Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Mickey Mommas

In Celebration, there exists a group so powerful, so influential, and so steeped in tradition that it rivals organizations such as the Stonecutters and even the Bunny Brigade. You could be living next door to a member without ever knowing it. The woman you pass on Market Street could be leading a double life. The group sitting at the next booth in Max’s could be a splinter faction. I’m speaking, of course, about the Mickey Mommas.

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but the Mickey Mommas is, indeed, a real group (if you don’t believe me, visit the website at Recently, I was initiated along with another “virgin” as we made our way around the Epcot resorts in a frenzy of drink and dance that started at the brewery restaurant and ended up at the Atlantic Dance Hall.

Actually, I’m surprised that I was even allowed to join the Mommas. They’re been planning their latest meeting since fall, but I managed to bring a hurricane to spoil those plans (I brought hurricanes for scheduled Bunny Brigade meetings too. I really need to find the gypsy I pissed off so I can beg her to remove the curse, or at least sic a leprechaun on her).

This time, I didn’t bring the curse of bad weather, but my husband and I almost didn’t make it home. Our airport experience was a comedy or errors worthy of a John Hughes movie. I take great pride in tacky taste, and one of my prized possessions is a silver Christmas tree. It’s not an authentic 1950s/60s version, but it’s very, very close. Rather than try to find one in Florida, we boxed it up (along with the groovy color wheels, of course) and brought it with us to Midway. We rarely check luggage, but we figured it wouldn’t be a problem this one time. I could pick up our car while my husband claimed it at the baggage carousel. Simple, right? Not hardly!

I knew something was wrong when we got to the baggage check area at Midway and the Lame Duck, ATA...counter looked like the crowd scene in “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Maneuvering anywhere was nearly impossible, especially for my poor husband, who was precariously balancing the tree box. I said a silent prayer of thanks that we have Elite status, the perks of which include a separate check-in line. But when I reached what is normally the Elite counter, I discovered that ATA’s computer system was totally down. They were using some sort of unholy hand-written check-in system and attempting to get people to line up by flight. It was slightly less organized than herding cats, and I wanted no part of it. The tree box looked like it would fit through the x-ray machine at Security, so I decided that our best bet was to take it with us and gate check it. Otherwise, our flight would be winging its way to Orlando with no passengers, and we would be stuck with the rest of them waiting in Baggage Check Hell.

We made our way to the gate, only to discover that our plane had been diverted to Indianapolis and was going to come in at some undetermined time. Worse yet, due to the computer system failure, there would be no assigned seats. It would be a Southwest-style free-for-all. People started lining up in a line that eventually snaked out of the gate area, down past the moving walkway, and nearly to McDonald’s. But this time I thought our Elite status really would help us, as we would be part of the pre-board.

We were told the plane should arrive around 8 p.m., and we could board after the poor diverted souls deplaned. Sure enough, a few minutes after the hour, a plane arrived and a happy murmur went up from the crowd. But as the passengers who were getting off gamely tried to make their way through the line, the gate agent made an announcement: “This is NOT the plane from Indianapolis. Foolish mortals, your line is useless, as we are going to change the gate!”

I jockeyed into position to sprint to whatever new gate was announced. I know Midway as well as my own home, so I figured I could stake out a position and my poor, long-suffering husband could catch up with the tree. At this point, I wasn’t counting on a pre-board, and even if there was one, I had visions of the entire belligerent crowd stampeding down the runway with no regard for the gate agent’s admonishments.

Finally, the new gate was announced: A4B. Those of you who have never been to Midway and flown from that gate have no idea what kind of special Hell that alphanumeric combination indicates. A4A and A4B are the bastard stepchildren gates of Midway Airport. They are an afterthought and are not even part of the terminal building. They are basically a never ending enclosed walkway that you hike through until you reach Indiana. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you might find the plane. There is a small scattering of seats, but no civilized comforts like water fountains or a restroom. I know the configuration, and I knew that even if a pre-board was called, the poor souls who didn’t get there quickly wouldn’t have a chance. So I bolted like a track runner and actually made it there first because half the other passengers loaded onto the moving walkway (and then stood on it like statues rather than walking for some inexplicable reason) while the other half apparently misunderstood and headed to A14.

