First days. Long flights. Staying up for an epic amount of hours. US customs. Having the Magic Kingdom the very first park I was going to visit on my holiday? What the hell was I thinking? Looking back at that sequence of events at the end of the day (on the following morning, yeah jet lag), I should have saw the negative feelings on the day coming. Even ignoring the customs issue, I’d stacked up a number of things designed perfectly to make me feel like the holiday was a bad idea.
A Great Flight
It’s been a while since I’ve flown long haul, nearly a decade, and outside of going to Los Angeles or the Far East a 9.5 hour flight is one of the longest. I was expecting it to be a bit of a pain, tiring and very drawn out.
It turns out it wasn’t like that at all and the Virgin Atlantic flight was great.
I was amazingly lucky on the seats. While I’d pre-booked my seat not long after I booked the holiday, it turned out there was a block of four seats in the middle row to the left of me that was competely empty, so I moved over to those. This was incredibly comfortable as if I squinted and really used my imagination I could almost pretend it was business class. It means I had no one taking up my space from a neighbouring seat and I did take the opportunity to have an hour so power nap by laying, to some extent, across the seats.
I was really surprised no one else moved in on them, but they didn’t.
The films were…okay. I don’t believe this is a fault with Virgin, it’s just less films interest me these days then they used to. I did watch Midnight Special and Captain America: Civil War. I’d seen Civil War before, but it was good seeing it a second time as it passed the repeat viewing test in that it was much better the second time than the first. Really enjoyed it.
What I really want to do is make a call out to Midnight Special as it was brilliant. Didn’t know much about it, though the synopsis said it was about a young boy with powers. It’s just very good and is an excellent science fiction film told in a very grounded way, with a great, slow reveal and it’s very well acted. If you haven’t seen it then watch it.
The new seats, though I guess they may not actually be that new, are also very comfortable. They also have a head rest that can be raised which works really well. Let’s not get carried away they are still economy seats, but they manage to be firm, tough and I found them really comfortable.
The true test of the flight is it didn’t feel anywhere near 9.5 hours long. A combination of the meals, the movies, a bit of a nap and whatever else and it just speeded by.
I suspect the space afforded by the four seats also helped.
Welcome to America, Not
It went down hill when I hit customs.
You hear stories about US customs, but I’ll freely admit I’ve never found it a problem, so I was probably lulled into a false sense of security. Yeah, they’re pretty humourless, but they ask a few perfunctory questions (reason for visit, how long, when did you come to the country last, etc) and you breeze on through. I was pretty much expecting that this time. Pretty simple right? Professional person coming on holiday and, let’s face it, white (it helps I’m sure, let’s be realistic) and I’ve been to the country numerous times with no issue.
Well, I got that wrong.
I’ll freely admit the problem wasn’t the first customs officer. He was fine, good natured and even managed to smile. He did ask me more questions, but I could see why he was doing that and the way he was doing it was very well handled and felt just like a conversation. He asked the usual questions and then went on to seek proof that I was actually on holiday. He was concerned about what I did for a living. He wanted to see the proof I’d booked holiday stuff. He seemed obsessed with when I booked the holiday and, as usually, I couldn’t bloody remember. I don’t remember crap like that any more you look it up and I didn’t expect to have to look it up. I did have to go over the divorce thing in two sentences as the solo thing was obviously an issue.
The feeling I got was they thought I was coming here to work or for some other commercial purpose and the holiday was a cover. I may be wrong, but that was the feeling. He stamped my passport, said he was going to let me through (err, you mean you were thinking of not letting me through?) but my bag would go through a second check. I came away from that fine. I get what I was doing was probably a statistical outlier. Felt fine.
Then the second guy who seemed to be going through my situation with a third. It was supposed to be just a bag check, but he asked all the questions again and just acted in a way that he didn’t believe me and wanted way more proof. He was wanting me to pull up e-mails showing the bookings even though he had the print outs? Of course, I couldn’t find them on demand and started to forget how to use my phone (to turn the data on). At one point I was even showing him private Facebook posts of on-going posts about Daisy Dog with me, my mother and person looking after Daisy Dog in the house. Then he starts question why I’m nervous? Which I had to explain.
Ultimately, they let me through, but it felt at one point they really weren’t going to, which was largely down to the second guy, but I suspect that was never a possibility as the first guy had stamped the passport.
I’ll admit, I was really thrown. It felt traumatic and it was slightly upsetting. This is weird. It’s not like I don’t have a job that doesn’t involve dealing with people with strong views. Hell, previous jobs have involved holding my own against very important people while being an outside consultant. I don’t overly wilt, but that was terrible. I will admit some of it was probably internal to me as well. As the whole suspicion obviously arose from me being a man, travelling alone to Disney World. This hit me straight in my weakest point: was what I was doing incredibly stupid? I felt it was pretty stupid at this point and I felt about an inch tall.
Despite this, this shouldn’t take anything away from the shitty experience of the second series of questions. They really did make me feel like I was up to something! Even more so as I suspect that guys job wasn’t to make me so nervous that I couldn’t use my phone properly, but just to scan the bag and let me through.
It probably did impact the whole first day, even though I thought I was over it.
This Rain? Is a Problem
I did finally get to the hotel, on the not so Magical Disney Express, due to my psychological place at the time nothing to do with the bus journey itself. I’d recommend the Disney Magical Express. It’s fee, or more to the point you’ve already paid for it. It’s a better start to the holiday than a typical Mears coach, though it is exactly that, just giving specific branding and added service and attitude. It works though.
Anyway, got to the room, still processing the interactions at customs. It then started raining. This didn’t help either as I was really concerned about the weather because it has a chance of ruining the whole holiday. This is also linked to the whole solo endeavour.
The problem with excessive and continuous rain is it leaves you with only one option: roam the parks in a poncho going on rides all day long. This is my worse nightmare, as I have structured the days in a way that makes the solo thing more sensible. Use the parks as a menu of experiences to be sampled on the morning, hit the pool in the afternoon, doing something else in the evening. It makes it less of a theme park holiday, with elements of a relaxing pool holiday and so on.
I went into the Magic Kingdom later in the evening with the intent of taking photos and it just showed in stark relief how bad a holiday with lots of continuous rain would be. It was just horrible. You literally can’t do anything. Everything looks crap. You can’t film or take photos as the rain is so heavy it would break the camera. It’s just queues and rides. Horrible. It probably didn’t help that two couples asked me if I was a staff member based on the fact I was walking around alone.
Till Next Time…
The day didn’t end well. The experience at customs had shattered the high I was on from setting off and having a very pleasant flight. The rain had brought home the reality of a continuously wet experience. I’d reached the point where I was putting the holiday on 50% notice. Not that I’d try and return home but I was 50% wanting to be home late this evening.
Let’s put this in perspective. I wasn’t depressed. I was being practical and honest, but part of me really just wanted to be back home. I thought going into this there might be a point I’d second guess the whole idea, but I didn’t expect it to hit me so soon and as hard.
A whole lot is riding on today, as if it’s a wash out, literally or psychologically, it’s going to hit me very hard.