By J. Christy McKibben
You know that whining, crying, screaming child you’ve encountered on a beautiful, warm, sunny day? Unfortunately, I must admit…that child was me. Or it could have been me. Let me explain. I was a relatively pleasant child growing up (I promise. You can ask my mom). As a young child, I really only had just one of those days (okay…maybe two). I’d like to share with you one day that turned out to be a memorable day for me (and everyone within a 5-mile radius). This day just happened to be at Disney World. Yep, a magical, fun-filled park. Every child’s dream. I assure you I was not every child. No, that day went down in history for me as one of the most terrifying experiences of my youth.
Lunging Animals and Blood-Curdling Screams
This special trip came about because my mother, “Mama Judy,” and I were visiting my Aunt Donna in Florida. I started the day like any other excited 4-year old heading off to Disney World for the first time. I’d been anticipating this visit to the Magic Kingdom for months! First stop in the park?
The “Jungle Cruise!” What’s that ride all about? The Magic Kingdom website states, “Along the Nile, watch for bathing elephants, angry hippos and hungry lions. Be on the lookout for a tribe of headhunters recently spotted in the area. Your cruise continues down the Mekong River in Asia, home to baboons, cobras and other fearsomely life-like creatures.”
Throughout this ride, you encounter all kinds of exotic animals: huge snakes, hippos, elephants, lions, and much more. These animals were already scary enough for a timid, sensitive child. But what could they do to make it even worse? Loud rounds being shot from a pistol! Yes, the Skipper started shooting his pistol at the “attacking” animals.
That’s where I started to lose it. As the tears began their endless flow, the Skipper, noticing me in my troubled state, pulled me up to the front of the boat. In a soothing tone, he said to me, “Don’t you worry little lady. I’ll take care of these animals and protect you!” He then proceeded to shoot multiple rounds at a lunging animal. I did not appreciate this gesture. The sobbing was now accompanied by blood-curdling screams.
It’s a Very Small World
Next stop? “It’s a small world”! The description of this ride on the Magic Kingdom website beckons you to “Embark on a whimsical boat ride past a jubilant confection of singing children from around the globe.” They even claim it to be “The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed.” Mama Judy and Aunt Donna thought nothing could possibly strike terror into me on that ride. They couldn’t have been more wrong. So here was my issue with that ride. The ride made me feel like I was out in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight. The whining started and the tears began flowing. I couldn’t yet swim and was terrified of drowning. True, the “ocean” was probably only 2 feet deep, but it felt deep. Oh, yes, and the sharks. No, there aren’t sharks on the ride, but I was convinced they were there and would leap into the boat at any moment!
The tears became sobs. Then, as if on cue, the ride broke down. We were stuck in the middle of the “ocean” and I felt sheer and utter panic. Mama Judy delicately describes me at that moment as “screaming bloody hell!” After several minutes the ride was finally fixed and we disembarked unscathed. We were the victims of many dirty looks; but what did I care? I survived the horrific ride and was able to step foot on dry land!
So, apparently thinking they could score 3 for 3, Mama Judy and Aunt Donna decided to take me on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Another boat ride. Let me be clear here, the first two rides are rated “Slow Rides” and are considered appropriate for preschoolers and older. The “Pirates” ride? Added to the description “Slow Rides” is “Small Drops and Dark” and “preschoolers” is not published on the “Pirates” website. The “Pirates” ride has you “Set sail on a swashbuckling voyage to a long-forgotten time and place when pirates and privateers ruled the seas.”
Yes, lots and lots of pirates; both dead and alive. The ride is bumpy, there are lots of scary voices, fog, and much darkness. However, to Mama Judy and Aunt Donna’s absolute disbelief, instead of screaming from fear, I guffawed with delight! The ride was rowdy and thrilling. In my mind, this was the greatest thing ever! (I’m still not quite sure what that says about me…).
Whenever I get together with Mama Judy and Aunt Donna we fondly discuss our memories of that trip. I always add my (distorted) memory of my near-death experiences on the first two rides. Mama Judy and Aunt Donna’s memories consist of outright embarrassment.
Several years back, while shopping in a Hallmark store, Mama Judy and I came across a Hallmark Christmas ornament called “It’s a Small World.” It looked just like the ride and even played the classic “It’s a Small World” song. I purchased the ornament and mailed it to my Aunt Donna, along with a note that said, “Just a small reminder of the good ol’ days…”
At least we’re all able to laugh about me being that child…now.
J. Christy McKibben
Image 1 via flickr by Josh Hallett
Image 2 via flickr by Lee