Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pirates of the Caribbean - Hot July 1984

Before "The Bridge," the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance was easily approachable. Of course, it took quite a while to get there. I remember when the line wound back and forth and then down the side of the attraction (between the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and the Pirates of the Caribbean building). There was a nice covered area (bullpen) along the side of the attraction and you could peek into some of the windows to see the lucky folks who had made their way inside (before they reached the boat loading area). The Swisskapolka lulled incessantly in the background from high up in the Treehouse, providing a bouncy background soundtrack to your seemingly endless stay in line. I can still remember the smell of the Pirates of the Caribbean as you entered. It really hasn't changed much actually---kind of a musty, watery, chlorinated smell. There was also that cool blast of air conditioning as you finally hit the turnstile and entered the building.

On some busy summer days before "The Bridge" was put in place, the line for Pirates would extend almost all the way down to the Rivers of America. It created quite a traffic jam on the West Side, especially if the attraction's hosts were "newbies" and hadn't quite yet mastered where the poles and chains were supposed to go.

I remember one hot day in July 1984 when the crowd was enormous. Somebody got the "bullpen" posts and chains out of whack and the Pirates line became a total mess. Another sweeper and I were trying to push a heavy trash cart through a sea of guests. When we reached the Pirates, things literally became impassable. Security had to clear a route for us and a small contingent of Pirates ride operators made fairly quick work of getting the guests back into a line that actually went somewhere. There's nothing like the combination of afternoon sun, heat, no breeze, thousands of guests, crying children and waiting in a serpentine line to make the Disney magic fade just a touch. Doh!

Fortunately, most folks are pretty good natured about such experiences---you have to expect them when you hit a popular theme park in California right around the 4th of July vacation peak. Here's an insider tip: stay home. Buy an annual passport and come back with your kids in February, March or late September/early October. If you don't like crowds, celebrate the 4th of July and Christmas in your own home. Otherwise, join forces with 64,000 of your friends and herd on into Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom (the original, of course). I'm sure you'll find, there's nothing quite like it.