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Lowlights From The Happiest Place On Earth

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Yesterday, I shared with you a few fun stories about my vacation to Disney World. But with the good comes the bad.  Now, there isn’t much that’s bad about a visit to Disney World, but the bad things? Are infuriating. Let’s review a couple:

Double, side-by-side strollers. I don’t know who invented these, but I hope they realize that they’re monsters. I don’t know whose idea it was to make these a real, rentable thing in the parks, but I hope they realize that they’re an even worse monster.

Let me just speak to the inconsiderate double-wide stroller parent directly for a minute. Look, I get it. You have many children. And it’s difficult for the little ones to walk (and the not-so-little ones–we’ll get to that later) or for you to keep track of them all. And there’s nothing wrong with double strollers, in theory. It’s just the way you drive them.

For example, when my family was waiting to watch the Boo To You parade, and you forced your double, side-by-side stroller through a walkway too jammed with spectators that even a very thin person or a small child couldn’t make their way through. The off-duty cast member I’d been chatting with about the Headless Horseman suggested an alternate route that would be less congested; you agreed that way would probably be easier, but you still rammed your stroller into my husband and rolled it over the top of the cast member’s camera bag. Why would you do that?

It was because you were using that stroller. It robbed you of your sense, humanity, and spacial reasoning. You weren’t a pedestrian anymore, you were an Army Ranger at the wheel of an armored vehicle, mowing down sand dunes like they were cul-de-sac speed bumps. You were drunk on the power that double-wide stroller gave you. May god have mercy on your soul.

Jeffrey, you’re eleven years old. Speaking of strollers, let’s talk about children in strollers who are too old for strollers. Jeffrey was one of them.

As I stood under an awning, slathering sunscreen on my vulnerable Michigan skin, a woman pushed her rented stroller up to a bench near us. Her son was grumbling about something, and they were having a tense, under-their-breath exchange as the kid unbuckled himself and climbed out. As he sullenly took a seat on the bench, the woman snapped, “Jeffrey, you’re eleven years old! Act like it!”

Before anyone jumps in to say, “You don’t know if that kid is neurotypical! You don’t know that he wasn’t disabled!” well, you’re right. I have no way of knowing which of the hundreds of children over the age of twenty-five who were riding in rented strollers sized for toddlers were disabled or neurodivergent. But I do know that it’s highly unlikely that all of them were. While I don’t know Jeffrey’s story, I’m using him as an example of the overall attitude of the parents, regardless of his personal circumstances. Everywhere we looked, children who were well past the age where a stroller should be an option were lounging in them, or walking their feet on the ground to pull themselves along in them.

Look, I get it. At the end of the day, is it any skin off my nose that Jeffrey will still be using rented strollers in theme parks when he’s twenty-six? Not really, I guess. But the number of strollers that were in the park was absurd. They hindered you literally everywhere you went. And to see a kid who’ll be old enough to drive a car in five years sitting in one, having a preteen verbal spat with his mother, only made that problem more infuriating. One less stroller in the crowd would have meant one less stroller cutting through my path without so much as an excuse me, one less stroller halting suddenly in front of me without warning, one less stroller blocking a path or a bench. So it’s hard not to begrudge seventh graders lounging around in a stroller, sassing their parents when they could be walking like the rest of us.

Speaking of kids whose names are now burned into my brain… If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you’ve probably seen the ridiculously long line for the Seven Dwarves’ Mine Train. It’s like an hour, forty-five minutes wait at best. Except during extra magic hours, when there are fewer people in the park and the line moves along faster. Because this line is absolutely torturous, near the end there are some fun activities for bored kids who are waiting. One is a casual gaming experience like you could get on your phone, where you sort gems on a huge touch screen. Another is a fountain that releases water lit in various colors when you put your hand under the sensor. The last are some really neat, spinning barrels that project an animated image on the ceiling of the mine portion of the waiting area.

These are all terrible if there’s barely any line. And the reason they are terrible are Gretchen and Baylor.

