Monday, October 17, 2011

A Kinder, Gentler Disneyland

I'll preface my remarks with a little story. Even though Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and myself are not Southern California residents, my father-in-law lives in Torrance where it borders Redondo Beach - a really area. One Sunday afternoon, we had arranged to meet some acquaintances at a city park on the coast near Torrance. My father-in-law was driving and pulled up to a curbside parking spot right in front of the park and was about to back in. As he was about to back in, someone with car full of people nose dived right into the spot basically stealing if from him. Mrs. DLT was livid and ready to jump out of the car. My father-in-law, an ornery old guy who was a one time Navy seaman and someone who looks like he has been in a bar fight or two, told Mrs. DLT to calm down and let it go then drove off to find another parking spot. "You need to be careful living down here. You don't know what some people are capable of."

His cautionary words may be a bit extreme but wise none the less. Some things are best left alone. It's safer that way. Which leads to me Disneyland and what I read often in forums and discussion boards that the park crowds now tend to be ruder, cruder, more obnoxious, self-centered, and not at all respectful of others trying to enjoy their Disney day. Same park regulars remember a Disneyland of yesteryear where "sharing in the magic" beat out "every man for himself". Could this be an idealized view of what never was? Perhaps, but the Disneyland of today mirrors the society we live in especially the diverse society of Southern California. I have never witnessed a fist-fight or any kind of violence at Disneyland. Security at the park is first rate. But I have seen plenty of arguments and generally bad behavior by people of all ages and all ethnicities. It sometimes makes me cringe that grown people can flat out be that rude.

If park behavior has deteriorated, Disney needs to take some of the responsibility. There are close to a million annual passholders for Disneyland and a great majority of them are Southern California locals. There is a huge percentage of local passholders who are true Disney fans and have a great deal of respect for the park and its legacy. Some of these people go out of there way to help someone who may be visiting Disneyland for the very first time. But there is also a large population of passholders who do not share in the respect for the park or other park guests and treat it more like a visit to a local shopping mall. People like this are usually easy to spot and in some cases, I almost feel sorry for them because they have no sense of where they really are. On top of passholders, Disney also makes discount tickets available to Southern California residents to bolster the attendance. It makes visiting Disney quite affordable to people you may not even want in your house.

I have no control over anyone else or their behavior. Respect for others has been on the decline for quite some time. You could probably write a book about when and how all this went down hill. So while I have no control over the behavior of others, I can only look at myself. By nature, I am not a very social person. I tend to be suspicious of other's motives. Mrs. DLT says I look at the negative (in anything) far too much. But I've never gotten into an argument at Disneyland with another guest. I try not to let the bad behavior of others not affect me. But there is something missing in this "ignore it and turn the other way" approach. Am I really helping Disneyland be a better place. At any given time, there are thousands of very nice people in that park. I tend not to say anything until someone says something to me first. Why can't I just reach out with a comment or friendly 'hello' that makes someones park visit just a bit better? The better, kinder, gentler Disneyland does not begin with fixing everybody else's bad attitudes. It starts with you and me, with a smile, with a "where are your from?", with a "are you enjoying your day?". The kinder, gentler Disneyland is not seeking self-centered enjoyment for yourself. It's doing everything possible to share the magic with everyone around you. Next visit, I'm going to try a make Disneyland a better place by being nicer.

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