OK, the title is misleading. Because contrary to what you might think, going to Disney World is actually fun. Sure, the crowds are oppressive, the food is crap, and the lines are ingeniously designed to keep you optimistic until you turn a corner and find there are still another thousand or so people ahead of you. But all is forgiven thanks to the Fast Pass, which lets you saunter past the great sweaty masses and onto the ride in about 10 minutes.
It's amazing. And as you walk past all these people, you can't help shaking your head. Why doesn't everyone do this? Who in their right mind would willingly wait an hour and a half, in a tightly packed labyrinth that turns corner after soul-crushing corner, for a ride that takes 6 minutes? Yet they do. Like they're all coming home to a 20th-floor apartment with 30 bags of groceries, and they prefer to take the stairs.
Using Fast Pass makes you feel like a big shot. And turnabout is fair play, because the last time I went to Disney my family and I staked out a perfect, waterside view of IllumiNations at EPCOT. At the last moment an official-looking person ushered Loni Anderson past us. She was very nice, and she smelled terrific, but I still had to watch the entire show with her big, blonde hair-helmet in my face.
It was a refreshing change to re-visit the Magic Kingdom as a parent and absorb it all through Robert's eyes. (It was even more refreshing not to pay for any of it, thanks to Nana and Granddad's spectacular generosity.) Not much has changed since I was there last (i.e., when Loni Anderson was an A-list celebrity). Mr. Toad and Captain Nemo have been euthanized, and Pirates of the Caribbean has a bunch of animatronic Johnny Depps in it, but Cinderella's castle is still there, grandiose as ever, and since Robert is reviled by anything princessy we gave it a wide berth.
The Jungle Cruise was a low point of the trip, because 1) it was the only line we waited on before we discovered Fast Pass, and 2) when I finally got on the boat I saw that our tour guide had shaved his sideburns up over his ear, almost even with his eyeline. I don't like to judge people by how they look, but I have to admit I am strangely creeped out by people who make themselves look like that; it makes them look unstable. So I spent most of those 1o minutes afloat with a slight but vivid fear that this guy would pilot us off on some tributary, tie us up, and make us reenact his high school prom. Before he slaughtered and ate us.
The trip took off from there. Almost literally, because everything Robert loved involved High Speed Action. We whizzed around the Thunder Mountain Railroad. We saw stunt cars screech around and jump through fire. And he got to drive a race car! Four times! He didn't master steering all that well, so we cultivated an intimate relationship with the guard rail (CLANG-swerve-CLANG-swerve-CLANG). His ecstatic glee was a treat to behold, so spitting out a few vertebrae was a small price to pay.
And then, of course, the pièce de la résistance: meeting Lightning McQueen and Mater (see above). We waited in one of the little piazzas, and when we heard that roar in the distance Robert just about jumped out of his sneakers. They paraded triumphantly through the crowd, and when they came to stop they were besieged by kids and cameras. Robert looked both of them up and down, scanning for inconsistencies, but he was satisfied that everything--right down to the sticker ads for "Re-Volting Rebuilt Alternators" and "Gas-prin Hood-Ache Relief"--was exact.
We had a terrific time, and I want to go again soon. Mainly because now is the sweet spot, when all the Disneywowing is truly magical. When I tucked him in that night, after the rides and the Legos and the late-night swim, he hugged me and said, "Daddy, this was the best day of my entire life." It doesn't get much better than that.