These kids appeared to be siblings in a group of cousins led by two sisters who were their moms. I gleaned most of this dynamic from their loud conversations about stuff going on “back home,” conversations that were happening while they remained oblivious to the fact that while most of their party had moved up in the line, easily by fifteen feet, two of the kids were still standing at whichever of these activities they’d been captivated by. These kids were probably about thirteen and ten, respectively, and their names were Gretchen and Baylor (guess where one or both of his parents went to college). I know their names, because inevitably, as all of us behind this part stood gnashing our teeth and waiting for the kids to just move the fuck up already, their mother would notice them lagging behind and yell, “Gretchen! Baylor! Don’t make me have to tell you again.” And of course, she would have to tell them again, because she wouldn’t watch them for longer than it took to issue that weak parental non-threat.

For added fun, imagine these names being pronounced with some kind of southern U.S. accent that made them sound like “Gritch-in” and “BAYlooore.” I swear their mothers must have been former Texas pageant queens. And they weren’t the only inattentive parents we encountered. They were everywhere, staring at their phones and ignoring their bored children in long, hot lines. On the bus one night, a kid of about ten was using the straps meant for standing passengers to swing back and forth, nearly kicking another passenger until the bus driver intervened. Only then did his father look up from his phone and mutter, “Yeah, buddy, you can’t do that.”

A fool and his money are soon using the Disney dining plan. Disney World has a reputation for being extremely expensive. Because Disney World is extremely expensive. People have to save up for a long time to be able to afford the resort and the travel costs, and once you get there, you can plan on dropping around fifty bucks per meal, even at the most  modest dining locations. Luckily, Disney provides you with a dining plan option. There are various levels of this plan, but the one I think most people go with, out of a fear of starving to death, offers two “quick service” meals, one “table service” meal, and two snacks, per person, per day. If we had chosen this option as part of our vacation package, it would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1400.00.

All told, between souvenirs for all four of us (including an outrageous amount spent on a Princess Tiana costume with all the trimmings at Castle Couture), the occasional purchase of over the counter medication or bandaids, and meals, we spent considerably less than that. As in, hundreds of dollars less.

So, if the plan is designed to save families money and make things more convenient for them, why does it seem to be more expensive? Snacks. Every time we stopped for ice cream or a bottled water, someone would be in line near us muttering about how to spend their snacks. They just weren’t using them that often, and were left with tons of these left over opportunities for ice cream or popcorn that they just didn’t want but had already paid for. Or, parents would be standing outside of a “quick serve” restaurant, lamenting the fact that they’d split meals between their two toddlers, leaving them with eight superfluous meals they’d paid for, but simply wouldn’t be able to use up.

I’m sure the dining plan is awesome for some people. I vaguely remember it being awesome when we used it in 2007. But this time, I actually felt relieved that I didn’t have to figure out how to spend money I’d already spent.

Fastpass? More like…slow…pass. Okay, that wasn’t my best work. But I stand by this: Fastpass is ridiculous.  Fastpass is a system wherein you sign up for certain times to ride popular attractions (sometimes you get a Fastpass for priority seating at the fireworks or other shows), then you show up during those times and go to the front of the line.

I won’t go into all the ways various changes to the system have made Fastpass go from an interesting concept to a total frustration, but I will say this: it’s stupid to tell a large group of people to return to one specific spot during a specific time frame in an effort to make things go faster. It just doesn’t make sense. In the mornings, before the first Fastpass windows began, lines for some things could be long, but they moved at a steady pace. Then suddenly, Fastpass people would show up. They’d be put into their own line, which would feed into the main line further ahead, allowing them to skip over huge chunks of the waiting crowd. And since they could only show up during a specific window of time, that Fastpass hour would double the standby line.

There were times that the Fastpass line had a wait time that rivaled the standby line. So what was the point? Instead of standing in a line for twenty-five minutes, you stood in this other line for twenty minutes?

