The most magical war on Earth

I held my phone in my hand, trying to figure out why it was doing this to me.

“Alarm: Tap to snooze,” it said as it buzzed and jingled, as if anyone’s brain could figure out what to do with those words and sounds at 5:45am.

“What have I ever done to you to? I plug you in every night. I stare at you all the time. I only dropped you in the toilet once,” I thought.

For some people (bakers, fishermen, high schoolers), getting up at 5:45am is normal. For me, an alarm going off at 5:45 means that some extra, weird responsibility is happening.

“RESPONSIBILITY ALERT! RESPONSIBILTY ALERT! What am I supposed to be doing right now?” I thought. Then I looked around the hotel room at the sleeping members of my family and remembered: today is Disney Day. There can be no sleep on Disney Day.

My wife Kara’s eyes shot open and she jumped out of bed in one swift motion. She cartwheeled into the bathroom and did a backflip into the shower. She’d been planning this day for months, scripting every minute, creating spreadsheets to maximize our magic, and it was finally go time.

“Disney isn’t a vacation. Disney is war,” she had said with a smile, quoting something she’d read on a blog, but she seemed serious. And if Disney is war, then Kara is Napoleon.

We were scheduled to be at Disney for just one day during the week of spring break, one of the busiest weeks of the year at one of the busiest places on Earth, when the entire Magic Kingdom would turn into a kid-friendly version of a mosh pit, just strollers, mouse ears, and elbows everywhere.

“What time do we need to be ready tomorrow?” Kara’s mom asked. My in-laws had gamely come with us, staying in the adjoining hotel room.

“6:20,” Kara said.

Her parents shook their heads in disbelief, but the next morning, they joined us at the time that corresponded with the correct cell in Kara’s spreadsheet.

We walked from our hotel because the monorail engineers were still in bed. The sun wasn’t up. No lights were on. Mickey and Minnie were still off spooning somewhere.

Kara had grabbed the first breakfast reservation at a restaurant inside the park, allowing us to enter an hour before Disney World opened. We were the first people let into the park that day, and as we strolled down Main Street, USA, approaching Cinderella’s Castle, we were the only people there, because all the sane people were still asleep. It was like that scene in Vanilla Sky, when Tom Cruise was running around an empty Times Square, trying to figure out if he was still cool or not.

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After breakfast, the crowds began pouring in from all directions, and we raced to follow Kara on her carefully plotted strategy to outflank the competition.

By noon, just as the mass of humanity was becoming a solid wall, we’d done everything we wanted to do. The new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, which we’d ridden after waiting for a few minutes, now had a 190-minute wait. Incidentally, that means that there are real people who see a three-hour wait for a five-minute ride and say, “Sure, that’s fine.” If I waited in line three hours for a five-minute roller coaster, I would feel both dopey and grumpy.

By the time the kids collapsed in their beds to take three-hour naps, we’d learned many things.

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Evan learned that roller coasters are more fun when you hold your hands in the air. Zack learned that people dressed up in giant animal suits are terrifying, except, for some reason, Tigger.

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And I learned that sometimes, the spreadsheet makes the vacation.

You can wish upon a spreadsheet with Mike Todd at mikectodd@gmail.com.

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