Monday, July 07, 2008

Theme Park Schandenfreude

First off, to all those who have sent messages to see if I am still alive, breathing and blogging, I am indeed! In early June I was felled by the sinus infection from Hell, and now I'm frantically playing catch-up with all my work. But I am finally back to my blog.

I apparently got the infection on the plane returning home from Chicago; I reported on that whirlwind trip a few entries back, but its main purpose was to see the play "Avenue Q." Out of all the wonderful songs, like "The Internet Is For Porn," "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist," and "You Can Be Loud As The Hell You Want When You're Making Love," my favorite is a little ditty called "Schandenfreude." You might wonder, "Just what the heck does that mean?" I'll let two of the characters from the play describe it in their own words:

(Note: "Gary" is Gary Coleman, who has fallen so far down in the world that he is now the Avenue Q builder super. He's not played by the real Gary Coleman but rather by a woman. Nicky is a character who was kicked out by his roommate and who is now homeless):

Right now you are down and out
And feelin' really crappy.

I’ll say.

And when I see how sad you are,
It sorta makes me happy.


Sorry Nicky
Human nature-
Nothing I can do.
It’s Schadenfreude
Making me feel glad that I’m not you.

Now that’s not very nice Gary.

I didn’t say it was nice,
But everybody does it.
‘Dya ever clap when a waitress falls
And drops a tray of glasses?


And ain’t it fun to watch figure skaters
Fallin’ on their asses?


Don’t you feel all warm and cozy
Watching people out in the rain?

You bet.



People taking pleasure in your pain.

Oh. Schadenfreude, huh? What’s that? Some kind of Nazi word?

Yup. It’s German for ‘happiness at the misfortune of others’.

‘Happiness at the misfortune of others’
That is German!

Now, mind you, I happen to be a quarter German myself, although I must confess that many of the German people I've met scare me to death. But I guess there's a little part of me that's true to my blood, since I do indeed indulge in a bit of selective Schandenfreude. I don't like to see people walk into a lightpole or fall down the stairs, but I do revel in the pain they cause themselves through personal stupidity, and this usually occurs at theme parks. For example, I can't help but smirk when a kid zipping blindly through a crowd on, Heelies...takes a header or when some moron who stops in the middle of a walkway to gape at his map to figure out why he can't find the Simpsons Ride at the Magic Kingdom gets mowed down by a rampaging Brazilian tour group. I guess you could call it Darwinian Schandenfreude.

I was at a major theme park deficit, so on Sunday hubby and I headed off to Universal Studios to get a few rides on our trio of favorites: The Simpsons, Mummy, and Men In Black. The Theme Park Schandenfreude was out in full force, particularly in the Express Lines. We have Premier Passes, which give us unlimited access to Express after 4 p.m. Universal hotel guests get it all day, and you can also buy a pass that gives you one-time Express access to each ride. That's one time, but apparently that concept is too hard to grasp for the many Sesame Street rejects we see arguing it on each visit.

Sure enough, there were five of them in front of us at Mummy. They must have berated the poor guy working the entrance for a good five minutes about how it was all his fault, how he had ruined their day, and how they were reporting him to Guest Services, all because he wouldn't let them use their purchased Express Pass which had already been used for that ride. Duh! I indulged in a smug, self-satisfied dose of Schandenfreude as they finally gave up and stormed past hubby and I. I suspect they were probably trying that routine at every ride, trying to see if there were workers they could bully.

Inside Mummy, there was a double dose of Schandenfreude. The Express line was a little more crowded than usual, probably because it was the holiday weekend. There were a couple of girls in front of us and a handful of people in front of them. Behind us was a couple and then a line of various assorted other parties.

All of a sudden I hear, "Excuse me, excuse me, we have to get to our friends," and two girls push their way up to the two girls in front of me. Although I have no tolerance for line cutters, I'll allow a catch-up if it's just a couple of people. At Universal, I always figure that someone might have stopped to put the group's bags in a locker or have stopped for an emergency potty break.

A few seconds go by, then I hear another chorus of "Excuse me, excuse me," punctuated by various people mumbling, "How many are there?" Another two girls were barging their way through. At this point, hubby and I blocked them as though we were of two minds and I said, "Nope!"

One of the girls in front of me said, "But there are 14 more of us that are going to catch up!" Sad thing was, she was totally serious! She actually thought I was going to stand aside and let 16 of her closest friends cut in front of me. I was surprised that such a feminine-looking little thing would have such a large set of testicles.

I said, "Ain't gonna happen, honey. You can just go back there and join them at the end of the line." She looked all pouty but her self preservation instinct apparently warned her not to mess any further with a product of Chicago's South Side. She huffed, "Well, okay, you can go in front of us."

Hubby and I stepped forward, but I was amazed that the people behind us all let the whole troop cut through. The people directly behind us must have finally grown some nads because a few minutes later they appeared behind us again, but I don't know what happened with the others. I guess it was a double case of Schandenfreude...misfortune for Miss Balls and Troupe because they didn't get to cut all the way to the front and for the gutless wonders who didn't dare challenge them, which cost them an extra two-train wait.

Still, I believe in karma, so I try to offset the Darwinian Schandenfreude with random acts of kindness when I can. I like to play the carnival games, but I don't like carrying around the spoils of victory. Thus I ditch whatever stuffed animals I win onto various random children. Actually, by doing that I might inadvertently be inflicting them with Schandenfreude once they discover that they can't carry a toy on the rides, so they have to go through the special hell of putting it in a locker. In theory, the lockers are free while you ride. In practice, the automated system works roughly as well as the business model of the early Internet Bubble firms. Oops!

I'll sign off with another little snippet from my favorite song (if you'd like to hear the whole thing, click here, but beware that it contains the F word, among other lyrics that aren't exactly for the sensitive).

Being on an elevator when somebody
Shouts ‘Hold the door!’

Oh yea!


F--- you lady!
That’s what stairs are for!


Anonymous said...

Try not to get sick again :) You were missed!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Barbara!

Greetings from a wisecracker. I really love to read your blog, it`s gorgeous. However, there is no such word like "Schandenfreude", because you might gloat over a person who puts itself into disgrace, but not shortcut this operation by feeling a shameful joy.

Keep on writing,

a staunch reader