffee shop.  By the time I recovered from the shock and awe of this phenomenon, he had his coffee and we were on our way.

Such was the order of the day.  We walked on to virtually every ride.  I rode the Seven Dwarves Mine Train for the first time, with a 20-minute wait. The wait for Splash Mountain was similar.  The queues on the other rides… oh wait, there were no queues.

From a safety point of view, it was amazing.  Except for a few cast members and Max, I doubt I got closer than 10 feet to anyone the entire day.  I think they expanded the space between social distancing markers to allow for antsy children and for large parties.  There were a couple of times when I had to inch forward off my spot to peek ahead to see if I was supposed to move.  The people in front of me were so far away, I could not see where they were!  There was hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit of each ride.  The cast members employed huge industrial containers of disinfectant attached to their backs to periodically spray all the ride cars.  With ride vehicles designed for more than one party, they sometimes had one party in the first row and one in the back row if there were several rows in between.  Usually, it was just one party for vehicle.

From a magic point of view, my reaction was a little more mixed.  To be completely honest, there was an initial sense of weirdness and forced gaiety.  Having so few fellow revelers did result in a slightly less festive atmosphere.  Many of the eating and shopping dining venues were still closed.  There were no Mickey-shaped pretzels to be had.  The absence of shows and parades did seem sort of “less than.”  On the other hand, having such short waits was uber magical.  The seemingly genuine and extremely vocal welcomes from the cast members made me feel “especially special.” 

As the day wore on, I found the magic.  Every now and again, there was a pop-up presentation- a group of dancers, huge parade float carrying a character, or streetcar of singers.  I cannot call them “parades,” because the very nature of a “parade” suggests more than one exhibit, one following behind another.  These were more like parade snapshots- one band, one drill team, one float.  The most magical moment of the day was when we ran across Tinker Bell riding atop a giant treasure chest around the circle at the end of Main Street. Because there were so few people, she could identify individuals standing below, smiling at her.  She noticed my quarantined Tink shirt and pointed at me.  She laughed, waved, and blew kisses to me.  I walked beside the float all around the circle.  It was like Tink and I had our very own parade.

It may not have been a personal, side-by-side visit with my Pixie Princess, but it was a new and different kind of magic. 

Have you done anything wild and unpredictable as the world starts to reopen?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a magical day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Quarantinking! Before anyone asks, I was wearing a mask. It was permissible to lower them for brief photo ops. Notice I have a Mickey nose showing beneath my chin. That is my mask, which I pulled back up over my mouth and nose immediately after Max took this pic.
No trip to Magic Kingdom, even a quaran-truncated one, is complete without Tinky!

Turns Out I Speak Caveman

To all you fine folks who reached out to assure me I am not abnormal after my recent post, “Different” Doesn’t Always Mean “Worse” ( http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/09/different-doesnt-always-mean-worse/), I appreciate your support.  You are, however, wrong. 

Let me tell you a story which I hope will put to bed all protestations that I am perfectly normal.  Something happened recently that demonstrates the cherry on top of the sundae that is my abnormality. 

I read that Disney World is going to completely renovate and refurbish the Spaceship Earth attraction at Epcot.  Spaceship Earth is an iconic Epcot experience.  It is one of the few original Epcot rides that still exists, 47 years later.  Many people don’t even know that the ride is called Spaceship Earth.  People normally refer to it as the “golf ball” ride or that “ride at the entrance of the park inside that big geodesic dome thingy.”  For the uninitiated, the ride is a slow-moving exploration of the history of human communication.  Currently, Dame Judi Dench voices the narration.  Like many attractions in the “Future World” section of Epcot, the ride is starting to fray around its cutting edges.  Let’s face it, the future becomes the past rather regularly in a 47-year time period.  You may ask, if the ride is about the history of human communication, how does it become dated?  The problem is that this history stopped in 1976 when Steve Wozniak developed the first home computer.

Anyhoodle, when I read that this bastion of Disney attractions was going to be closed for two years to reimagine it, I knew I wanted to experience it for about the hundredth time on my next trip to Epcot.  Max and I went to Epcot the other day, Fast Passes for Spaceship Earth locked and loaded on our annual passholder cards. 

As we began our trip back into communication, there was a scene showing cavemen developing a spoken language.  I listened to the cavemen speaking and kept hearing the word “umboday” over and over again.  In a split second, my mind took a rollicking tour through weirdness and reached an incredible destination.  “Umboday” is Pig Latin for “Dumbo.”  Hidden Mickey Hunters, eat your hearts out!

