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A World of Fear

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A World of Fear

Audio Version

I wasn't happy with the situation, but at least we were all in the same boat: that boat being one of the little dinghies that float through "It's A Small World," a ride at Disneyland designed to thrill and amuse toddlers and grandparents, yet bore and annoy teenagers. Unfortunately, my friends and I were in that second category. It was the summer of 1984, and most of us had just graduated from high school- a group of freshly jaded neo-adults that was far too cool to admit finding any joy from riding in a boat while watching hundreds of cheesy puppets singing about the things all humans have in common. It's a world of laughter, a world of fear. over and over and over, beating on our tortured high school minds, trying to force us to think the world did not suck- but we knew better. We were high school graduates.

As we toured the countries of the world reduced to baby-faced stereotypes endlessly chanting the same seven lines in multiple languages, a balloon tied to the bow of our boat, our group became more and more restless. We tried to find ways to amuse ourselves. At first, we just pointed out how cheesy the ride was compared to the E ticket attractions- "Those puppets are just styrofoam balls on sticks!" or "They didn't even bother to paint the ceiling!" That got old quickly. Then we started splashing splashing each other and rocking the boat- "Maybe we can get hit the puppets!" Then we made the great realization that changed the ride for us: the boats were free floating.

Most Disneyland attractions are either piloted by a Disney employee or are on rails or tracks- the "Small World" boats were not. The pressure of the water is the only thing that keeps them moving down the man-made stream. The sides of the stream were smooth and easy to grab. Everyone on our boat reached for a wall, and- we stopped.

We cheered! As we held the boat, watching the other boats stack up behind us, our group was filled with joy. We were finally happy- we had taken hostages! We sang along:

It's a small world after all,

It's a small world after all,

It's a small world after all-

It's a LET GO OF THE SIDES. SECURITY WILL BE WAITING FOR YOU AT THE EXIT.

 

Uh-oh.

 

The boat got very quiet. We'd heard the puppets sing about "a world of fears," but now we were living in it. We were about to get kicked out of the park. I came up with a brilliant plan to escape- I figured they would be looking for "the boat with the balloon on the front," so pulled the balloon down and stashed it in the hollow bow of the boat. We exited the building and headed to the dock, expecting the Disney goon squad (all wearing mouse ears, of course) to swarm over us- but they weren't there- my trick had worked! We laughed and went back into the park, thrilled by our daring escape.

We were at the edge of Frontierland when they caught us. We thought we were dead meat- but we had an ace in our sleeve- Wayne .

Wayne , as a member of the class of '83, was the elder of the group, and had spent a great deal of his high school career perfecting the fine art of bullshitting. The guards asked "Why did you stop the boat?" Instead of telling the truth - "we were being jerks" - Wayne said: "Oh, there were a bunch of Japanese tourists on the boat, and they wanted to take pictures- they were all 'Stop Boat? Take Picture? Clicky Clicky?" For reasons I still cannot fathom, the guards accepted this, and let us go. I can only assume that they were charmed by Wayne 's heartwarming and pointless mockery of another culture.