My husband eventually caught up with me, and we milled at the head of the growingly belligerent crowd. One poor child, who was an unaccompanied minor, even had a panic attack as a result of all the gate shuffling and then being lost in the middle of a sea of humanity packed in the cattle chute-like gate area. Our plane still hadn’t arrived, so the poor souls trying to board four different commuter flights at the sister gate, A4A, had to make their way through the Orlando mob. The whole thing was like an episode of “Airline” if it were directed by Quentin Terentino.

Eventually the plane arrived and disgorged the poor souls who had been diverted and had suffered their own brand of airline hell that day. They looked happy to finally be at their destination, and a few of them commented to each other that the passengers waiting to board their plane looked VERY unhappy. What an understatement!

Finally the pre-board was announced for families and Elite members. A family had maneuvered in front of me, so I followed them down the jetway towards the plane. I didn’t mind them slipping by; I was gunning for the exit row that we had originally been assigned to, and people with children can’t take an exit. All of a sudden, we heard what sounded like a cavalry behind us and shouts of, “Stop running! Stop running!” A gang of people was galloping madly towards us like the herd coming at Simba in “The Lion King.” Most of them heeded the gate agent’s yells, but one guy totally ignored her and nearly bowled me and the family right over as he swept past us. He wasn’t a “qualified” pre-boarder, but amazingly the agent at the plane door allowed him to board. I guess she didn’t want to mess with someone who was that rude and discourteous; he probably would have let loose a string of expletives and shoved her to the floor in his frenzy to board.

My husband had actually managed to stay pretty close behind me, but now another family shoved the people behind him out of the way and then started to shove him too! He told them, “I am in the pre-board line,” and they got really nasty…they kept insisting that THEY were pre-boarding, and they just couldn’t get the concept that many of the people ahead of them were doing the same thing. The people behind my husband got into the fray, since they didn’t appreciate getting cut off either. My husband was at an advantage; he simply blocked them with the tree box.

Meanwhile, I had grabbed our favorite seats, and I settled in and breathed a sigh of relief. Granted, at this point we were several hours late, but I thought we’d be on our way home to Celebration soon. Alas, Southwest might have the cattle call boarding down to a science, but ATA is not used to it, and absolutely madness and pandemonium ensued. Watching it was more entertaining than any in flight movie could ever be, And of course, everyone was on their last nerve so the boarding mess was like pouring kerosene on a bonfire.

When everyone was finally on the plane, there were still three people without seats. I could overhear the gate agents, who had come on board to try to sort things out, mumbling that the plane was not oversold and that the problem was probably people with lap children who had seized the opportunity to grab seats for their unticketed babies. The flight attendant was reluctant to make an announcement, but finally she did. Of course, no one owned up to their “seat theft,” and with the mess of hand written boarded passes, it would be nearly impossible to figure out who was truly ticketed.

Their next step was to offer incentives for people to give up their seats. One man sitting in the aisle across from us offered his, but he wanted a different type of compensation. When they said, “We can’t do that, sir,” he said, “Well, then, f--k you!” I was shocked! It totally came out of the blue. I couldn’t believe he would be so nasty for no reason, but the agents just brushed it off. I imagine they’ve seen much worse.

At this point, it was getting so late and I was so exhausted that I was ready to throw in the towel and give up going home. I love Celebration, but it wouldn’t kill me to skip a weekend; I figured the poor souls who didn’t have seats might need to get to Orlando more badly than I did. But when my husband and I volunteered, the gate agent said we would have to take a flight to Orlando the next morning. I explained that wouldn’t work for us because we didn’t want to go out and then turn around and come back in less than 48 hours. I told him we could do it any other weekend, but he said no, it had to be that Saturday morning. He didn’t seem to understand that I was saying we go to Florida every week.

The flight attendant understood what I was saying, so she tried to explain it to him, but he was adamant. Fortunately, three other people volunteered, so all was well than ended well. For some reason, we remained at the gate for another 20 minutes after that, but eventually the door was closed and the plane taxied away and took off into the night sky to wing its way south with its cargo of 243 cranky, tired people.

Thankfully, the gypsy curse had apparently run itself out, and we arrived in Orlando safely, albeit many hours late. Since midnight was long past, meaning that technically a new day had begin, I was a little worried that my rental car reservation might have cancelled out. Happily, there was no problem, and I even got upgraded from economy to a gas guzzling, road hogging Ford Taurus Land Barge. We didn’t pull into our driveway until nearly 3 a.m., but thank God we were home in Celebration at last, and I could finally become a Mickey Momma on Saturday night.

