"Get down to Disney World, in Florida, take your families," President George W. Bush said, urging Americans to return to normal life after September 11. So I went. I took the family, or that part of it (my wife, Susan) that has not flown the nest. First time to Disney World for either of us. It may seem an odd place to go without children along, but Disney World has lately been wooing people like us—people who were there at the creation, as it were, who learned the lyrics to the Mouseketeer song when it was brand-new. Old people. Disney's commercials tend to depict vacationing middle-agers going starry-eyed, but I can't believe that the grown-up set really comes here in search of adventure and romance. (At least, I hope not.) You come because they built it. Perhaps as many as half of all Americans have been here. It's a national institution. And, I discovered, there are certain advantages to bringing some seasoning to the experience.
I'm going to begin my report with a little story that doesn't reflect well on me but may be instructive. We went to breakfast in our Disney "resort hotel," called the Beach Club. In the restaurant's foyer a large Minnie Mouse was posing with children—we had stumbled into what they call a character breakfast. Goofy was wandering around, and he came by our table. A warm smile and a wave for him. Next Chip stopped by. (Remember Chip, of Chip 'n' Dale, the chipmunks? I didn't, actually, but that's his name.) A smile for him, too, but he sought something more. He sat down on the banquette next to Susan, put his arm around her, pointed from himself to her, pantomiming I'm gonna steal your girl. Reader, I could have been much, much better in this situation. I might have rubbed my eyes: boo hoo. Or made a long face and drawn tear lines down my cheeks. Instead I just smiled. Warmly? Gamely? Rictuslike? It's so hard to know from within. In any case, it was an inadequate response, and Chip (I now see) had little choice but to do what he did: lean over my scrambled eggs and propose a nose rub. Still friends. Here things went from bad to worse, and I'm afraid I said the following sentence (quietly, still smiling): "Thanks, old buddy, but I don't think we'll do noses today." Should have done noses, though, because Chip still needed an exit strategy, which he found in tousling my hair and kissing me on the head.