Working at Walt Disney World is all well and good, but when you’re here for five months you start to realize that there’s other parts of Orlando outside the Big Cheese, and you have the time to explore them.
Which is a long way of saying that we went to Universal.
The big allure, of course, is Harry Potter land. For those who don’t actually know me or my family, here’s some background: I love Harry Potter. It’s a family thing. My mother read the books out loud to me and my siblings when I was six years old, and even when the seventh book came out we read it together, out loud. It took a month. It was one of the best things my family ever did together, because it was our thing. So Harry is special, okay?
So on Saturday, Valentine’s Day, I just so happened to have off, and my friend Ryann so happened to have off, and we decided to go ahead and storm the castle.
Here’s what you’ve probably already guessed about Universal on Valentine’s Day: it’s crowded.
It’s so crowded you can’t really move.
You also can’t get on any rides.
But you can shop! And when you have Knockturn Alley and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to shop at, not to mention Honeydukes, the Leaky Cauldron, and Hogwarts itself, shopping is a lot of fun. I bought a Ravenclaw sweater, because I’m getting paid now and I can. Ryann bought a wand and flicked it at things. And–because the world is actually magical–stuff happens when you flick your wand.
But let’s go back to that crowded thing. I kind of forgot that Valentine’s Day fell on President’s Day Weekend, so there were crowds everywhere. I worked Sunday and Monday, and Muppets was up to a half hour wait at times both of those days. Muppets. A word to the wise (or weary): don’t go to Disney on the weekend if you can avoid it. Especially avoid holiday weekends. And don’t go on Muppets if there’s a week. If you come any time after six o’clock there’s no wait. Jussaying.
What else do you learn in Orlando when you live here?
Traffic is a bear. Especially on Sundays. Some genius put a huge Catholic church right next to College Program housing which, okay, is nice for those of us CPs who are Catholic, but it ties up traffic like nothing else on Sundays. So you learn to go around.
This going around gave me another first in my life: the first time I ever called 9-1-1.
So we were going down the street. Crawling down the street, because traffic was just about at a stand-still. It was Sunday and we were trying to get to Target to grab half price Valentine’s Day candy. “What the hell,” Elisa, my roommate, who was driving, doesn’t do traffic well. Really, who does? So she slapped the steering wheel and we waiting twenty minutes to go a mile up to the left turn light.
Where we figured out the source of the problem. In Florida, sometimes, there’s two left-turn lanes. In the right-hand left turn lane, about ten yards away from the light, someone had abandoned their car. The lights weren’t on, and the car wasn’t running, and no one was in it.
“Well, that’s dangerous,” I said, peering at the car. “We’re going to witness an accident right here. Wait til it gets dark. Someone’s gonna die because some guy just left his car.”
Being the very safety conscious Disney employees we are, Elisa gave me her phone and I called 9-1-1. It was a bit of a let down for my first time, since the woman on the other end of the line got my info and hung up in about a minute. But when we drove back there was a police car directing people around the abandoned vehicle.
The moral of the story is threefold: don’t try to drive in Orlando on a Sunday. Don’t abandon your car. And if you see something strange, say something.
One more little story about what happens at Disney when it rains.
Hint: we don’t have a giant dome to put up over the parks. (I actually get asked about this mythical dome at least once every time it rains. And the people are dead serious.)
Nope, it’s Disney water, so it’s a really goo illusion of you getting actually wet. What happens is that all the rides get weirdly busy. Except the outdoor ones. Another word to the wise: if it’s raining, stay, because a lot of people think they’re going to melt if they get wet and lines do get shorter. But as an extra pro tip, when it’s already raining is a great time to get on a water ride like Splash Mountain or the Kali River Rapids. You’re wet anyway. Might as well enjoy it.
And don’t linger under the awnings of Muppets. I will nudge you out into the rain.