As you can imagine, we slept quite late. Since I was meeting the Mommas at 6:30 p.m., we didn’t have much time so we headed over to the Florida Mall to do some shopping that we’ve been putting off. It was now or never, as I don’t go near malls from Thanksgiving week until mid-January. The traffic was as hellacious as usual, but on the way home we inadvertently discovered a shortcut that my neighbor had one mentioned. Actually, it’s not a shortcut in mileage, but even though you drive out of your way, there is no traffic so it’s much faster. We took Sand Lake Road to Boggy Creek, which we could then take to 417 near the airport. Once on the Greenway, it’s a fast (although expensive) jaunt to Celebration.

There was one more little roadblock awaiting us. The car ahead of us at the Celebration exit toll booth sat there for an inordinate amount of time. Finally, a very desperate-looking British tourist ran back to our car, waving a dollar and begging for change. We chucked a couple of quarters at him; no sense in taking his money, as he’d be needing many dollars if he was planning to do lots of driving in Florida.

I got ready for the Mickey Mommas meeting, while my poor husband buckled down for a night of work. Like me, he has a part time job in addition his main one, so weekends are still a work day. I had checked my email and phone messages (I am a part time travel agent, so my job easily follows me from one state to the other). Nothing much was happening, so I was free to go.

Soon the van pulled up and I was on my way to Disney World and the Boardwalk. The Mammas were founded by Jan, who is also the Grande Dame of the Bunny Brigade (which is actually a co-ed offshoot off the Mammas). Like the Brigade, some type of special accessory is a requirement. For this outing, she provided a bag of flowers, from which we each chose one to adorn our hair. Actually, I had brought my Stitch hat (which makes it look like he’s eating my head), so I clipped the flower on top of that. It’s sad that I’m such a shy, inconspicuous person.

Most of us were well aware of what we were getting into, but one Momma had no idea that she would be joining us. She thought she would be busy at home, but her husband knew that she needed a night out, so he’d made secret arrangements for the van to pick her up. To ensure that she’d be ready, he told her they would be having dinner at the Town Tavern. Imagine her surprise when she stepped outside to find a strange vehicle idling at the curb, with a passel of laughing Mommas trying to duck out of sight.

Once we were all in the van, we headed off the Boardwalk, where two other Mommas were already waiting at the brewery restaurant. Jan had made a reservation, and it was a good thing, as there was a long line waiting for admission at the door. We breezed past the waiting hoi poloi and settled in to get started with drinks (and food for those who wanted it). Even though it’s a brewery, I opted for a pina colada because fru-fru cream drinks are my favorite. I also had a bowl of cheese & beer soup; I’d had a late lunch, but it had still been a while, so I thought it best to get something non-alcoholic into my stomach for the long night ahead.

I knew already knew some of the Mammas from the Brigade, and I was meeting some for the first time. Once again, I realized what a great choice it was to move to Celebration. Where else could I find so many kindred souls? When I post on the community intranet, my motto is: “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.” It was so nice to discover that so many people share the same philosophy.

Most of the Mommas in attendance were veterans, but as I mentioned earlier, there was one other virgin. She was only on her third month of living in Celebration and hadn’t yet discovered all the neat things you can do at Disney World without ever going into the parks. Boardwalk is a great night spot. There are carnival games, street acts, restaurants, and of course bars and clubs. We were planning to make our way around the Epcot resorts, as the area is also flanked by the Yacht & Beach Club and the Swan/Dolphin, and to end up at the Atlantic Dance Hall. There are other fun places on Boardwalk, including Jellyrolls (a dueling piano bar) and the ESPN sports club. Yacht & Beach Club has am excellent seafood buffet called Cape May, which I detailed in a previous blog entry, as well as a nautical themed bar and an ice cream parlor called Beachs & Cream. I don’t know much about the Swan & Dolphin; I attended a conference at them once, but I didn’t spend much time exploring. They are not actually owned by Disney, so they’re sort of red-haired stepchild resorts.