I’m not a crowd control engineer. Maybe Fastpass is a way to keep people from getting in line until they feel they have the incentive to, thus thinning the crowd in the standby line during non-Fastpass hours? But that would really only work if you rode just one time (my son rode Splash Mountain four times on our last day alone). Maybe it really does work great and it’s not observable to the naked eye? But for the average person waiting in either line, it seems like a big old mess.

If you ever win the lottery, though, and you want a true Fastpass? You can hire an official Disney “guide” for between $400 and $600 bucks per hour to let you skip the lines.

So, those are some of my Disney complaints. Overall, the vacation was amazing, but you know me. I love to have something to bitch about. Now I’m going to try to resume normal operations and pretend my neck isn’t crispy from forgetting to put sunscreen on it.

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35 Comments

  1. “I vaguely remember it being awesome when we used it in 2007.”

    There was some point in the not-too-distant past where you pretty much got the meal plan free if you stayed on property. I didn’t use it, but heard people talking about it and saw some commercials. That may be what you experienced — or something similar.

    My fiance’s father is retired from Disney and still can get people in free, so we stay at the military hotel there and go free to the parks — nearly every year and sometimes twice.

    I have to say, I haven’t really noticed any of the things you mentioned in this post, but honestly, I hate that place with a flaming passion for many other reasons, so those would probably be the least of my concerns. lol It is most definitely not the happiest place on earth for me!

    As for the Fast Pass thing, we haven’t even bothered with it since they changed the system. It used to be a really great option for rides with consistently super long lines (hour or more). Now those passes are generally gone for the entire day before the parks even open or within the first hour. It isn’t worth the hassle now.

    October 20, 2015
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    • AK
      AK

      Thank you! I hate Disney as well, but rarely feel confident enough to voice that opinion 🙂 I grew up outside Orlando, and in the ’90s Epcot was great. It was free after 4pm in the summer for residents. We loved that! But in general, I watched Disney become an even greedier corporation all through the ’90s, and I hate the Disney Princess line of dolls, and in general I could rant about them forever.

      October 20, 2015
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      • We were on the bus last summer and got into a conversation with the people sitting near us. I told them I hated it there and the fiance said I was going to get beaten up. lol

        It’s worst in the summer and that’s when we usually go because his daughter is with us then. Thankfully this year is was rainy and cloudy and actually almost bearably cool, even in the middle of a July day.

        The only park that doesn’t make me totally insane is Epcot, but they changed my favorite thing about it, so I don’t even want to go there anymore, either.

        There used to be a little walk-through a la carte bakery that had wonderful chocolate mousse and I would always get a “cheese plate” that was a bunch of different yummy cheeses and half of a baguette. They moved it, make it about triple the size, made the baguette an extra cost and the mousse isn’t as good as it used to be.

        October 20, 2015
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    • Annie
      Annie

      The dining plan has changed since 2007 (it used to include tip, for example) making it a worse deal. The “free” dining plan promotion is still offered every year at certain times of year. (I put scare quotes on free because you are sacrificing a room discount and paying rack rate in order to get that free dining plan)

      October 29, 2015
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  2. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon

    People with strollers are bad everywhere, not just Disney. When I lived in London, on the double decker buses there is space for 2 strollers, no more. And that space is SUPPOSED to be priority for wheelchair users. But the number of times I saw fights over that space or a third mother coming in with a monster stroller that she refused to fold, or a wheelchair user being told they couldn’t come on the bus because the space was full of strollers…I mean it’s ridiculous. The bus drivers were just too darn scared of the stroller mums to challenge them.

    October 20, 2015
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    • xebi
      xebi

      Yeah, the other day I was on a single deck bus and there were FOUR strollers on there. Not one of the parents had bothered to fold theirs,despite the fact that two of the children weren’t even sitting in them and were capable of walking. Like Jenny says, there may have been a reason why one parent can’t fold theirs for the bus, but four? I find that hard to believe.

      It’s precisely because of the selfishness I’ve seen from parents with strollers that I have never once taken mine on a bus or train. If I’m out with my daughter and we have to use public transport, I ALWAYS carry her in a sling or baby carrier. I know not everyone would be physically capable of doing that, but I am so it’s what I do.

