Walking around Disney reminds me of a bit I read in the New Yorker a few weeks ago about Brendan O’Connell, an artist who draws the interior of Walmart stores:
“Anything related to Walmart is freighted with meaning. The company is either the salvation of country folk or the slayer of small towns; newly devoted to sustainability or one with a lousy labor record; a major purveyor of guns or frequently the first company on the spot with post-disaster relief; a monument to cheap, unthinking consumerism or a way to make comforts affordable to many people. A painting of an endless row of Oreos can be interpreted as an ironic statement about gluttony and commercialism or as a study of a pattern seen by millions of people every day that has its own ubiquitous beauty.”
The same model can be grafted on to my perception of Disney pretty well. On one hand, you feel as if you are in an ideal world where everything is perfect, on the other hand, there’s the indescribable feeling that you are being watched and controlled (I said to my friends multiple times this weekend that being in Disney World is not unlike being a tourist in North Korea). Everything is polished and beautiful, but you can’t help but know that there’s a seedy underbelly somewhere. All of the employees are nice, but you get the sense that there’s nothing behind those smiling eyes.
My weekend wasn’t perfect –far from it. There were blips and hurt feelings and awkward social tensions all along the way. Oh, and there was vomit. Man, was there vomit. If you weren’t on the trip or somehow didn’t hear, dozens of people caught food poisoning or stomach virus or some such thing. Everywhere I went, every day in the park, had the footnote of vomit. Oh, that person is at the first aid stand. Oh, that person is chilling at the hotel for the day. Oh, this person doesn’t feel well and is probably going to throw up. It was a theme, a constant drone in my ear.
And, through it all, as someone who has faced food poisoning in the third world and generally isn’t susceptible to it because of a bad hot dog, I dutifully took care of my friends and classmates whenever I felt I needed to. It wasn’t much trouble, really – I only called Davis or McLeester, got people water, or bought fresh clothes for people. I was definitely overthanked. But, although people generally felt better after throwing up and it didn’t really affect the day overall, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I felt as if all of that puke was terribly out of place: here, in the most magical place on earth, on the trip that is supposed to be a perfect weekend with your best friends, a problem-free romp before graduation. I felt a little shortchanged by the whole experience. I blamed Disney, I blamed myself, I even in my most tired and delirious moments blamed my friends (although I regret that immensely now).
I suppose what I had neglected to consider was that yang to the yin that I thought would be universal (refer back to the Walmart analogy). What I had forgotten was that life went on at Disney: it wasn’t as if everything stopped and, for a weekend, we were suspended in perfect harmony. Yes, we were in a much more entertaining place, spent a lot more time with the people we like, and were overstimulated by our happy surroundings for a weekend. But, there’ll always be puke.
The last full day of Disney ended weirdly for me. My friends and I, after a dinner in one part of Disney world, had planned on hanging out in that area. However, some people at the last minute expressed a desire to head to Magic Kingdom to watch fireworks with significant others. In a decision that definitely didn’t please everyone, we hopped on a bus that was extremely delayed. One of us, on the bus, began to feel ill and didn’t even make it to Magic Kingdom, opting to stay at the hotel. We arrived at Magic Kingdom 10 minutes after the fireworks started, too late to meet anyone for our friends who craved a picturesque romantic moment. It was, by all estimates, an awful situation where nobody was happy.
As we walked into the park and turned towards the classic Disney castle, we saw the finale of the fireworks with movie-quality timing. Realizing we couldn’t meet anyone, we stopped for ice cream and sat on the curb. Right as we sat down, we realized the dazzling electric parade was about to pass. In that moment, everything was good, and we collectively realized the things we were silently angry about didn’t really mean that much. Rather, we accepted that there was no way to get rid of things like that, and didn’t allow ourselves to be bogged down by them. We lived in the moment.
In that moment I realized that the fact that the weekend wasn’t perfect doesn’t mean it wasn’t the best weekend of my senior year, and one the best weekends of my life so far. We all got to live a little bit of life together, with all the trimmings, good and bad. It just so happened that we did that in a place that has a penchant for creating coincidental Kodak moments like that. And, in a place with awesome rides.
Everything has a duality to it—Walmart, Disney World, and, in most cases, everything that happens to and around you (even on Senior Trip). But, there’s a unity to that duality, something beautiful in the complexity, that is far better than something “perfect”.
I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’m incredibly tired, and incredibly thankful to my friends for giving me one of the most fun and interesting weekends of my life.
Even (especially?) if you threw up.