The entrance fee was 75 percent off to honor War on Hunger Day, so a huge crowd was expected; bar codes were assigned to children under 12 and security guards carried portable scanners. Each child was tagged with a waterproof, tamperproof placard-pendant in the shape of a familiar Disney character. Their home town was indelibly writ large on the front in phosphorescent chartreuse with the parent or responsible adult’s name address and phone numbers on the back.
We hadn’t seen “It’s a Small World XVII yet so joined that line immediately. There were only about 200 people lined up at the beginning of the covered entry tunnel. The day would be warm and clear. I felt sure we’d be in the shade before long even though we were still so far from the front that I couldn’t hear the Small World music. My son was aPlutoVeniceBeach. Wanting to be sure we were in the right line, I asked the Donald Brooklyn’s adult in front of me.
“Hi! I’m Don Nocere. Do you know if this is the Small World line?” He turned his head slightly but not his trunk and spoke from the corner of his mouth:
“How should I know, Mack.” I turned to the Belle Bogota’s lady behind me and asked again, but she looked terrified, and laid down some machinegun Spanish. The Belle herself, interpreted: “She don’ know.” I got on top of a bench to look and still couldn’t tell. Finally the Minnie Minneapolis’ adult, two places back, went to ask, leaving an uncle to watch the Minnie. In about 20 minutes the Minnie’s uncle asked would I save his place while he took Minnie to pee?
Life goes on, even in line. People began to interact, usually with tolerance, sometimes with humor, occasionally with irritation. Mickey San Jose’s man (there were quite a few Mickeys and Minnies) was constantly on a cell phone; he didn’t look the e.type but soon we overheard stock trading, game playing and hushed tones that sounded like phone sex.
We inched along at times and by dusk we reached the covered area. The line began to snake and double back on itself. People in adjacent rows became quite involved with one another. An Aladdin agreed to move back, so as not to be separated from a Snow White. People fromBrazilmoved to be with their countrymen. Communities formed. Brief conflicts between gang like cadres of boys occurred.
By midnight some people, probably strangers unaccustomed to lines, became restless, and complained to an attendant who reassured them that the park would stay open until all in line had completed the ride. The management brought out cots and bedding. In their opinion, they said, this was indeed the line for ‘It’s a Small World XVII’. We were advised that Disney would rent laptops with CDs of the rest of the various rides and shows.
By 9 AM MinnieMinneapolisand her uncle had still not returned. Some felt we should send out a search party. A Somebody Sacramento insisted loudly:
“What the hell, we’ll have to send people out to search for the searchers. Minnie’s got a sign on anyway! We really need to organize here”! There was general agreement that a properly diverse ‘Line Council’ should be elected. The Californians were many, of course. They controlled the Council and elected Mickey San Jose Chair. All the Mickeys and Minnies voted for him. The Council’s first act was to sell numbered passes so we could go and come without losing place in line – to the bathroom, or to get food, whatever.
In the second week a big fight broke out between some gang members, a Louie Portland and a Dopey Miami. Both had been drinking and Louie accused Dopy of selling fake smack. People joined the argument, leading to shouting, shoving, cussing, bird flipping and finger whipping. A shot was fired, Disney Security appeared and Dopey and Louie were both thrown out. The council named as Sergeant at Arms and Line Sherriff the father of Pittsburgh Little Mermaid who was a defensive lineman for the Steelers.
Disney did take off the trash, but other services were provided by entrepreneurs from the line: laundry, tent rentals, psychological counseling, medical care, alcohol, banking and loans. Religious services were held on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Pocahontas Beirut’s older sister set up a tent massage parlor, but some folks found the noises irritating, so the Council issued permits, taxed the massage artists-and confined business to some distance where they could be supervised personally by Council members.
Fall came; we never heard from Minnie Minneapolis or her uncle again. The memorial service was moving. We set a little cross with a Madonna by the Women’s Rest Room flower bed, next to two other small shrines. Snow White and Aladdin were married; she was obviously pregnant. Some were upset by the miscegenation: they were not from the same movie or cartoon. Line Living became democratic, orderly. Line living took on a rhythm, a civilized certainty.
Then it happened, as unannounced as an earthquake. A loud speaker vomited down the plastic voice of a Disney Gabriel:
“Welcome to It’s a Small World Seventeen! As you board, please move to the end of your row. Remain seated and keep your arms inside your vessel. Have a Safe Ride, and a Good Day.” We were herded with strangers from unknown regions of the line into those dreary little plastic boats, like cattle for slaughter. The song seemed ridiculous, mocking, cloying, as it repeated over and over again.
‘It’s a world of Laughter, A world of Peace’… I became physically ill and vomited into the crystal clear chemical blue moat. My world ended at the end of the line.