      October 21, 2015
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      • Spockchick
        Spockchick

        Here in Edinburgh the bus drivers are (rightly) harsh. If a wheelchair user comes on then the stroller (or push-chair as we call it) get thrown off the bus if they can’t fold or store them. Edinburgh bus company is AWESOME!

        October 24, 2015
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  3. Amanda
    Amanda

    We took my oldest when she was about two a half to Disney, mostly because we were nearby already and I have never been. We took a stroller. It was terrible. We ended up just parking it in a stroller parking area and just carrying her/letting her walk.

    This summer we went back, Oldest is now 5.5 (and not neurotypical) and Littest is 2.5. We left the stoller at home. It was fine. They both did great. Sure we had to walk slower sometimes, but not having to deal with dragging the stoller everywhere more than made up for it. Anytime they would get tired we would duck into someplace air conditioned, have a cool drink, let Oldest relax and deal with her stresses. We had a great time.

    October 20, 2015
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  4. AK
    AK

    Loved this! I don’t think I could deal with the strollers and parents. We are seasoned theme park goers, having grown up near Orlando, and my parents one rule was, “NEVER eat inside the park.” Gotta pack a lunch, man…

    October 20, 2015
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  5. Apparently Fastpass really has made the long lines shorter – and that’s because it encourages people to ride the other stuff instead. You get your ONE Fastpass for the popular ride du jour, and that’s awesome, but then you go to get another and the only things left are Winnie the Pooh or Dumbo and and you figure “hey, at least I can skip the line on that” – so you only do the big fancy stuff once (or maybe twice) and you feel special about getting to go on the stuff you wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. Which means those of us with small kids who would have been happy to just ride Under the Sea over and over again end up having to wait for all those eleven-year-olds who couldn’t care less but were told to be there at 1 PM so they’re gonna ride it anyway.

    In theory, it’s a great system to let everyone have a crack at the big stuff. In practice, is just spreads the lines out. It also means less waiting in lines overall, though, which means you have more time wandering the park and spending money on food and arcade games and souvenirs.

    October 20, 2015
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    • It just seemed to work better when it was easier to pick them up on a whim at the park at the actual ride you wanted a fast pass for. You can’t do that anymore. Theoretically, you can still get them AT the park, but they sell out usually really quickly and early in the day now because you can get them when you book your trip and online. And I wonder how many people get them ahead of time and then decide that day they really don’t care about getting on that ride, or they get there early before the line is long and ride it and then don’t even use the FastPass, but no one else can get one because it’s taken, used or not.

      FastPass simply worked better under the old system.

      October 20, 2015
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      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        YES. The old system, where you just walked up to the rides and got your little ticket on the day. SO MUCH BETTER. And it’s not even that Fastpasses sell out quick on the day of, they sell out sixty days in advance! Seriously, I was going to try to get a Fastpass for Anna and Elsa, and I mentioned to someone that I couldn’t get one two weeks ahead of time. She told me, “Oh, you can get those sixty days ahead of time. I was up at midnight when the date opened and I still didn’t get one.” Are you fucking kidding me? Sixty days in advance? I’m supposed to plan what attractions we want to use on which day SIXTY DAYS IN ADVANCE?

        It’s bad enough that I made our reservations for the trip back in August and couldn’t get a single restaurant reservation (until the one for Be Our Guest opened the night before) because everything was booked. It’s getting ridiculous for those of us who don’t anally plan a year ahead of time.

        October 20, 2015
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I call that Under the Sea ride “Air Conditioning: The Ride.”

      October 20, 2015
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  6. Cherry
    Cherry

    I remember when the Fastpass first came out in Disneyland (the CA one, not the one you guys are all talking about). My Dad and cousins and I all went together around this time of year. The Fastpasses were so popular that there was almost no regular stand-by line! We rode Indiana Jones like 5 times in a row. It was awesome.

