This trip to the land of fantasy comes almost 10 years after the last such trip for me and the differences after a decade are interesting. There are changes in the technologies of amusement, of course, and changes in clothing styles, etc. But the most noticeable change is one that I have some trouble coming to terms with.
The ratio of vacationers who roll rather than walk is strikingly higher in 2008 than it was 10 years ago, and I can't help but think this doesn't bode well for us as a society.
Florida, like LA, is one of those places that isn't very friendly to pedestrians, but I was quite shocked to see that even in the theme parks, motorized traffic is beginning to make serious inroads on the simple walker.
I'm not talking about families pushing baby strollers, or family members pushing another disabled family member in a wheelchair. I'm talking about that phenomenon of electric rental scooters, and of kids as old as 8 or 10 years old being chauffered about in rental plastic rickshaws rather than walking on their own two feet as God intended.
I'm quite sure that some of the folks riding electric carts might be struggling with replaced hips or knees, or might have some other physical ailment that makes it hard to walk. Godspeed to them.
But during one leisurely lunch at the Disney Hollywood Park, we watched one of the rental shops send out and take back dozens of these motorized carts, available for the low rate of $10 per day. Our actual count showed that more than 90% of the patrons had no obvious physical limitation of any kind, other than some noticeable obesity in a handful of cases.
In one instance, we saw a fat father driving such a cart, with not one, not two, but three fat children heaped over the top of it. A literal pyramid of flesh rolling down the walkways of Epcot.
In addition, it's become quite common for parents to rent oversized strollers with sun awnings to push around their lazy and often overweight kids in comfort. Sure, I'm fine with pushing an infant or toddler in a stroller. But on several occasions, I saw kids playing gameboy video games from the comfort of strollers, their legs so long that they barely fit. These days, it's grandparent who are stolling about Tom Sawyers island. You'll see nary an active young kid in sight.
As a society, we have chosen to roll rather than walk, not because there's any good reason for it, but because we no longer want to use our muscles in any way.
The impact of this on pedestrian traffic is startling and annoying, for I had my toes run over several times by motorized carts, and twice had drivers smack into the back of my legs with their carts. In some locations, a quick count showed that easily one out of every 40 adults is today rolling rather than walking.
I don't want to be a curmudgeon about this. I"m sure that at some point in history, some naysayer lamented that bicycles were dooming civilization as we know it.
But I really am concerned about the place of America in world society. A great many foreign people visit Disney World, and for the most part what you see in the foreigners is lean and fit human beings taking in the sights. What the foreigners are seeing, on the other hand, is an America full of marshmallow-shaped people with wrap-around sunglasses, pushing fat spoiled children in plastic carts shaped like Donald Duck, or riding about on electric scooters with their wire baskets filled with turkey-drumsticks.
You'll be pleased to know, however, that Mercurious' pedometer shows that he and his bride have been averaging seven foot miles per day for the last week. Alas, I still bear a strong resemblance to a marshmallow. Next time, perhaps a cart...