Mark Terry

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Disney Trip, Day 2

April 8, 2009
First off, let me provide you with the band directors' focus: exhaust the kids. His philosophy--and I essentially agree--is that you provide a framework that allows them a lot of freedom (at Disney, anyway), but which also keeps them busy and in an environment where they can't get into too much trouble. In other words, we weren't at the hotel much and when we were, they were pretty much locked in their rooms. Otherwise, they were at parks and could do what they want. But in that context, they were kept busy, busy, busy and as a result, tired, tired, tired. Chaperones just had to live with it.

The second day was a little bit tricky, though, because we went to Hollywood Studios (used to be Disney MGM), but it closed around 7:00. So it was decided that we would give the kids the option of going to either Epcot, Magic Kingdom, or Downtown Disney after our 4:00 meeting in the afternoon, but it would depend on the number of chaperones. So the chaperones signed up for where they wanted to go in the afternoon--most chose Magic Kingdom--and then the kids signed up. It turned out that about 6 kids wanted to go to Downtown Disney, 12 to Epcot, and the rest to Magic Kingdom, so it worked out. One of the band directors went with the 6 to Downtown Disney, there were 4 or 5 chaperones going to Epcot and the rest of us went to Magic Kingdom. This was all pretty much decided in the morning. We got some extra kids in our group and the tricky part was transporting from park-to-park as a group and at the end of the day we were using Disney transportation instead of charter buses to get back to the hotel.


6:15 wake-up call. Disney was using what we called "the pervert voice," which might have been Stitch, on the wake-up calls, followed by Mickey. At 7:15 we left on the bus to go to House of Blues for breakfast. The food was so-so, but they put on a great show. One of the Blues Brothers (Elwood?) put on a show with the "help" of 2 of the band directors and got all of our group on their feet and dancing. (I later asked Daniel why his Dad wasn't in the show. He said, "They had a contest and the losers had to be part of the show." I just about laughed my ass off. I later asked Gary A--one of the ones in the show--and he said that was about right. Jim G had to do it because he was the primary band director then he asked Gary A and Pat P to pick a number between 1 and 10 and Gary said 6 and Pat said 1 and Jim said 6 was closer. Gary told me he thought it was rigged--it probably was.

And then it rained.

Off we went to Hollywood Studios in the pouring rain. We'd kidnapped Daniel for the day and my oldest son wanted to hang with us, so the 4 of us bought ponchos--at that point we were already sopping wet and the ponchos were sort of worthless--and headed for the Aerosmith Rockin' Roller Coaster. Now, I like the ride a lot, but I've never quite figured out Aerosmith's relationship with Disney. Then from there to the Tower of Terror, then we crossed the park to do Star Tours (which, sadly, had almost no line at all. It's a great ride) and the Indiana Jones show.

We were to meet Daniel's father for lunch at the Sci-Fi Theater. When we made reservations there it had been at least 4 years since we'd been there. Then it had been a burger, hot dog, chicken strips place and you sat in cars and watched 1950s black-and-white horror movie clips while you ate. They have since upgraded the menu so it's wildly overpriced--a burger and fries cost about $21. We suggested we blow off the reservations. Pat agreed. So we had lunch at Pizza Planet using our meal tickets and Daniel and Sean played arcade games while the three of us got food.

Back to do the Rockin' Roller Coaster again, and I bought some 3-D holographic Pirates of the Caribbean guitar picks as a tacky souvenir, then we met the band at the big hat in the center of the park. (If you've never been there, each park has a major landmark. Magic Kingdom is the castle; Epcot is the big ball they call Spaceship Earth; Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life (and probably the Everest Ride now); Hollywood Studios is a giant sorcerer's hat.

This is where we re-group and go to the other park. It wasn't a horribly smooth transition. Larry, Darryl and Darryl didn't show up because they didn't have watches, cell phones, and they actually didn't listen to directions and went out to where the buses were. I was taking the health forms, so I had to wait for them to show up.

[Everybody who goes on the trip has to fill out a health history form, which is put in a binder. When the group goes to the park, the forms are delivered to the infirmary. A chaperone is assigned an hour or block of time and a phone number they can call every half hour or hour. A recorded message tells you that either no chaperone is needed in the infirmary or they are].

I sent my group on ahead while I waited for the forms. When they showed up, I was also assigned another student (she was great) to get her to the Magic Kingdom. We went over and actually beat my group to the park. Delivered the health forms, then spent the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom. The rain had stopped by about 11:00 and the day was mostly cloudy and in the high 70s--excellent park weather.

The tricky part of the day was meeting up to get back to the resort. One of my kids lost his ticket and I had to calm him down and tell him I'd deal with it first thing in the morning. Our meeting place was too general and there was confusion as to who was going with whom (made worse by students who were obsessing about other people in other groups--back to DQ, who was freaking out in my ear going, "Wait, we're missing S!" I say, "Who's S?" She wasn't in my group, so I tell him to come on, S is her own group's problem.)

Anyway, we make it back to the hotel relatively unscathed, all students accounted for. The band director hit up some of us chaperones about how to handle this in the future, we give our opinions, and then there's another official stand-up meeting.

My chaperone group and another chaperone visit the bar at the hotel, have a drink and discuss the various personalities and backstories of some of these kids, which helped explain why some of them behave the way they do. (Yes, you can, in most cases, blame it on the parents). Then off to bed about midnight. We also realized that one of the chaperones--the one complaining about the kids in her group--was treating them all like 5-year-olds and insisting they stay in her line-of-sight. So when they were allowed to choose other parks and groups, her entire group would pick a place where she wasn't going. Oh well. It got mentioned to Jim G and I don't know if he dealt with it or not, but the situation did seem to get better toward the end of the trip.

Thoughts: moving kids from park to park is the toughest part of the trip. You need very specific meeting sites. I take the blame on this one, because I told the kids to meet at 9:00 at the train station. Unfortunately, that's a big location with 4 sides to it and that didn't work out as well as we wanted it to.

So far, no medical emergencies, although some of the personalities are starting to display the problems that will get more pronounced as the trip goes along. Also, we're starting to see the downside of keeping the kids busy and exhausted--they get crabby. 

Oh, one more thing. I was assigned Bus Leader, which essentially means I was given the ticket codes for all the kids on my bus. I shared those with the various chaperones, but what it meant was if someone's ticket got lost or demagnetized, I was the one who handled the problem.

Another good day, overall, with some minor headaches in the evenings. It was mostly a matter of focusing on your group and ignoring the distractions trying to get them onto the Disney buses. In the end we all arrived where we were supposed to arrive. 

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I have been following your latest thriller. It has me on the edge of my seat. I would have commented earlier but the thought of chaperoning teenagers is making my hands shake too badly to type. When does Derek Stillwater appear?

11:38 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'll confess, Eric, that on Day 3 one or two kids were complaining of nausea and I was afraid we were going to have a stomach flu or Norwalk virus ripping through the group--just perfect for Derek Stillwater--but luckily it was a false alarm.

12:20 PM  

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