It is abnormal… no, bizarre… that I had this revelation.  The real question, though, is how my disturbed mind got from “I wonder how we know what spoken language the cavemen had?” to “oh my gosh, that’s Pig Latin for Dumbo!”  It’s creepy, but I can even tell you, roughly, how my mind processed all this.  Here are some of the thoughts that shot through my brain, rather like the data points zipping through the “modern” super computer the size of a building that is featured on the ride:

  • I know Disney did a lot of technical research when they opened Animal Kingdom to make sure the park was accurate and sensitive to the cultures it represented.  Did they do the same for this ride?
  • Wait; how could they research the spoken language of primitive man?  How would we know before there were any written records?   
  • There were no tape recorders, nor surviving eye witnesses, right?
  • Does archeology know anything about languages before the writings on cave walls?
  • On the Tomorrowland Transit Authority ride (for those of us with a memory… the PeopleMover), the soundtrack includes an announcer paging “Tom Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow” (Tomorrow… get it?). I heard something about a project or company or character called Yisned (Disney spelled backwards).  Is the “umboday” thing a trick?
  • They are talking about the fact that the world’s body of knowledge was preserved after the fire of Rome because middle Eastern scholars kept copies of most of the books in their libraries.  I wonder if any of the titles on those books shown in that scene mean “It’s A Small World” in Hebrew or Arabic or something.  That would be cute.  They should totally do that in the redesign.
  • Hmmm… “umboday… umboday”… oh wait, that’s Dumbo in pig Latin!

There is so something wrong with me!  I am definitely abnormal. 

I went home and posted my observation on Facebook.  I belong to a couple of Disney passholder groups.  I thought my fellow Disnerds in those groups would get a kick out of the information.  Either that, or they would tell me I was late to the party and everyone who is anyone already knows this.  It turns out that I have never before posted ANYTHING on Facebook quite as engaging as this.  As I write this, over 125 people have already reacted to my newsflash and that number is growing.  

I am sure that many of you are reading this and thinking, “she’s a total loon.”  On the other hand, I seem to belong to quite the flock of loons, given the Facebook response.  Maybe I’m abnormal, but maybe I am also rare and exotic.

Is it bad that I want to go back on the ride to see if I can translate the rest of the caveman conversation?  Just what are they saying about Dumbo?  Maybe… “your children will be scarred for life if they don’t get to ride Dumbo?”

What is the weirdest thought that has ever struck you?  If that is too broad a question, how about the weirdest thing you’ve thought this week?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement @gmail.com. 

Have a weird day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Pixie Dusted

Well, after months of deliberation, I did it. I got bippity-boppitied. I realize that sounds faintly salacious, but if you have been journeying with me, you’ll know that it is kind of the opposite of salacious.  If you haven’t been reading along, you might want to check out  http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/08/bippity-bop-or-not/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2018/09/bopworthy/.  

My pixie posse and I set off to the Grand Floridian Resort, ready for a glitterific adventure.  My friends were going to watch while I transformed into Tinker Bell right before their very eyes.  After my tinkifying, we planned to monorail our way over to the Magic Kingdom to visit the Princess of Pixie Hollow herself, then have a nice lunch.  When we pulled into the parking lot at the Grand Floridian, we knew we were in for a good day.  We encountered the Cinderella pumpkin wedding carriage, with its six white horses, carrying a beautiful Disney bride towards the wedding chapel. Sparkle alert, already!  How can that not be a great omen? 

When we entered the salon, I felt my blood pressure rise a bit.  I bleed sparkle and I think my circulatory system was leaping in joy from all the glitter in the atmosphere. My giddiness level increased.  I was excited from the top of my short, flat brunette hair to the white pom poms on my green fairy slippers.  For someone who struggled so long and hard about whether or not this bippity-boppetying was a good idea, I was all in. I’m not sure how I managed to sit still and not flitter fly all over the salon.   

Andrea was my own personal Purveyor of Pixie Dust.  She was sparkling so much, she didn’t need a magic wand to complete my makeover!  She made me feel special and magical and adorable every minute I was with her.  What is even more interesting is that she made me feel like she was having every bit as good a time as I was having.  I mean, I realize this is her job and she wasn’t making me a Tinker Bell twin for the sheer fun of it.  Still, she certainly acted like having me as a client absolutely made her day.  I think I am, by and large, a pretty pleasant person, but I can’t think that there is anything that special about me to inspire such delight.  Maybe we were all smoking the pixie dust!   

