What Disney needs now

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Disney executives are smart. We know this because they’ve created a destination called “the happiest place on Earth.” Disney’s Magic Kingdom is North America’s most visited theme park, drawing more than 16 million people toward Cinderella’s Castle each year.

I was one of those people just a few weeks ago when Tom and I took our two college boys and a high school girl to Orlando to celebrate her recent graduation. We didn’t stay long because a few people in our family (raising my hand) could only tolerate the big crowds and long lines for a couple of days. But I was there long enough to figure out what Disney truly needs — an interstate.

Why should there be an interstate inside the park? It comes down to four words: “lack of spatial awareness.” For reasons I still don’t understand, many vacationers forget how to walk in a way that respects the existence of nearby humans. In other words, they’re slow, haphazard, and generally in the way.

I’m not trying to be mean. I say this because over 90 percent of the people walking through any theme park on any given day are silently screaming at strangers. And most of them are internally yelling, “Would you freakin’ move already?”

You may argue that these silent screamers shouldn’t be in such a big hurry, especially on vacation. But the price of vacation demands that we hurry. Disney magic doesn’t come cheap, so every minute counts. Most parents are on a monetary mission the second we walk through those gates because the only way to justify the crazy prices is to squeeze in as much fun as humanly possible. So we walk like our pants are on fire from one ride to the next because the more we do, the better the deal.

But it’s hard to maximize theme park efficiency when we’re constantly thwarted by slowpokes. That, my friends, is why Disney needs a pedestrian interstate. Here’s how it could work:

Once you scan your ticket and walk into the park, you get on the interstate heading to your first ride. Like all interstates, lanes should be clearly marked, and everyone should know the rules of the road. The most important rule is this: The left lane is for passing. Only passing. If you’re not walking with purpose, you shouldn’t be there. If someone is on your tail, move to the middle lane and let the faster walkers pass. If you’re getting passed on the right, you’re doing it wrong.

The middle lane can be for those whose bank account allows them not to worry about packing more punch into their Disney visit. The middle lane will also be a good choice for people who wear the wrong shoes and can’t go faster because there’s a speed bump blister inside their left shoe.

The far-right lane will be the lollygagger lane. You should be in the lollygagger lane if you’re trying to text while walking. If you prefer to move slowly enough to stare and point at all the shiny scenery, the lollygagger lane is the place for you. But there’s no shame in the slow lane! It means you respect the walkers who want or need to move faster than your average glacier.

My vision for the Disney interstate includes grassy medians, clear signs, and exit lanes so we’ll all know when to take the off-ramp for Space Mountain or the spinning teacups. This magical road will also have a broad shoulder for people to pull over to look at the map, eat a turkey leg, tie shoelaces, or throw up after riding the spinning teacups.

This fun freeway will also have designated scenic overlooks for selfies and family photos. And it should definitely come with parent-friendly features like a strollers-only lane and several shady spots to pull over when a toddler has a meltdown because he didn’t get the $14 balloon he wanted. 

Hopefully, Disney will also install plenty of those misting stations along the new interstate so we can keep our cool while cruising through the Magic Kingdom. (Florida’s humidity is brutal, and it’s hard to feel magical when sweat pools in your bra.)

So, there you go, Disney execs — a new, big idea guaranteed to give some much-needed structure to those free-range tourists who zig when they should zag. With the right system in place, power walkers, middle laners, and lollygaggers can live in harmony inside the happiest place on Earth.

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