The rocket ship coaster car on Space Mountain came to a halt. Thankfully we were in the beginning of the ride in that little tunnel with all of the flashing lights. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and ridden Space Mountain, you know it’s a roller coaster in the dark. The opening section of the ride is set up like a space station launch tunnel that leads you into a slow climb full of streaming lights and a countdown. Then you’re whisked away over the other side to enjoy a thrilling ride in the blackness of “space”, the terrified screams of fellow park visitors, and 1960s sound effects.
So when the ride halted in the middle of the space station launch tunnel, I thought to myself, “I’m glad that the ride broke down here where we can still see, and not in the middle where it’s nearly pitch black.” As if on cue, all the lights switched off. What followed was what normally happens when all light in a room full of people is suddenly extinguished. There are the obligatory screams of “Eeek!” and “That’s my leg!” and “Who’s in my mouth?”
Once we’d all settled down, that’s when I felt it. A phantom finger, from out of the shadows, brushed against my lips. The finger quickly retracted followed by the sound of mad cackling.
This really happened.
You see, I was not on this trip to Disneyland alone. I was accompanied by two of my friends, Greg and Micah. The pair of them sat just in front of me in the same coaster car. In the moment after we lost all light, Greg having a Loki-like nature, thought it would be funny to yank on my hair when I couldn’t see anything. Lucky for me, or maybe not so lucky, Greg couldn’t see anything either. Instead of finding a lock of my hair, his solitary digit found my mouth instead. Rather than yank my hair in an impish prank, all that ended up happening was that his index finger gently caressed my lips as if to say, “Shhhh. It will be alright.”
It was only a minute or so after that that the lights came back on followed by an announcement from Disney staff that someone would be by to let us out of our cars, and escort us back. This was our first ride on the first day of our two-day trip. Greg, Micah, and I were on an all-guys Disney trip. Why? Why the fuck not? Disneyland is fun.
Anyway, we got to the park just before it opened so we could get to the most popular rides early. If you don’t get to some of these rides early enough, or at least grab a Fast Pass for them, you’ll be standing in line for about three hundred years. The park opens the main gates a half hour early, but only to allow the throbbing, undulating masses of tourists (like us) to access the Main Street area.
This is done to allow everyone to queue up near the entrance to their particular “land” of choice, such as Adventure Land or Fantasy Land. Wait…I just said queue up, didn’t I? Queuing up implies that the droves of tourists plowing their way through Disneyland’s Main Street are behaving in some sort of orderly fashion. I meant mob up. We all mobbed up like a horde of unruly Wildlings assaulting Castle Black.
The three of us readied ourselves for battle at the entrance to Tomorrow Land, along with the other rabid packs of families brandishing spike-and-flame-thrower-bedecked-strollers that were surely used in a Mad Max movie. As the clock ticked closer and closer to 9:00am, we all packed as near to the Tomorrow Land entrance rope as was allowed by the nice, and very fucking patient, Disney cast member.
These Disney employees, standing vigilant guard over the entrance ropes like some Rohirrim soldier manning the walls at Helm’s Deep, are like the Jack Nicholson of Disneyland. Disneyland needs them on that wall! Otherwise, I’m afraid chaos would ensue. The swarms of us tourists run the risk of pillaging the happiest place on Earth.
The Disney cast member manning the wall to Tomorrow Land on that morning dutifully, and at precisely 9:00am, removed the rope. What happened next is like a scene from the Running of the Bulls in Spain. That poor Disney cast member may have leaped to safety once the stampede began, but I’m not sure. All I know is that I never saw him again.
If you knew my friend Greg, you would know that when he walks it’s at a measured and relaxed pace. He’s rarely, if ever, in a hurry. This is why I was surprised that Micah and I had a difficult time keeping up with him once we entered Tomorrow Land. Somehow, without even running, he was moving faster than the crowd, bouncing and zigzagging between bodies. He moved with such frantic alacrity while making a B-line to Space Mountain he was like a squirrel that had just ingested a gallon of Jolt Cola laced with cocaine.
Needless to say, we didn’t have to wait more than five minutes to board Space Mountain. At last! The first ride of the day. We were off.
And then we weren’t as we came to a sudden halt.
After the lights had come back on, a Disney cast member walked past and explained that she needed to free the passengers on the car ahead of us first, and then would return for us. The car in front was already in the aforementioned launch tunnel. Once she got to them, we all got to hear her speak to them for a minute, and that is when we learned why Space Mountain stopped.
The ride didn’t break down. From what we overheard, the cast member had to lecture a passenger in the car in front of us that the reason for the stoppage was because he had decided he wanted to stand up during the ride. This dude felt it would be okay to essentially surf the ride. We listened as he was told he was supposed to remain seated at all times, and definitely not stand up during the ride.
If this passenger had tried to stand up in his coaster car, say further into the ride where there are many low overhangs, his head would have been yanked off like a paper towel. Not only for this guy’s safety, but for everyone on Space Mountain, Disney staff stopped the ride, and got everyone off.
Even though the first ride of the day was stopped in the very beginning, we tried not to let it ruin our fun. “Standing up on the ride” became a little inside joke for the three of us through the duration of the weekend. Whenever we would board Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Carribean, etc, one of us would sternly point a finger at each other, a warning to not stand up and ruin the experience for everyone else.
One such accusation of note occurred on the Cars ride in the California Adventure Park. Its premise is that park-goers board competing cars from the movie, and have a race. It was my first time on the ride, and in a car opposite to Micah’s. Greg had boarded the car ahead of us and was already flying through the track, and would be waiting for us at the end.
We reached the part of the ride where our two cars lined up to start the race. That’s when I decided to look over to Micah’s car, outstretch my hand with a “thumbs down” gesture and called out, “You’re going down!” The people in Micah’s car immediately got into the spirit, and returned the same gestures to me. The people in my car followed suit, and within moments, all of us were taunting each other with our downward-pointed thumbs. We were ready for this race! It was on! Micah, and all of his gesture-flinging compatriots were going to eat our dust!
The ride sputtered, then failed to move. The lights went out, again, but only for a moment. Several minutes later, a voice came over a speaker to tell us that the Cars ride had malfunctioned and a cast member would be by soon to escort us out.
First time on a new ride, which was to be the final ride of the evening, and it breaks. At least neither me nor anyone else tried to surf this one. As Micah and I waited to be extracted from our colorful, temporary restraints, Greg sent each of us a text message accusing us of standing up in the ride, causing it to shut down. How dare us!
All in all, we had a good time at Disneyland. I encourage everyone to go some time with just your friends. You can even do so over the course of a weekend like we did.
In closing, I have to regale you with a quick text exchange that occurred after our trip. Greg dropped us off in Sacramento where Micah and I retrieved our cars for the drive home. I live in Sacramento, but Micah lives just north of Santa Rosa, so he still had two to three hours of driving ahead. A little while after dropping us at our cars, Greg sent a text to us to make sure we all made it home safe. This is what followed.
Micah: Ok. Home now.
Greg: How was the traffic?
Micah: I admit it. I stood up in the vehicle and they shut the whole freeway down. Otherwise great!