So then…we wake the kids by bellowing, “Dizzz-neee-laaaaaaand!”
They pop right out of bed, super excited to return to their favorite place. Chloe, age 5, and Tucker, age 8, get dressed and hustle downstairs for breakfast.
We live in LA, so it’s only 1.5 hours to drive to Anaheim to Disneyland. We pack up the minivan, ensuring our backpack contains all 832 essentials for surviving a long day at the park – and off we go!
We’re zipping along the 101 Freeway.
Zip! Zip! Zip!
Zap! Zaaaap. Zaaaaaap.
What the hell?
We were careening down this freeway, and now we’ve STOPPED DEAD, smack dab in the middle of a 6-lane gridlock, with cars stretching as far as the eye can see.
How did this happen so fast? It’s like someone sent a mass group text to every driver in California with an urgent message: “Hop in car! Rush to 101 Freeway! Surround the Perdu Family Vehicle. Ensure no escape!”
EVERYBODY WHO HAS EVER LIVED IN CALIFORNIA IS NOW ON THE FREEWAY WITH US!
David and I slowly turn our heads to look at each other.
His eyes say: “Let’s cut our losses, go home, and watch football.”
My eyes say, “Yes! Abort! Abort the mission! Turn around and go home!”
Then we turn to look at Tucker and Chloe in the back seat happily chatting about which Disneyland rides they’re most excited about riding.
We slowly turn back to look at each other.
Now my eyes say beseechingly, “We must go! Look how excited they are!”
His eyes say, “Football.”
“No, David, we have to keep going,” I say out loud. “It’s just a little traffic! It’ll be fine.”
He agrees – but it’s quickly evident that the 1.5 hour trip’s going to be a 3 hour trip.
Unspoken tensions are running high – but with each mile, it seems crazy to turn back – so we push valiantly onward.
We hit the parking lot, which is bulging with cars. Honestly, did EVERYONE decide to go to Disneyland today?
After an excruciating hunt for a parking spot, we finally disembark the car to find the shuttle to take us to the park.
We wait an hour for the shuttle.
Let’s say that again just so we fully appreciate the agony of standing there after a long car ride:
We wait an hour for the shuttle.
Finally! We hop aboard and head to the entrance.
I’m overly cheerful to compensate for the flagging spirits of my crew. Grinning broadly, I say, “Won’t this be fun!? We had a little bit of a late start, but now we’re here and we’re gonna have a blast!”
The shuttle drops us off at the entrance, which is obscured by engorged lines of people snaking out in all directions.
Just as we approach, the intercom announces, “I’m sorry, folks, Disneyland is full. No more entries today.”
What do you mean Disneyland is FULL?
We just spent 4 hours to get here! And what about all the people who FLEW to get here? And all the people who saved for months for this trip to pay for your stupid crappy $6 hot dogs and $16 Mickey hats! How dare you shutter your doors!? What about the children? What…about…sob…the childrennnnnn?
(I’m in full meltdown mode — but my kids are actually taking the disappointment pretty well. David is another matter altogether. I can actually see him squeezing his eyes shut and concentrating fiercely — trying desperately to time travel back to that point on the freeway when we could’ve abandoned the mission and returned home.)
“I’m hungry,” says Chloe.
“Me too,” says Tucker.
David and I look to the left. Literally thousands of dejected people are leaving the park entrance to line up for the shuttles.
We look to the right. Thousands more are walking to the souvenir shops and restaurants just outside Disneyland.
We look at the backpack. Its snacks were depleted long ago on our long-ass car ride.
We look at the children. They appear edible.
That will solve everything. I will eat my children.
They will satisfy my hunger and I won’t have to deal with their disappointment about missing Disneyland.
I’m just about to explain my plan to David when he points toward the shops and restaurants.
“It’ll take us hours to get back to our car and find someplace to eat, so we might as well line up over here,” he says.
We reluctantly join the huddled masses, yearning to be fed – shuffling from restaurant to restaurant looking for a line that looks to be less than a 2-hour wait.
Out of desperation, we finally settle on a pizza place which is so packed we have to eat our cold cheese slices standing up between hordes of other families standing up, eating their cold cheese slices.
All the adults look a bit dazed. Like, “How did this happen?” We all expected a spectacular day at the Magic Kingdom — and now we’re standing in line for almost 2 hours just to get a slice of crappy pizza.
Then we trudge back to the shuttle line, wait an hour and a half, walk a million miles to our car, then drive with 4 billion people on the freeway through rush hour traffic, and finally reach home where we collapse – as exhausted as though we’d just climbed the Himalayas.
Our roundtrip is 12 agonizing hours.
We promise the kids we’ll return to Disneyland soon – and we do – and it’s wonderful and glorious and all the things it’s supposed to be.
As for today? Well, today is the day we refer to as:
“Hey, remember that time we drove 12 hours for pizza? Ah. Good times. Good times.”
— Darcy Perdu
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(Do you have an example of a “Hey, remember that time we…” experience? Something fun that ended up NOT so fun? Ever show up someplace that was “full” or “closed?”)
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