Jean-Paul Sartre is attributed with the line, “Hell is other people.”
I prefer to think, “Hell is other people in a theme park.”
Okay, that’s a little strong. The people I’ve spent the last two days touristing with are all very nice and friendly. They’ve been appreciative of the Universal passes I’ve gotten for them, relatively easy to get along with, and this is by no means a judgment of their character.
But there are nine of them. And once you get beyond a group of two, it just gets unwieldy, no matter how well-behaved they are. Three want to go here. Four want to go there. The other two are good with whatever. This combination wants to eat now. That combination wants to wait a while. Everybody walks at a different speed. Somebody’s always wandering off. That somebody isn’t checking their phone. We may never see that somebody again. That somebody was me on more than one occasion.
I guess I’m a little spoiled from doing so much solo theme park adventuring. I don’t have to take anybody else into account. So it’s probably just stubborn selfishness on my part. Learning to co-exist in a large group is probably a good thing. Especially since this is Jillian’s family and I probably want to stay on their good sides. And we never really had some of the knock-down drag-out party in-fighting true tourist hell is made of. We just had stalemated moments of indecision and humidity-induced crankiness. Nothing insurmountable, and always ending with everyone in good spirits. Which is a godsend, because all of that with a group I couldn’t stand? That would be the real hell.
Because I’ve seen those massive family reunion groups trooping through the parks in matching t-shirts, every living generation present and accounted for. A dozen of them snaking through the crowd, linked by the last name custom printed on their shirts, and resenting it with every step they take. Wishing the cousins with the teething child would just call it a day and go back to the hotel. Wanting to deliberately lose the sulky teenager. Ready to sit Grandma on a bench and tell her they’ll be back for her later. They have the look not of vacationers, but of survivors, both of the theme park experience and of each other. That deadened thousand-yard stare that says, “I have to share a car ride home with some of these people, and may take my own life instead.” But knowing they have another four days of tickets and hotel rooms paid for, and death would just be a waste of all that money.
Yeah, I’ll count my lucky stars for my nine. Even if they didn’t wait for me while I went to the bathroom. At least they checked their phones.