    October 20, 2015
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  7. I went to Disneyworld one time twenty years ago when I was seven like right before Epcot and the Wild Animal Park and everything that makes Disneyworld a monstrosity of a park that it is today and I can honestly say I’m glad that living in California now that Disneyland is my go to option. I would love to go back and experience Disneyworld if I had the disposable income for it, but I’m really thankful that Disneyland is a)a lot smaller of a park even with California Adventure tacked on and right next door and b) that it’s a lot more affordable because it doesn’t have the same ‘Disney Experience’ schtick the Orlando park has going for it. I’m actually going this coming weekend for Halloween (hurrah!) and since we’ll be going later in the day/into the night I’ll eat dinner and I’m only spending money on enough sugar to melt my teeth. It’s weird how different it is really. One of my besties and her family always go to Disneyworld and stay at the resort and do the meal plan and it just blows my mind because out here you can stay at a cheap hotel across the street, walk to the park and there is downtown disney where you can spend your money on a normal overpriced meal at an actual restaurant chain (like House of Blues) and then head back into the park. I feel like it’s a completely separate experience. Whoop /tangent.

    Anyway I definitely sympathize with strollers. Strollers are D/Land/World number one problems next to slow walkers, haha. Also children madly dashing in front of you.

    Also omfg I just scrolled up and you don’t just walk up to get the FastPass? That’s like how they do it here at the DLand park in Anaheim. That is… wow. SIXTYDAYS? Holy crap. Disneyworld… Disneyworld is just too intense, lol.

    October 20, 2015
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    • taycibear
      taycibear

      I agree with you. I live in Cali and Disneyland isn’t horrible. We usually stay in a timeshare for free, walk to parking, and then catch the Pumba bus to the park.

      October 20, 2015
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    • AK
      AK

      Good point. The one time I actually enjoyed the Magic Kindgom rides was when I went to Disneyland. In the Orlando park, Epcot is my jam, but nothing else.

      October 20, 2015
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  8. As a former CM (cast member), EVERYONE hates strollers. Also Disney made their guest assistance cards ridiculous. For one they’re not called that any more (they’re disability passes or some shit like that) and basically what you have is a fast pass with your photo on it. You take it to the attraction. Present to CM. CM gives you a time slot to come back.

    Do you know how much that DOESN’T work with certain disabilities? Disney’s response is just to rent a wheelchair (because we all know that’s financially possible).

    Oh and ECVs. The electric ones. CMs HATE those too.

    October 21, 2015
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    • CIB
      CIB

      This is interesting to read, because my earliest experience with Disney World was with my disabled grandfather (he had a leg amputated). My parents wheeled him around the park and we all got to skip waiting in lines all over the place – I thought we just showed up and were allowed to go to the front of the line. But, this was in the late ’80s, and my memory may be inaccurate…

      October 21, 2015
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  9. We have this guy who comes in with his two sons (who I later learned were not his grandsons), probably between 6 and 8. Every single time, without fail, the two boys start fighting and swearing at each other in front of the computers where this guy dumps them. Library rule is that even in the kids’ section, you can’t just leave your under 8 year old child alone because hello, public library. Anyone could come in.

    I figured they might just have behavioral problems that perhaps couldn’t be helped (but also why leave them ALONE in a public place?), until the last time I saw them in when they began acting up. I was a second from swooping in to tell them to calm down and ask where their grandpa dad was, when he shows up and argues with them to get off the computer.

    “Shut the fuck up, we’re leaving!” And then he bodily hauls them off and out of the building.

    Nice to know where that behavior was learned.

    October 21, 2015
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Yeah, like, here’s the thing: your kids can have problems, but you can also still be an a-hole. One does not cancel out the other.

      October 21, 2015
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      • Oh right, I wasn’t being clear in that last comment. I assume the kids have some type of behavioral problem, but it seems like it might be exacerbated by their father.