Andrea started with my hair.  I was concerned because my hair is pretty short and I couldn’t imagine a Tinker Bell makeover without the Tinker topknot.  Andrea brushed aside my worries.  All she needed was faith, trust, and pixie dust.  However, Andrea didn’t stop with the bun.  She had an idea that I could look like Tinker Bell, but with some special Terri pizzazz.  Using lots and lots of hairspray, she changed my hair to sculpting material.  I ended up with my topknot, but also with curls and tiny Tinker Bell bows all over my head. I can’t even explain all the interesting special effects Andrea crafted from my hair. I said I looked like a combination of Tinker Bell, Cindy Lou Who, and myself.  I know such an odd mutation is hard to picture (which is why I am including photos), but trust me when I say it was very effective and fetching.  It was exactly what I wanted, but didn’t know it.  The final step for my hair was a liberal dusting of glittering pixie dust.  For those of you who know the whole Tinker legend, you’ll understand that I was very pleased to see that the sparkle was BLUE pixie dust.  For those of you who don’t understand the implication, you can go watch the movie Tinker Bell and The Lost Treasure.  Let’s just say that, without blue pixie dust, the world would be a very different place!  Or at least my world would.   

After the hair came make-up.  Andrea turned me away from the mirror, so I could not see what was happening.  My pixie posse watched, fascinated, cell phone cameras in hand, as I squirmed in anticipation.  They cheered me on, but I wondered if they were just being nice.  I heard them cooing all kinds of amazed noises, but “amazed” can be good or bad.  People coming to the salon to ask questions, make appointments, or check in for their own treatments stared at me.  I kind of stopped conversation.  There was one lady at the counter who was so transfixed by what was happening on my face, the receptionist had to keep asking the same questions over and over again before she answered.   

There was one debate during the make-up process.  Should I have false eyelashes or not?  Before coming to the salon, I thought I would skip the eyelashes.  I thought they might be a bit over the top (yes, apparently I did think there was such a thing as “over the top” when having a Tinker Bell makeover) and, for some reason, they kind of read “villain” to me.  Andrea also seemed to be on the “no eyelash” side of the aisle, as she thought the lashes they had were pretty extreme.  However, my pixie posse believed that I might as well do the eyelashes.  One pixie partner said they would look good in the pictures.  Another reminded me that I probably wasn’t ever going to do this experience again so I should just go the full Monty, as it were. The girl staring at me at the reception desk was also on Team Eyelash.  She kept mouthing, “do the lashes” at me.  I finally succumbed to peer pressure and I am very glad I did.  Andrea found some mid-length lashes for me, which were plenty long enough, believe me.  In fact, when I put my glasses on much later in the day, the lashes were pushing them down my nose.   

I never knew I had such big eyes.  Andrea was able to fit at least four colors on my eyelids.  All of the colors sparkled, of course.  She picked from a huge palette of eye shadow colors, all of which were brighter than anything ever witnessed in nature.  Of course, the highlight of my lids was the sparkly Tinker green that might as well have my name on it from this day forward.   

When Andrea turned me around, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was amazed…. In the best possible way.   I have never, ever looked that good.  Yes, I looked like I belonged in Pixie Hollow.  Yes, I looked like I was Tink-inspired.  But I also looked like some version of me… a me completely liberated from expectations, care, and responsibility.  It was like I was channeling Tinker Bell, as well as looking like her.  Yet, I was still very clearly myself.   

When we went to visit the original Tinker Bell at the Magic Kingdom, she and I had a wonderful pixie meet-up.  I’ve been to see Tinker Bell many times in my life, but I believe we bonded in a new way on the day of my tinkification.  Part of me is still with her in Pixie Hollow.  My friends and I took pictures with Tink.  We enjoyed being childlike, living in the magic.   

I loved having this experience.  I loved having my friends with me.  I can’t imagine doing it without my pixie posse.  They encouraged me to immerse myself in the experience and celebrate. We celebrated together.   We celebrated our lives, our love of Disney, and friendship.  These are some wonderful things to celebrate.   

When I went home that night, my heart was still smiling.  When I removed the remnants of Tinker Bell, I was a little bit sad… but not too much.  Even without the make-up, I still had the pixie dust… on my scalp, on the floor of my bathroom, and, most importantly… in my spirit! 

Thanks to Andrea, my pixie duster, for Tinkifying me in a way I never expected.  Thanks to my wonderful pixie posse partners, Nancy and Kathy, for being my fairy godmothers.

