I love theme parks. They’re among some of my favorite places on earth. Some of my most cherished memories as a child involve my mom holding my hand, trying her best to wrangle me and my excitement as I ran toward an attraction or ride or costumed character.
The problem with theme parks, though, is that other people are also going to be there. There’s never a day where, by sheer chance, you and your party get to wander the park all by your lonesome…unless there’s been some kind of horrible global cataclysm that wiped out most of the human population and the ones still alive are too busy trying to not get eaten by hoards of mutant pigs to take a day off and ride Space Mountain.
In that specific scenario, sure, a theme park would be all yours. But generally, theme parks are, on a daily basis, packed with every conceivable type of human, and all of those humans unknowingly combine to form a Megazord of everything that sucks about us. All of our ills are only magnified by the scorching sun and are intensified by our theme park-induced enthusiasm to want to experience the entire park now. We don’t want to wait for something that will bring on so much joy; we want to crush that park down to dust and snort it and feel Mickey dancing on our frontal lobe while the Pirates of the Caribbean do wonderful, unspeakable things to our genitals.
Theme parks are a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with humans. Spend a whole day in one and you’re liable to walk out a spiteful, angry dictator, ready to enslave all sentient life and make it conform to your world view – and maybe you’ll walk out with a nifty souvenir or two.
1. Lines Break Us Of Our Will
The line is a simple thing of beauty. When go to an ATM, we stop just behind the person using the machine and wait for our turn. If someone comes up behind you, rather than slitting your throat with a makeshift shiv, they stand there waiting for every person ahead of them to get their go. This external civility doesn’t mean we’re also internally civil. Inside we imagine the ATM short circuiting just long enough to spit out a person’s card so fast that it slices the throats of everyone in front of you, with their gory deaths instantly bumping you to the front of the line. Thankfully, ATM lines are never long enough for our homicidal thoughts to get the better of us and manifest themselves as dickish behavior.
But theme park lines are long enough.
A ride at a theme park is pure joy. We know that at the end of that line is an experience that will break up the mundane nature of our lives and inject a momentary shot of fun and adventure. When you ride The Amazing Spider-Man at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, for a few minutes you’ll be inside a Spider-Man story, which, regardless of how awesome your life is, will always be far more exciting than whatever you’ve got going on. The wait just makes us realize how truly hard it is to be happy. Everyone’s sticky from sweat and reeks of undeodorized funk. Everyone rolls their eyes at the idiotic overheard conversations of follow line waiters. All the while, happiness in the form of a wildly different sensation is just right there. It’s so close. It teases us. We want it badly, and we’ve spent so much time and money to get it; it’s just the damn idiots in front of us that won’t shut up and are all starting to look like giant roasted chickens and you’re a starving Looney Toons character.
Couple that with the a 45 minute to an hour (or longer) wait, and all you need is a complete shut down of the mist-spraying fans to spark a violent overthrow of the Magic Kingdom that ends with Cinderella’s head driven through the spire on top of her castle.
2. In A Faceless Mass Of Humanity, People Act Like Asses
There’s a reason people on the internet act like a pack of hateful monsters. Without a human to react to, some kind of physical form to be held accountable to, we dehumanize whoever might be on the receiving end of our verbal tirades. What’s weird is the moment you go the other way and put a bunch of people into your face, the exact same thing happens. People aren’t people anymore, they’re now just a faceless mass of flesh that represent everything you hate. And now you have to be in a line with that for the next 50 minutes.
The employees of the park are trained to be uber-happy freaks that stretch a they’ll-kill-my-family-if-I-don’t-pretend-to-be-happy smile across their faces. But your fellow parkgoers? To them, you’re just an obstacle. You’re a thing. You’re a thing that’s in their way of doing the fun stuff that they don’t get to experience in real life. Civility disappears, for the most part. Kindness vanishes. What’s left is rudeness in a land where happiness should reign. Generally, people are blissfully unaware that they just bumped shoulders with you hard enough to spill your drink. People will spark up cigarettes while waiting in line for a ride, completely ignoring the children around them because, hey, I’m out doors and those kids are going to die eventually.
3. In An Artificial World, There’s No Such Thing As Good Food
For all the money put into theme parks to make them look and feel like an expensive and imaginative experience, about 0.0002% of that cash and creativity goes into the food, which is reflective of modern food in the real world. In a place where every new area feels like you’re being sucked into a different fantasy world that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else or with anything else with the same level of tangible immersion, the food – the generic burgers, fries, hot dogs, and pizzas – all taste like the D-minus grade work of a culinary student taking a remedial cooking class and he’s cheating off the kid that thinks a good meal consists of boogers and more boogers. Everything’s so bland and…manufactured. You know, like a majority of the food out there in the real world. There’s no love and attention put into the food. It’s just, “What do you want? You want food product number-three? Here. Shove it in your face and ride the coaster, you idiot.”