        October 21, 2015
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        • JennyTrout
          JennyTrout

          Oh, it wasn’t a criticism, just an observation. My son is autistic, and I’m amazed at how many parents of autistic children will blame their shitty parenting on their kid’s neurodivergence.

          October 21, 2015
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          • No worries.

            Whenever they’re in here, it really feels like he wants nothing to do with his kids and is pretty rough with them when forced to corral them. I’m not sure what the situation is but it’s really unpleasant to witness.

            October 21, 2015
  10. CIB
    CIB

    My dad has said he wants to treat my family to a trip to Disney World in 2 years – part of me is like “Woo! Disney World with a 6 year old girl! Yeah!” and the other parts looks at the negatives and the hassles and says “Too much work. You’re going to regret it.” I’m so torn.

    October 21, 2015
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    • You might be OK with a 6-year-old. The trick is to take a midday break. Go back to the hotel for pool time or lunch or whatever and rest, then go back later.

      I have been forced to spend a full 15 hours there before and it’s miserable. Breaking up the day helps. And try not going in the hotter months. If you can take kids out of school, go between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll get the full Christmas at Disney treatment, but the crowds will be much smaller, waits shorter, etc. People don’t go on vacations in those weeks because of the two holidays being so much work and travel.

      October 21, 2015
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  11. Jen
    Jen

    We visited Disney World a few years ago for our anniversary. The two things that stuck in my mind were the herds of wild minivans darting across multiple lanes of traffic in Orlando to get to the Disney World exits, and the ridiculous amounts of strollers and hover rounds that seemed bound and determined to take us out. And the parades. Every single time we got off a ride we were running into hordes of people staring at a parade. Which meant barricades made of strollers. I’m pretty sure my life flashed before my eyes when trying to navigate the crowds during the Starlight parade. It was terrifying.

    October 21, 2015
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  12. mydogsPA
    mydogsPA

    If Jeffrey was eleven, why was his mom acting like he was a baby by carting him around in the stroller? Of course he acted like a baby, she treated him like one!

    WTF did she expect?!?!?

    October 21, 2015
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  13. Teresa B
    Teresa B

    I could not believe the amount of strollers when I went to Disneyland a few years ago. It was terrifying. When I go with my son I’m going to wait till he can walk. And it’s really absurd what people will spend their money on.

    October 21, 2015
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    • mydogsPA
      mydogsPA

      I don’t know what they do at Disney World, but at Disneyland (Anaheim) the most frightening thing was the “Bippity Boppity Boutique” where one can pick out the princess costume they want (there’s like 10 of ’em) and then go to the salon and sit in the kid-sized chairs to get their makeup and hair done. The outfits, with full accessories, ran upwards of $200 and the salon could have been $100 to $200 more. Yikes.

      What was worse was the number of kids running around in princess costumes . . . .

      !

      October 22, 2015
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      • Orlando has that, too. And almost every little girl there does it. And they do it in July. All that makeup and plastic clothing. Ick!

        October 22, 2015
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        • mydogsPA
          mydogsPA

          It’s my understanding that William Goldman asked his (at the time young) daughters what he should write about. One said, “A princess!” The other said, “A bride!” And that’s how we got “A Princess Bride.” The rest is history. (My favorite line comes after Valerie and Miracle Max give Fezzik and Inigo the Miracle Pill and they wave goodbye. “Bye, bye, boys, have fun storming the castle!” “You think it’ll work?” “It’d take a miracle.” Oh, and who can forget Wesley’s reply to Buttercup’s lament that they’d never get out of the fire swamp alive, “Nonsense, you’re just saying that because no one ever has.”)

          So I suppose a ‘princess’ is a common girl’s fantasy.

          October 22, 2015
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          • LOL

            I haven’t heard that story. I finally read the book last year. I don’t recommend it. The movie is infinitely better.

            October 22, 2015
          • mydogsPA
            mydogsPA

            And Humperdinck’s, “Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.”

            October 23, 2015
  14. Jane E
    Jane E

    My family did Disney Land a couple of weeks ago so ‘Testify’!! Lol.

    October 27, 2015
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