Pre-tinkification

Tinkification in process!

Those eyelashes

!

Andrea, the Purveyor of Pixie Dust

The finished product- my Pixie Sister and me!

The pixie posse!

So what do you think of the new me? Do I look like I belong in Pixie Hollow?  Should I just grow up?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative,  you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a glitterific day!

Terri/Dorry

 

Bippity-Bop Or Not?

At Disneyland and Disney World, there are magical shops called Bippity-Boppity Boutiques (BBB).  These are enchanted places where parents can spend several hundreds of dollars for a Fairy-Godmother-In-Training (FGMIT) to transform their little girls into Disney princesses.  The service includes wardrobe, hair, make-up, accessories, and photo shoots.

You can see the results all over the various Disney parks.  You can tell when a little girl has been bippity-boppetied.  She has the costume, of course.  However, many little girls roam the parks in princess regalia purchased from Walmart so you can’t know for sure that a costumed child has visited the BBB. Sometimes the newly-fashioned princess has a pink sash draped across her torso, proudly proclaiming her patronage of the boutique.  You don’t need the sash to identify the bippity-boppees, though.  It is the hair that usually tells the tale.  A fresh bippity-boppety hairdo usually involves an improbably intricate contraption of the child’s hair, wiglets, tiaras, barrettes, and hairspray.  Oh, and glitter…lots and lots of glitter.

The glitter doesn’t stop with the hair.  Usually the bippity-boppee has glittery pink or purple eye shadow and may have cheeks that glisten with pixie dust.

I always swore that, if I had a daughter or granddaughter, she would be bippiy-boppetied whether she liked it or not.  I mean, how could I not?  I even checked one time to see if I could book my own session with a FGMIT, but the age limit for such enchantment is twelve.  Since I was several multiples past twelve by that time, I was out of luck.

Not anymore. Several spas located in Disney resorts are now offering “character couture” sessions. These sessions are very much like Bippity-Boppity Boutiques for adults.

Oh, there are a few differences.  For one thing, the character couture sessions do not include costumes.  That isn’t a problem for me, since I have a Disney wardrobe that is the envy of four-year-old girls everywhere.  Also, the character couture sessions are a little less expensive than BBB, but don’t include photo shoots.  The FGMITs in BBB are not licensed cosmetologists.  Their magic involves rocking a costume, wielding a wand, and being good with children.  In the character couture experience, the stylists are real cosmetologists.  They are hair and make-up experts who are there to customize a unique hair and make-up design for each client. The character inspiration can be any of Disney’s creations- princess or pirate, Minnie or Daisy, Ariel or Ursula, pixie or Pooh- whatever sparkles the client’s fantasy fireworks. The idea is to create a look “inspired” by the client’s favorite character, but to complement the client’s own natural beauty.

When I read about this service, my immediate thought was, “I have to do this!” Then, I started wondering if I really wanted to spend about $100 for a Tinker Bell makeover.  After all, I am a grown-up and it does seem a bit extravagant for a few hours fun.  I know the service is actually intended for adults, but I’m thinking that, at nearly 59 years old, I am even pushing the boundaries of “adult.”  I also can’t imagine even my most Disney-obsessed friends joining me in the transformation and I’m not sure how much fun it would be by myself.  Still, I can’t get the idea out of my head.

There is NO WAY I would schedule a character couture until the weather cools down.  I don’t expect the makeover to last forever, but I would like to give my transformation a fighting chance of staying pixie-lated beyond the front door of the salon.  With the current weather, make-up will melt immediately upon contact with the great outdoors.  Pixie-dusted hair and humidity are also kind of mutually exclusive.  While the weather is so not “happily ever after,” I have some time to contemplate whether or not I should really do this.

I started polling my friends to get their opinions.  Most of my friends were puzzled that I would even ask since they figured an opportunity to channel the Pixie Princess has me written all over it.  As I kind of suspected, they were all gung ho for me to do it, but none of them wanted to get in on a makeover of their own. They apparently want me to be the entertainment on a girl’s trip to Disney World.  They all want to watch me get Tinkified and then go over to Magic Kingdom to visit the “real” Tinker Bell in Pixie Hollow.

I guess they want me to be the designated doofus to play dress up.  I can live with that.  What are friends for?

What do you think?  Bop or not?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a glitterific day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

Note the Tinker Bell green!  All it takes is faith, trust, and pixie dust!