Monday, August 27, 2012

Life Lessons From An Amusement Park, Part I

You can learn a lot of life lessons at an amusement park.  At least, that's what I learned last week.  In an effort to share what I learned, I figured that I would devote this week to what I learned about life in an amusement park.  Hope you enjoy.

Seven years ago, my wife and I took a trip to Disney World by ourselves.  I called it our "Last Hurrah" trip as it was the last trip that we went on before we began our family.  Disney does vacations right, in my opinion.  They made everything so stress-free for me that it was really difficult to get back into the hustle and bustle of "real life" once the trip was over.  Among the many observations that we had on that trip was the lack of courtesy for those traveling with children, particularly ones with children in strollers.

This past week, my family went to Busch Gardens.  It was to be an interesting experience for me as I would now be observing things from the other side of the equation, now with three children of my own.  While my observation seven years ago was from the perspective of someone who did not yet have children, I was still horrified at the lack of courtesy and I was not even attempting to maneuver my way through an amusement park with a stroller that had a mind of its own.  My observation as one pushing said stroller was not much different than what I had experienced seven years ago: people need to pay attention and be more considerate.

I remember at Disney, leaving the park one evening, observing this poor, tired mom who was desperately trying to negotiate her way through the crowd with a toddler in a stroller.  It seemed as if no one around her was paying her any mind at all and I felt bad for her.  I looked over at my wife and expressed my disbelief at the inconsiderate people around her.  An older gentleman though that he overheard me complaining and started scolding me.  I quickly informed him that I was actually expressing my displeasure with those around this poor woman.  Even in my effort to express concern, I was misunderstood.

This past week, my wife and I were the ones with the strollers, attempting to negotiate our way through the crowds with limited "flat tires" and whacked ankles.  Not much has changed in seven years as most people were oblivious to anyone in the park other than themselves.  Groups of 3 or more would suddenly stop in the middle of traffic, look at their maps, start talking to each other, look at rides, or do any one of a number of things that could easily have been done to the side of the thoroughfare of traffic.  I felt almost like someone trying to negotiate a mine field, dodging and ducking past these oblivious patrons of the park, knowing full well that one false move could trigger an explosion that could easily leave my children with some new and interesting vocabulary words.

My wife and I did our best to pull out of traffic every time that we had to consult the map, check our kids, or do whatever it is that people do that stops them from moving along through an amusement park.  I scolded my boys more than once for not paying attention to where they were going, running into people who scowled at them as they wandered off.  I did my best to be considerate and alert as I made my way through the park.

The funny thing, both now and seven years ago, is that both trips were in August when the overall population of the amusement park is down.  I don't imagine that people were any more considerate when the park was more overrun during the height of the summer.  My experience is that the hotter it is, the crankier and more impatient people get.  Thankfully, we avoided any major issues in regards to our stroller negotiating and navigating, but it's like driving anywhere else, it's not always me that I'm worried about.  I was pretty proud of my 3 and 5 year olds for being somewhat more attentive than others around them, although they certainly had their moments.

What did I learn?  Be considerate.  I have no idea about someone's story, where they've been, where they're going, what's been happening in their life.  I had to remind myself of this many times during the course of a day.  Amusement parks don't foster patience in people, heck, they sell Fast Passes so that all of those impatient people can bypass lines for just a few dollars more.  Not really the essence of patience building activities.  Whether you are traveling with kids or not, be mindful of the people around you.  If you have to consult your map, pull over, just like you would in a car.  Let the flow of traffic continue around you, don't hold things up just because you're trying to figure out your next move.

August is a great time to go to amusement parks, at least in my experience.  The crowds are down and you can make it on a lot of rides that you might normally have to wait a long time for.  If you can deal with heat and humidity, August might be the time for you to go.  Many schools have already started back, so the locals can be fewer.  I think I observed a good chunk of people from the Tri-State area in my few days at Busch Gardens.  If you have to ask me how I know where they were from, maybe you've never been to the Tri-State area.

Check back tomorrow with Life Lessons From An Amusement Park, Part II where we move past traffic etiquette and talk a little bit about social etiquette.

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