Friday, August 19, 2011

The Jungle Cruise Incident

Disneyland is the mecca for the young at heart. It surprises no one when I say that I love disneyland, in fact, the majority of the time I bring up the subject, people chime in with stories of their time in The Magic Kingdom. Point being, everyone loves Disneyland.

Having spent the majority of my life just 40 minutes away from Disneyland, I became familiar with the park, and while I love just about every aspect of it, there were certain areas and rides that I didn't mind skipping when I visited. This story is about one of those rides, and I hope to display the very real fact that while something familiar and sometimes boring can, with a little magic, be turned into something grand.

It was late January 2010, I was accompanying my friend, now wife, Shannon to Disneyland for her birthday. We spent a good majority of the day going on Pirates of The Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, but as dusk was approaching, I thought it best to oblige my lady companion by taking her on The Jungle Cruise Ride.

Remember how I mentioned there were certain areas and rides that I didn't mind skipping? The Jungle Cruise Ride was one of them. It isn't that I hated it, but simply that I had seen it so many times, and the awkwardness that comes with feeling like you owe it to the “captains” to laugh at their jokes is nearly unbearable. I feel like I'm adding insult to injury for these poor minimum wagers who spend hour after hour saying the same thing, by not giving them a convincing chuckle. But I really liked (still do) Shannon, so I agreed that it would be really cool to go on it later in the day. The rumor was that the “captains” lay off on the forced enthusiasm later in the day. So, we embarked.

We got a chipper captain, eager to impress. Because I can't remember her name exactly I will refer to her as Captain Becky. Captain Becky had no intention of waning on her enthusiasm, even though it was clear she had been doing this same schtick all day long. Our boat was jam packed. As I was afraid of, we were towards the front of the boat, knees bowed in to avoid unnecessary contact with other patrons. We embarked on our Jungle Cruise, an Adventure of epic proportions.

Things were going just as they had been for the last few decades, we saw some elephants and some tigers and such. My giggle was becoming less and less convincing, but I had to show enthusiasm, for Shannon's sake. Captain Becky was overly perky with her jokes, and had a voice that bubbled like diet coke and mentos.

I can't imagine what training was like for Captain Becky. How many hours must she, as well as the entire noble fleet of Jungle Cruise Captains, did she have to recite these jokes to accomplish the perfect timing? She had the entire “river” mapped out in her brain, and she could navigate it blindfolded. Which, I don't know, maybe she was, cause she sure didn't see the other safari boat stopped right in front of us.

Just after we saw the “back side of water” I noticed something funny. There was another Jungle Cruise boat stopped dead ahead. I know Captain Becky saw it, but perhaps all that training didn't prepare her for any kind of catastrophe as a boat running out of gas. She looked at it, turned back to us and continued talking. The entire time, my eyes were glued to the other boat as the whites of the eyes of the passengers on the other boat grew wider. No one screamed, no one really made a sound. That is until Captain Becky, with all the force of a viking ramming ship, slammed into “Captain Jimmy's” ship.

Captain Becky's enthusiasm and cheerfull disposition vanished, replaced by the cold disposition of a teenaged girl that has just crashed her dad's Ferrari. But in this case it was Mickey's Jungle Cruiser. There was no real damage, no one was hurt or anything, but people were a little shocked. I disticntly remember one child sitting across from us who looked sharply at his dad and said “I told you we shouldn't have gone on this ride!” I was, for the first time on the ride, glowing.

We're talking about a ride that I had been on and seen over and over with little to no variation. I was ecstatic to see how things were handled. In my mind I'm thinking we're going to have to abandone ship and swim through the school of piranhas, past the head hunters and safely back to the dock, all led by our fearless leader “Captain Becky” no such luck. I turned to our captain, who, after a few moments of shocked silence joined Captain Jimmy in emptying their cap guns into the air to alert the doc. After this awesome display of firepower, she sat down and stared at the bottom of the boat. She was as lost as we were in this unforgiving rainforest. After what seemed like a decade of awkward silence becky looked up and asked if anyone had any jokes. Someone chimed in, and got a chuckle or two, then it was right back to the staring contest with the deck...and she was winning.
Like I was saying before, these people are obviously trained to know this ride like no one else, they practically have their doctorates in bad puns and old animatronics. But both Captain Becky and Jimmy were utterly helpless in this situation.
Becky, being the good Captain she was, decided to forfeit her ongoing contest with the floor, and tried to rally the morale of the troops, which, in my case, was impossible to improve because of how immensely I was enjoying the show. Shannon didn't share my amusement, but at that point I didn't even care. The Jungle Cruise Ride had become the highlight of my day. Becky asked if it was anyones birthdays. I glanced around and saw that no one was adorned with the traditional “it's my birthday” Pins that they get at the gate or city hall.(Shannon had very recently celebrated a birthday, but was not about to surrender that information.) You could hear her heart sink a little when no one chimed up. Then she remembered where she was. She was in the magic kingdom, dang it! And if it wasn't one person's birthday on this boat, it was her job to celebrate 30 UNbirthdays! So she sang, and she sang until things got going again and we docked. Captain Becky, with a much deflated ego let us off her craft without so much as a “Have a wonderful day in the Magic Kingdom!”

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