Saturday, February 23, 2008

Crowds Crowds Everywhere

Monday was Presidents' Day, so I guess I should have suspected that Tourist Land would be more crowded than usual. What I didn't expect was the sheer volume of people who would swarm Disney World and the surrounding environs this whole week.

My first clue was that the area restaurants were much more crowded than usual. Our next door neighbors faced a wait of over an hour at Logan's, a steakhouse on 192. We went there the next day but made sure to arrive a bit early. The place was already nearing capacity, and by the time we left it was on a wait (mind you, this was a week night).

A friend who works at the Magic Kingdom confirmed the sheer insanity of the crowd sizes. She said that the parks had been packed with a mass of bodies more suited to Christmas or Easter than a second-tier holiday.

Hubby went to Typhoon Lagoon later in the week because it was reasonably warm, expecting a fairly light crowd. He arrived after 1 and was informed that the park was almost at capacity. Yow! I wisely stayed home because a) crowds make me crazy; and b) even tho' it was in the 80s, I feared that my Floridian blood would still be chilled.

Our last attempt to get near Disney World occurred when I found a t-shirt online with a picture of the monorail and the phrase "Por favor, mantenganse alejado de las puertas" emblazoned in red on the front that is available at Downtown Disney. I decided to hustle over to get one, and hubby was planning to join me so we could have lunch at Earl of Sandwich.

The Earl has the most godly sandwiches this side of the Atlantic Pond, and as such it is wildly popular and teeming with humanity overflowing the queue. Thus, I usually go either early or late to avoid the peak lunch crowd.

On this day, we decided to go late, knowing that there would probably be a lot of people but figuring that it would have thinned out some. We should have know that was a futile wish the moment we saw the parking lot, with a conga line of cars circling like vultures lusting for a carcass, all in search of the most elusive prey of all: a parking spot.

After literally 15 minutes of circling, we hit the Parking Lot Jackpot. We spotted people in their car preparing to pull out. Even more amazingly, the spot was in the very first row (not that I mind parking farther back; after lunch at the Earl's, I can use the extra exercise).

The people took their sweet time in preparing to leave, reminding me of a research study conducted many years ago. It showed that people take longer pulling out of their parking spot when someone is waiting for it...something to do with territorial instincts. Waiting was better than circling aimlessly, so finally I managed to outlast their territoriality. They pulled out and I immediately zipped in, reveling in my small stroke of luck.

The luck most definitely ended there; when we got to the Earl's, it was nearly 2 p.m. but the stinking line had overflowed the queue and was tangled in a messy crowd scene near the doors. I popped in line while hubby hustled over to World of Disney to buy our shirts. I knew he'd be done with the purchase long before I was even in sight of the cash register.

Complicating matters was the sheeple nature of the tourist, which seems to find comfort standing within a herd even when there is a huge gap. At the Earl's counter, you order at a register, then proceed down the line to pay (and you can pick up various drinks and desserts from coolers as you ease your way down). However, if you order a salad, you have to stop at a counter just past the register. Those who are not getting salads can bypass those who are and go straight to the registers.

Unfortunately, the sheeple just weren't getting this concept. They stood in a clot of confusion at the register while the entire path to the payment area beckoned invitingly before them. They must have thought it was a trick and that surely ravenous wolves would leap out of the coolers if they actually dared to pass the salad folks. This whole mess was making the backup worse than ever.

Eventually we managed to get our order, and amazingly we even found a table. We had the ham and cheese sandwich with dijon mustand and the Caprese (with tomatoes, mozarella, and balsamic vinegar). Mmmmmm!

When we returned to the parking lot, another poor wandering soul immediately moved into place, ready to swoop into our parking spot. Fighting my territorial instincts, I pulled out promptly and fled back to Celebration. I was still in awe of the sheer volume of the crowd; if I was oriented to day and time, I would have sworn it was the thick of the holiday season.

Oh well, we have our t-shirts now, and I don't plan to go anywhere near the theme parks till I hear reliable reports that they crowds have shrunk down to a reasonable level. Imagine what a fortune the makers of Preparation H would make with Preparation C: Just smear on the crowd and the swelling disappears.

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Justmatt said...

Once again another great Blog! Where online did you see that shirt? I have to get my wife one. We are heading to the WDW this weekend for our daughters bday - I know you mentioned that the shirts are at the World of Disney but I'd like to see one first. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

The Earl is a great place. The sandwiches are delicious but the crowds are daunting. And what is going on with WDW these days? It's so crowded all the time, I'm not sure I even want to go back.