I am on a Florida book tour publicizing my last memoir Coming Ashore. I am going to rent a car and go from Orlando down the ocean coast past Palm Beach and Miami and then I’ll drive up the Gulf side and hit Naples and Tampa and everything in between. I’m renting a car, I”ll have GPS that says Welcome to Florida, Cathy, (I’ve done this before). I’m taking my books in my trunk, and I’m heading out into, as my son calls Florida, God’s waiting room. There is something fun about being alone and observing a foreign culture—-and let’s face it-- Florida can be strange. I thought I’d blog a bit along the way.
Plane From Toronto to Orlando—Disney Express
Is there anything worse than being on a plane to Orlando in spring break? It is full of disciples making a pilgrimage to Disney World. There are parents who call each other “mom” and “dad” and who say to their gaggle of kids, “You have fifteen minutes at the window and then you have to let your sister have a turn.” Of course the boy says, “No way.” And the girl cries and then the parents argue with the wife telling the husband that he should never have given the window to the boy, etc. They all finally give up on human interaction and rent ipads with games for each of them @$14.95 each. After that there is silence and they are not heard from again.
Just when I thought it could not get worse, a family with a baby has just joined me. (Late arrivals.) The couple is taking their eight-month old drooling baby to Disneyworld. Why? Is he really going to recognize Mickey Mouse as an American icon or be terrified of a gigantic mouse? They have brought a music box they continually rewind that plays ‘The wheels on the bus.’ When it is finished they start it again.
On my other side is a middle-aged Iranian couple who are going to Disney World as adults with no kids. They want to “experience America.” Are Goofy and Donald Duck America? I just read the first part of the American Travelogue by the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard in 'the New York Times'. He decided the best way to see America was to not talk to anyone and visit hollowed- out Detroit. That turned out to be America for him and anyone who reads his article, it will be America for them. So these Iranians are going to go home and report on Disney world as America? I suppose it is as much America as anything else.
The woman in front of me who has a massive lung infection is wearing Mickey Mouse ears and spitting up Dumbo sized yellow globs from her lungs into her eye shade. I guess you have to pay extra for a Kleenex on air Canada. An older man next to her said, “If you are so sick you shouldn’t travel and infect all of us.” (I was with him on this score.) She said she’d paid for Disney world and she was going if she had to be carried through the pearly gates into never-never land.
The eight year old girl across the aisle from me has blonde hair with dark roots and is wearing a crop top, short shorts and cowboy boots. ( How did she get out of record cold temperatures in Canada in February in that get-up?) she told the ever inquisitive flight attendant that she didn’t care about the rides or the Disney figures. She just wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Café and see celebrities. There was so much wrong with the outfit, the celebrity mentality, and the delusion that famous people eat in Disney World in Orlando, I don’t even know where to begin. Who knows? Maybe they pay people to eat there.
I’ve made to Orlando Airport alive and I’m at the baggage claim. Children have run amok. It is like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Disney acolytes have now departed from other flights. Little boys are running all over the moving baggage carousel, surfing and screaming as they took the winding turns. Their parents have apparently disowned them by this point because no one is taking any responsibility for them. Then large men in uniform appear and shut down the baggage carrousel by the emergency stop button and tell the parents, who now look like walking zombies, to remove their children or they won’t start up the carousel.
As I got into my compact rental car that smelled of cleaning fluid, I have never been so happy for silence and my destination in a retirement community.