What I Did On My Vacation

When my wife applied (and subsequently accepted) through her school board to attend an autism conference in St. Petersburg in August, we decided the time was ripe to take advantage and treat our eight year old daughter to Disney World.

Using travel points I've been amassing since 1989, they flew down while yours truly drove all by himself to Florida. Yes, it was a nice relaxing drive. Thanks for asking.

Here are my thoughts in point form:

1) It was my fourth visit to Disney. Previously, we hit Disney a couple of times in the 1980s, and once in the 1990s with a buddy to visit Universal after one week in Daytona.

2) On the drive in I hit psychotic traffic in Virginia (three hours) in the early evening. I ominously passed by NSA HQ and wondered if they were spying on my text messages. I also drove past VCU. I was on pace to stop in South Carolina. Instead, because of Virginia (Virginia is for traffic indigestion), I ended up calling it a night at the Virginia-North Carolina border. 

3) Why is there such a seeming difference between North and South Carolina. North feels advanced, South gives the impression it never evolved from the Civil War.

4) I noticed ads for hospitals on the interstate. I loved that. Choice. Here, we don't have choice.

5) Disney is a marvel of American capitalism and private enterprise in all its innovative glory. The efficiency and attention to service was impeccable. Disney could apply for nation status and immediately be a greater nation than most of the parking lots and sorry failed states we call countries in the world today. As I looked on at the trains and monorails, it was interesting to note they're maintained under private workers and don't need the state to take care of it. This is not a frivolous fact given the massive sheer number of people who visit its grounds.

Nothing is overlooked. If you're disabled or suffer from food allergies for example, you will be taken care of with such sincerity and professionalism it makes you wonder why you tolerate the bull shit on the outside. In fact, Disney makes it as easy on families as one can possibly ask. My wife ate well despite her allergies. I was impressed with the quality of food - not so much the Italian spots which were okay but the lunches we reserved (we had some package) were excellent.

Another thing I observed is that Disney hires disabled individuals and seems to be a true equal opportunity oasis. Every worker we encountered met us with a smile and courteous, helpful advice. For a business of that magical size to create such a culture is an accomplishment onto itself.  I've always felt Wal-Mart, McDonald's, General Electric and Disney were standards of excellence by which all other companies should strive. These companies became what they are because of genius business models executed to absolute perfection.

- Disney is a little different from when I last visited. It's become more regimented which is understandable given the traffic. Back in the day, Mickey, Minnie and the gang roamed Magic Kingdom freely easily accessible for a quick picture. Now, like celebrities, you have to wait in line at designated times to meet them in private rooms.

-That being said, I was a miserable crank when it came to the crowds. And this was low season. I must admit the wait times averaged under 10 minutes and the weather was comfortable hovering around 77-80 under partly cloudy skies. Still. As a misanthrope, I don't like to be huddled with the masses. Those damn bus rides...I hate public transportation. You may as well vomit on my eyes.

5) Did you know that Walt Disney's father was Canadian?  Roaming around the Disney museum at Hollywood Studios, I also discovered that while Walt was a creative visionary, his brother, Roy, was the brains behind the merchandising and business aspects of Walt Disney World.

6) Disney, along with America in general, is an example of how far ahead of Canada the United States is when it comes to providing outstanding service. It's night and day. We joked about what it would be like for Disney to operate in Quebec. It would be a dismal failure given our unionized mentality, anti-business attitude, obsession with politics, lack of creative energy (Cirque notwithstanding), and allergens against the English language and other petty concerns.

7) I'll remain silent on our devilish penchant to not let on we're from Quebec to fellow Quebecers. It's a small way in protesting the crap that goes on here.

8) After that, it was off to our stay at a resort on the beach in St. Petersburg. Nice, quiet and relaxing after the fast-paced four days in Disney - or the east coast of the state for that matter. We're used to places like Melbourne (where our aunt and uncle once lived), Cocoa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano, West Palm Beach and Miami but Tampa was something different. 

We took in a Tampa Bay Lightning game one night and that was the extent of taking in any attractions. It was my first time in Tampa and I must say, we enjoyed that side of the Gulf of Mexico. Incidentally, we  recently invested a small stake in a medical lab company in Tampa. So far, so good. Cross fingers. It was either that or sink the money here but after much consideration, we felt the conditions in Quebec did not justify a long-term financial commitment. The original plan was to open a couple of daycares but after seeing the irrational politics that infest this industry, I felt it was a better play elsewhere.

Hey, they make their bed. I won't lie in it next to them.

9) We came back.

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