We spent a while at the brewery and then headed toward Yacht & Beach Club. Our timing turned out to be perfect to catch the Illuminations fireworks at Epcot. The park is only a short stroll from Boardwalk, so you get an excellent view. We joined the crowd of people gazing at the sky and murmuring appreciative oohhs and aahhs. One of the Mammas pointed out how lucky we are. We were surrounded by people who had saved up for their vacations, perhaps for a long time. They were there for maybe a week or two, and then they’d have to head home; if they’re lucky, they might be back again in a year or so. But those of us who live in Celebration can have this experience whenever we have the urge. I feel that fascination every time I drive over to Disney World, and even when I hear the echo of the fireworks as I sit out on my front porch. I’ve always hoped that I’ll never lose it, so it was heartening to see that Mommas who have lived in Celebration for years still feel that same childlike glee to live next door to Mickey.

We hiked over to the Yacht Club and managed to find the bar, but in an abrupt change of plans, we decided to skip the drinks and head right over to the Atlantic Dance Hall. I was still feeling good from the pina colada, so I was ready to go anywhere and do just about anything. I had never been to the dance hall before, and I was in for a pleasant surprise. It is a large place with plenty of tables, a bar, and a dance floor with a giant video screen. It is smoke-free, which is a big plus for an allergic person like myself. In Florida, all restaurants must be non-smoking by law, but bars can allow smoking if they make minimal or no money from the sale of food. But even though the Atlantic only services alcohol, it is a non-smoking venue. For those who enjoy a cigarette, you can easily step right outside to light up.

We whiled the night away drinking and dancing. The Atlantic doesn’t serve frozen drinks, but I was quite content downing Fuzzy Navels on the rocks. I also enjoyed the dancing, although I was a little nervous to start. A few years back, while dancing in a club on the Disney Magic cruise ship, my knee cap popped off quite suddenly and unexpectedly, teaching me a new definition of pain. Actually, the injury itself wasn’t so bad; the pain came when they popped that sucker back on. I was stuck in a cast and wheelchair for the rest of the cruise, and the cast remained for many more weeks, followed by a few rounds of physical therapy. For the next year or so, I had to wear a knee brace while dancing, but eventually the doctor told me I should be okay boogying without it. I still have a latent fear that the bolt of pain will suddenly strike and I’ll drop like a buckshot deer. But with a couple of drinks in me, the fear gave way to my sense of fun and my love of music and dancing.

In between physical exertion, we sat at our table and joking around. I learned something new; the more alcohol you consume, the funnier the word “nipple” becomes. By the end of the night, my face hurt actually from laughing. We had started on our journey at 6:30 p.m., and I was shocked to realize that somehow the clock hands had fast forwarded to midnight. The majority of the Mommas were ready to call it a night, although two did stay on for a while longer. The rest of us trooped back to find the van in the vast expanse of the Boardwalk parking lot.

The ride home was an adventure, too. Jan was driving, and she was blatantly disregarding any instructions on how to get home to Celebration. Eventually we realized that she knew full well where she was going and was taking an alternate route just to confuse us. Soon enough, we had reached town and were dropped off at our homes one by one. At Duloc Manor, my husband had long since collapsed into bed. I briefly logged onto my computer to see if any of my travel clients had sent any urgent messages. There was nothing needing my immediate attention, so I headed upstairs to bed. I was no longer a virgin; now I was a full-fledged Mickey Momma. Another milestone of life in Celebration! If those who believe we are a Stepford town full of perfect, demure and obedient housewives could witness of Mommas meeting, they’d realize that we’re a place that lives up to our name. We love to celebrate!

If you’d like to learn a little bit more about the Mommas, here's the website address again: You won’t see photos of our outing (yet), but you’ll see plenty from past events.

I’ve taken longer than usual to make this blog entry, and I promise to be more prompt next time. It surprised me to hear from several readers wondering when the next installment of my blathering would be posted. I started this entry immediately after the Mommas meeting, but then my travel agent business had a busy spurt, and before I knew it, it was already Thanksgiving. We spent the holiday on the Disney Wonder, and then I had to play catch-up with my business when we returned. But now I’m all caught up, and I’ve already got my next topic all planned out. My ambition for this holiday season is to have the tackiest Christmas tree in all of Celebration, and since my silver monstronsity made it safely through the ATA luggage gauntlet, I'm off to a good start. My efforts will be chronicled in my next blog entry, coming very soon.

You can email me at and visit my Celebration website at

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