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Disney During the Time of COVID

I work a lot, run this stupid website, stress about almost everything and haven't gotten a chance to take a vacation with my little ones in over a year. Last week, my wife and I loaded up the family cruiser and took the kids to Disney World in sunny Orlando, Florida. It wasn't an easy decision, we knew that COVID would likely make the experience far from normal, but I'd never been to Disney World and my kids were finally old enough to enjoy most of the rides - so we decided to just say "what the fuck" and go.

It was a fun experience, to be sure. There is something particularly special about anticipating and then watching young children react to something you know will amaze them. The look in my kids' eyes when they first saw that big fucking castle in the Magic Kingdom was something I'll never forget. We took them on all the rides we could, got them ice bars and souvenirs - so they had a wonderful time.

I did too. For the first time in a while, I was able to completely detach myself from social media, work, television, politics and most other distractions that we allow to plague our lives. I got to spend time with my kids outside of our home, in warm weather and in a very unique and setting. It was a fun adventure, it was very nice - but I couldn't help but take notice of how much "hygiene theatre" has taken hold of our country. I think you know what I am talking about, the constant spraying down, the sanitizing, the plexiglass, the distancing - all of those things that are now parts of our daily life experiences. With respect to Disney World in particular, they seem as invested in performative sanitation as they are in the entertainment experience itself.

Before you walk in, before they even let you get to the gate, they use a temporal thermometer to scan your forehead and make sure you don't have a fever. It's a minor inconvenience and takes only seconds out of your day; however, temporal thermometers aren't particularly accurate, the average healthy body temperature can vary and a fever isn't a reliable way to determine if someone is ill, let alone has COVID. But, if you want to get into the Magic Kingdom, you need to get that forehead checked.

Inside the park, there is hand sanitizer everywhere. This is generally a good thing, having them sanitize their hands regularly will surely reduce the amount of poo particles left on surfaces from those nasty folk who don't wash their hands after driving out a prairie dog. Is it necessary to fight COVID? Probably not, as we've learned that the virus does not really transmit all that well on surfaces or as Nature magazine wrote this month “catching the virus from surfaces—although plausible—seems to be rare.But if you want to get on certain rides, you must present your hands to a "cast member" and have them dollop some translucent gooey sanitizer on your hands.

Mask compliance at Disney World is about what you'd expect at a corporate run establishment, priority number one. They literally have "cast members" whose sole job is to walk around the park and tell people to put their masks on "properly" - over your nose and underneath your chin. There is a recording that plays throughout the most magical place on earth that informs attendees that they will be asked to leave if they don't conform to their masking rules. Signs everywhere impart the same. Per their rules, you can only take down your mask when you are eating or drinking while stationary. Wanna take a drink from that 5 dollar water bottle? Better not try it while you're walking, buddy.

When my son tripped on a curb, scraped his knee and began to cry a little, a "cast member" walked over to us and rather than asking me if he was "OK", asked me to make sure he pulled his mask up. That's magical AF.

Masks seem to provide a level of protection - though the types most commonly worn (the blue, cloth, surgical kind) probably provide less protection than we'd like to believe. Still, when you're at Disney, you're around a bunch of other people all day - standing in lines, walking by them, peeing next to them, sitting on busses near them - so wearing a mask makes sense.

And that's the thing, when I say a bunch of other people, I mean thousands - the park was packed the entire time I was there. So if Disney was really concerned with the safety of its customers, wouldn't they severely limit the number of people entering the park each day? I mean the line for Splash Mountain was packed and about 100 minutes long. Everyone I saw was wearing masks, but spending that long together, packed like sardines, surely poses a greater risk than having fewer people and shorter lines, where more social distancing was more feasible. But of course, Disney is a business and businesses don't operate if they're not making money. So Disney wants to have its cake and eat it too - they want to put on a show that they're very concerned about your safety, while packing as many little piggies in their park as possible.

This blog post isn't intended to try and dissuade you from going to Disney or a baseball game or a movie theatre when those re-open. Quite to the contrary, I want you to go do things! I want to resume normal life! I'd even suggest you visit Disney if you're interested, despite all of the additional burdens. Kids love that shit!

No, more than anything, I just get frustrated by SOME policies that seemed designed more to sell people on how things "look" rather than actually making anyone materially safer. Moreover, my experience at Disney coincides with new rhetoric from the most famous member of Snow White's Seven Dwarves, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently said that "it's possible" that Americans could be wearing masks into 2022 and that "even if you're vaccinated" there are things "that you're not going to be able to do in society."

Fuck off, Fauci, this is my blog.

To anyone with a critical mind, the biggest question you should have is "why can't you dine indoors or go see a movie if you've bene vaccinated?" What is the purpose of vaccinating people if the goal isn't a return to normalcy as soon as possible? What's the incentive for young people - who are very unlikely to die from the virus - to get vaccinated if getting the vaccine comes without the benefit of being able to go to bars and restaurants again? We need answers to these questions or else, what the hell are we doing?

This optics-based reality we've spiraled into in recent years does nobody any good and has been greatly exacerbated during the pandemic. If you want to take my temperature before I enter your establishment, then OK, but that temp-check should be conducted because there is an objective, science-based, reason that is aimed to protect people's lives. I don't think that's too much to ask - don't impose burdens for the sake of appearances and if you don't have a good objective reason for asking someone to do something, abstain from your request. The road back to normalcy shouldn't be impeded with nonsense - we've spent a year enduring too much of that already.

Perhaps the fat spaceship captain guy from Disney's Wall-E says it best:

Happy Tuesday, God Bless America.


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