It’s important to understand a few things before reading this. First, Walter is not a ‘Disney fan’, or even much of a Universal fan. He likes the hotels well enough, there are a couple of rides he enjoy’s and a he’s happy to eat at a few of the restaurants – but he’s not ‘into’ this like we are. Our adventures that morning had given us a glimpse in the bizzare world of his hobby – now he was about to get (yet another) glimpse into the frightening world of mine. I should also mention that it took me years to get him to join me on anything work related. But, he loves Mardis Gras at Universal, so I felt pretty comfortable bringing him along for our prize giveaway.
Second, he thought it was an odd idea to begin with – that we were going to walk around the park and give a cruise away to the first person that said hello. He glazed over a bit when I told him there was a lot of discussion on the boards about it – as little as he’s in Disney, he’s even less into ‘the boards’. He likes you folks well enough, really – but he just doesn’t get how anyone could spend that much time on a discussion board. I’ve tried to explain it to him, but unless I pepper a sentance with words like “orchid” and “decidious”, I just get this blank look back. However, since I’ve now had a close up look at plant people in their natural habitiat, I feel I’m well armed the next time he tries to poke fun at my Disney obsession – a simple ‘how-dee-doo’ should pretty much neutralize those conversations from now on.
We decided to head over to Universal around 6pm. I was well rested from my nap, and Scar decided to forgo sleep to tend to his Orchids – which I knew instantly meant that he was going to start getting cranky. Walter is at his worst when he’s tired or hungry – but if you mix the two of those things together, we have the makings of a pychotic break. On the way over to Universal, he mentioned that he really hadn’t eaten either – a slight chill of terror went down my spine.
As I pulled up to Valet parking, I could tell it was a busy night. There were LOTS of cars parking valet that night and apparently, we just made it in under the wire. By the time Corey and Julie arrived (about 20 minutes after us), the valet lot was full.
Sadly, it seems the only time I ever see CityWalk crowded is when people are leaving the parks to head back to their cars. This time, they were walking towards the park, not away from it and the nightmares began swirling around in my head – Walter hasn’t slept, he’s hungry and it’s crowded – this is going to get ugly. Will was told that it was his job to be wingman – will was joined by Brian Varley (yes, it’s true – Bob HAS reproduced). I will say that so far, it looks like Bob’s affliction is NOT genetic, as Brian does not wear a boot nor have I ever seen him driving a cart around the parks with christmas lights and a video camera.
As we walked into Universal it was, quite simply, pandemonium. There were people everywhere. There were lines for the bathrooms (men and women), there were lines for the beer – the only place there weren’t lines were on the rides! Jaws was a 5 minute wait, Men in Black was 15 and the Mummy was 20!! Remember what I said in my entry about their new roller coaster – how they’re rides don’t attract the kind of people they need to attract to ensure repeat business?? This was that crowd – they would rather wait 45 minutes for a stall than 5 minutes for Jaws.
I knew that if I had any chance of keeping Walter from going ‘carnival ape crazy’, I was going to have to feed him and fast. No nap and no food make Scar a dull boy. I was desperate, so we went into the Monster Cafe. For whatever reason Universal Studios has always had lousy counter service food – and I say Universal Studios because inexplicably, the counter service at Islands of Adventure seems much better. Walter and I both went for the 1/4 rotisserie chicken, and I had to try some of their pizza since we were just talking about it on the show. Thankfully, I took my prevacid that morning. It was every bit as bad as I said it was, but I’m not doing a dining review.
By the time we finished eating, it was just after 8:30 and the shirts went on. I knew as soon as I walked in the park that it was going to be very difficult to give this cruise away. The crowds were heavy and the likelihood of running into a listener at Universal is remote enough, let alone in a crowd this massive. But, I was undaunted and we circled the park a few times. We staked out a spot away from the crowds where we could hear some of the concert – Heart sounded awesome!! But I didn’t want to stay in one spot too long – so we started walking again. At this point, I’m starting to sense that Walter’s amusement with the whole ‘give away a cruise’ thing has now run its course. When you’re with someone long enough, they don’t have to say anything for you to know they’re unhappy – Walter and I have this down to a science. A certain facial expression, or the inflection on words like ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can tell you all you need to know. The clock was ticking, Scar was fading, the park was closing – I was not leaving without giving away a cruise.
The entire time, we’re giving updates to Kevin and he is posting them on the boards. I keep getting reports that the thread discussing this on the Unplugged forum was going wild – when I left the house there were about 4 pages on that thread – when I checked it from my phone at Universal (right after we arrived) it was about 8 pages. Then I get the message from Bob that he spotted Oscar and had chatted with him. Bob was told – STAY AWAY – do not lead anybody to me as it wouldn’t be fair. It was also at this point that I was first informed that Oscar had driven from FREAKIN’ OHIO to Orlando JUST for this. I was at once moved, and frightened. Walter just kept repeating to me “he drove from OHIO???” – I was tempted to do the “HATS-WAGONS-HOW-DEE-DOO” response, but the look on Walter’s face made me think better of it.
As we’re filing out of the park, I’m told the thread is now up to 20 pages!! We tell Kevin to post that we’re leaving the park – it was then that Walter blurted out “just award the guy who met Bob the cruise and let’s go home”. We’d past from non-verbal displeasure to spoken disdain. I have minutes not hours to get him into his car before he really starts to melt down and still, no winner for the podcast cruise.
By the time we reached CityWalk, I decided that since Oscar had found Bob first – that by default, we would give him the cruise. Then, as I’m heading from CityWalk to the valet area, there’s this guy staring at me from the bottom of the escalator. Walter advises “I think this is one of your stalkers down here” (by this point, it’s ‘stick a fork in him he’s done’ time). Walter gets on line to get our car back from the valet, giving Oscar a complimentary ‘hello’, and I take the opportunity to chat with Oscar, and to find out if he’s going to follow me home and kill me in my sleep Turns out he was a heck of a nice guy, and I’m glad he was persistent in trying to find us.
Now, keep in mind that getting home from Universal is, at most, a 20 minute drive. But, this was pandemonium night, and apparently the insanity inside the parks was now all over the roads as well. I-4 was at a dead stop – traffic was backed up from the I-4 on ramp all the way back to Portofino Bay. All tricks to get on I-4 were thwarted – we were stuck. Eventually, we found our way home on the back roads – but it took a whopping 2 hours to get home from the time we left the park.
Once we were home, Scar was fine (actually, the further away from the park we were, the better his mood got) and I felt good that I was able to give away the cruise after all. It was quite a day!
Category: Universal Orlando