The green I-4 signage reads "Walt Disney World 47 mi." A land unto itself, it is rivaled only by the Vatican City.
And while the Vatican City is one of the holiest places on earth, Disney stakes dibs to the happiest, and every father proves it thus when he looks in the rear view mirror and yells, "If y'all don't quit kicking the back of my seat and making your sister squeal, I'm turning this car around at the next exit and going home!"
All is quiet - until he passes the next exit.
We passed that point of no return as well, on the way to our 10-year-old son's World Series Tournament. So what the heck, since we were going to Orlando anyway, it seemed the perfect opportunity to cure my family of Florida Euphoria.
When we weren't watching baseball, we hoofed through theme parks, rain or shine. Sidestepping happiness, however, we bought multi-day, multi-park, multi-use tickets to the fleshiest places on earth.
Sunday, dramatically backdropped by parking-deck prep music and bare-bellied Brazilians, my husband spasmodically erupted, with a legion of other fathers, into "Quit arguing with each other! I'm sick of it! We'll leave if you can't get along. We came here to have fun, but I have no problem sitting in a hotel room for the next seven days."
(Theme parks should complimentarily pump that speech over loudspeakers in all the languages of the world.)
Afterwards, I ran my crew line to line, coaster to coaster. Thrilling rides rapidly transported us from 75 minute queues to fully stocked gift shops. Strategically placed heart attacks and strobe-induced strokes inserted between start and finish loosened purse strings. Mothers and fathers fell noodle-legged out of cardiac arrest contraptions, so surprised to be alive they didn't notice wads of bills flying out of their wallets.
Many of them ought to have known better than to attempt survival after reading the top 10 reasons not to, punctuated by warnings to remove prosthetics and the words "This Ride May Not Accommodate All Body Dimensions," followed by three grunting attendants orchestrating concerted tucking and buckling efforts, all the while asking, "Are you sure you want to do this?" (Here's your sign.)
Monday, ditto, and husband cured after sitting in a wet seat on a spleen-splitting ride sans water element. Eeewww. (Here's his sign.)
Tuesday evening, waiting for Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Roller Coaster (here's my sign), my children flopped on the pavement, dragging themselves to the next 30 seconds of exhilaration. From the look of other families - kids draping their arms over railings, parents lamenting, "We should have left after the E.T. Adventure," tired toddlers twitching like ferret tails - most other parents intended to inoculate their offspring against euphoria, too.
Wednesday, two of four children pleaded to stay at the condo and swim in the over-chlorinated, under ph-balanced pool. But, instead, we went to over-populated, under-bathing-suited Wet'N Wild.
On Thursday, my beloved made one of his famous analogies as I nudged whining, begging kids into the car. "It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet," he compared. "You don't have to gorge until you're sick. Just eat until you're full. And I think we're close to full."
By Saturday, we discovered that nothing brings a family closer together than a few near-death experiences. Enduring hot pavement, claustrophobic crowds, unsolicited cleavage, hair-curling humidity, Dueling Dragons, Fear Falls and The Black Hole convinced us we can weather any adversity.
And so we returned home, stronger, wiser, unable to navigate without turnstiles and mazes of cattle gates, and most definitely healed of Florida Euphoria.
Lucy Adams is a Columbia County native and McDuffie County resident, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or go to www.ifmama.com.
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