Sunday, January 02, 2011

BloG #49: Are you happy? Did your dream come true?

I just returned, with my family, from a week-long visit to a major theme park resort. This visit had been saved up for, planned and looked forward to for many, many years. Generally I would say that, in most ways, the experience was positive. However, as with everything, there are a few barbs in the fence that prevent this vacation from being a desired must-repeat experience. To protect the innocent (and myself from any slanderous accusations), we will refrain from naming the resort in this writing.

The series of parks we visited is a fantastic theme park with incredibly wonderful ideas. More fun packed into a roughly 10 square mile radius than any 10 square mile radius should be packed with. Each ride, show and/or adventure is jam-packed with thrills that is guaranteed to not disappoint

Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately for this company's very healthy bottom line?), every corner of this green earth is now clued in to that little secret and has figured out a way to jam the entrance of every single theme park attraction with at least a 2-3-plus hour wait for that fleeting moment of extreme ecstasy.

As you stand in line for these attractions, you have extended moments that can become somewhat tedious if you allow. It is up to you to decide what you're going to do with these extended opportunities of tedium. Personally, I frequently find myself observing the behavior of others. Occasionally, I find this to be entertaining. Sadly, the alternative feeling that comes from such observations is the overwhelming sense of sadness. Sadness at how the bar of our societal norms just seems to have become so low.

Let's talk for a moment about what you can expect to be treated to during these extended periods of suspended animation while patiently waiting for your thrill. There is no guarantee that you will be confronted by any of these treats at a given moment during your wait, but a good chance exists that at least several moments of questioning why you are putting yourself through this may begin to cross your mind. It did for me, often.

This is not to say that every family, individual, occurance or whatever is bunched in to these generalized observations, because they are not. These are just general observations of our esteemed populace that, sadly, are slowly becoming more norm and less exception.

The first observation that circumvented my cross hairs during my visit to this series of theme parks was the general pronounced self-centered attitude that seems to pervade the general populace. Allow me to explain:

The above mentioned self-centered attitude shows up in so many different ways. You can see it in the me-first adults with kids-in-tow cutting ahead in line. You can see it in spoiled, out-of-control and precocious children showered with rewards when their precocious behavior needs no further reinforcement. You can also see it in the cell-phone use with no regard for who is within ear-shot of the user.

The last ride we treated ourselves to included a 90 minute wait in line behind 2 couples of daters. One couple included a male and female who seemed to enjoy each others' company. The girl was all over the guy and he wasn't about to turn that away. Not the type of behavior that is necessary for families with children need to be exposed to for nearly 2 hours in a slow-moving line, but considering the context of in-line behaviors, certainly not the worst of expositions. The other couple featured a boy who could not control his urge to gnaw on the female he was with. She, on the other hand, was increasingly annoyed with his gnawing but was unable to communicate beyond her rather obvious body language to the rather obtuse and thick-headed boy she was with that she wasn't enjoying his, shall we say, gnawing.

Situations such as this leave you frustrated and exhausted by the time you reach the attraction you so desperately have waited for and by the time you get there, you run the risk of getting crammed into some capsule with them, when all you want to do is get completely away from them.

These are just a tip of the iceberg of self-centered observations that are running untethered among our line inhabitants. There are certainly more, not to mention the continual jockeying for position in line throughout the extended wait. It sometimes crossed my mind as to where the lineup techniques being bestowed upon visitors was originated. I have my thoughts, but must do a little more research before sharing such suggestions on such a public forum as this.

Meanwhile, can anyone tell me why it is a good idea to take a newborn out to a place like this? For that matter, why take a one-year-old? There is plenty of time later in life. Why would you put yourself, the baby and, just as importantly, everyone you come into contact with at the park through this hassle? The park is generally over-populated and over-run with self-centered individuals grabbing and squeezing every ounce of entertainment from their hard-earned vacation that they can muster. Wait a year or three before subjecting your defenseless child to such a road-hardened environment!

When a low-lying or double-wide stroller crosses a path with these mercenary individuals loaded down with a bag of popcorn, extra large soda, 2 large bags full of goodies and 3 kids in tow, wielding Star Wars light sabers, how does the parent pushing this stroller expect their 4-month-old new-born to survive such a battlefield of stimulation? What is the value of increasing the likelihood of a potentially disastrous accident with such a defenseless infant being positioned in the midst of all the aforementioned chaos? There is plenty of time later. Wait a year or three!

Another observation boils down to the worthless crap being purchased for children that is going to get tossed aside never to be touched again before the car returns to the home driveway. Recent news headlines proclaim how the whole world is enveloped in a recession, the likes of what hasn't been experienced in decades. I'm sorry, but from what I just observed being purchased and carried around at our famed theme-park resort, Americans and the visiting vacationers who visited this park from other countries are not yet anywhere near the breaking point.

It was also interesting to observe that privileges allowed by the theme park and their kinder graces seem somewhat open for abuse. For example, there is a policy to grant handicapped and special needs people and their accompanying parties special access to certain attractions. This might include front row/special seating, cutting ahead in line or some other type of accommodation. Perfectly understandable.

Questions start to become a little more pronounced, however, as to where the line might be drawn on what kind of disabilities qualify for the accommodations and how many accompanying family members, friends, etc. benefit from receiving these residuals? On a hot day, in a 4-hour-plus waiting line, how accommodating is everyone feeling when a (rather large extended) family of someone in a wheelchair marches up to the rope and demands to be let in with the injured/disabled?

Credit must be given for the often frequent attempts to keep line-dwellers slightly entertained with the mind-numbing loud music continually blaring about the park, accompanied by the occasional clever signage posted about, but come on. Really? Your vacationing clients have spent upward of half a year's salary to get here and this is the best way you can come up with to treat them during their time waiting for one of your rides? Your creativity is over the top in nearly every detail, yet this one opportunity seems somewhat unfulfilled. You could do better in this respect.

More than half of the vacationers' awake time is spent in lines waiting for your attractions and some clever signs and loud music is the best you can come up with? How about you hire me to assemble a team to rectify that. Budget me a cool $100 million. Chump change from what I can see based on your ticket prices and spending habits of your customer base. We'll increase the smiles and decrease the frustration of your line waiters in no time. Of course, we we need the services of your top creative advisers, consultants, engineers and assemblers to pull this thing off, but I can assure you, we'll get it done on-time and under budget.

Finally, based on the masses of people coming to see you, I sure hope you have plans to expand at this location. And fast! There is no more room in the park! You are turning people away. Literally! I witnessed it. That just shouldn't be. Most of us pre-bought our tickets. What are you expecting 10 years down the road. Less people??

I'm sure you as the reader can find lots to disagree with in this reading, but... This piece is written on the heals of an expensive and taxing vacation with a company that is billed worldwide as the premier destination resort catering to families and people everywhere. There is always room for tweaking. Just offering a few suggestions.

Happy New Year!

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