Theme park food is on the lowest rung on the food ladder. It exists just so you have something that will give you enough energy to move your ass to the next thing. It’s about as utilitarian as food can get.
To remedy this, some parks will add two or three full-fledged dine-in restaurants. You don’t want the burgers and hot dogs that look like they are the result of a post-apocalyptic scientist way off in the future attempting to recreate burgers and dogs with irradiated wood chips and human skin? Here’s a place where a waiter will give you a plate of food…you idiot.
It’s nice, in theory. But the reality of the food you get in those restaurants is just as sad as what you get outside of them. Instead of a great meal you get the theme park equivalent of a T.G.I. Fridays – food that’s only marginally better than the generic burgers and dogs only because they served it on a glass plate and wasn’t poured into your dirty cupped hands like you were a Dickensian street urchin.
4. We Are Terribly Unprepared…For Everything
In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, one of the biggest problems facing the human race at this moment is a lack of preparation for our future. That’s a grand statement that covers a lot of diverse ground, but I think it’s a nice summation. Global warming? Unprepared. Overpopulation? Unprepared. A second consecutive recession? Totally unprepared. At this moment, we are a species that can see all of our future problems and we make no attempts at preventing them, or at least softening the blow when their affects slap us on the ass with the manic, fatal fury of a dying star.
On a much smaller scale, this lack of foresight is heavily present in theme parks. All around you are people that seem like they were drugged, gagged and bound, and eventually awoke in Busch Gardens with no idea how they got there and no clue what to do next. All around you are people that are dressed as if they weren’t about to walk around outside for seven hours under the hot summer sun. Nary an ounce of forethought went into thinking about wearing that thong that will be gleefully burrowing itself deeper into your ass as the day wears on, eventually collecting enough sweat and butt run-off to look like a jungle vine. During a recent trip to a theme park, a party of three ahead of me in a concessions line was shocked – SHOCKED! – to discover that there was so much walking involved in the whole going-to-theme-parks thing. As if the moment they gave up their ticket an usher would zip in and slam a wheelbarrow into the back of their knees, scooping them into the barrow to be carted around like a whiny pile of cinder blocks.
5. You Will See The Worst Face Mankind Has To Offer
By early-to-mid afternoon in any theme park in America you will see dozens of people like look like clones of each other. There’s a good chance you, and even I, will look the exact same way.
The look begins with the face — it will be a sweat-drenched face that has the mouth hanging open like a heat exhaust shaft. You face will be mostly resemble that of a desert wanderer that has just seen a mirage of a fresh water river filled with gold doubloons that you never get closer to no matter how many steps you’ve taken – exhaustion mixed with fading joy. Your shirt, once pristine and crisp, is now soaked with a mix of ride water and sweet, exposing all the f**ks you don’t give about working out. In one hand will be five churros, and in the other will be the biggest damn Coke you’ve ever held, and you don’t even remember why or when you bought it. You’re a confused wandering soul, overwhelmed by, well, everything. You won’t even be sure of where you’re heading. You’re just going in a direction where you’re hoping there are more things. At that moment, maybe with even realizing it, you’ve been turned into a shell of a human. You’re a drone that moves because it feels like that’s what you should be doing; you eat food because it feels like that’s what you should be doing; you buy trinkets and crap because it feels like that’s what you should be doing. You’re defeated; the park won. You are their slave now.
But then, something wonderful happens. You wander yourself through the thick crowd of idiots and park yourself in a line for a ride. You drone your way through each agonizing micro-step as the line creeps forward. You put with everyone’s stupid comments. You get passed your rage to blink everyone out of existence. Finally, you get on a ride…and all of that anguish melts away. Suddenly you remember what it means to be alive again, and more importantly, why you came to the park in the first place. Only those with the coldest of hearts can’t crack a smile on a theme park ride.
By the time the ride’s over, you’re renewed. Your enthusiasm returns. You’re happy again. You’ve remembered why theme parks are so much damn fun.
Of course, this is assuming the ride doesn’t break down while you’re on it. If that happens, screw it; just slit your wrists and dangle.
Luis previously gazed into the darkness of the human soul with The 5 Sleaziest Car Mods (And What They Say About You). –>