When I was six years old, the Lennon family traveled from New Jersey to Florida to take the Great American Vacation...mom, dad, grandma and I were goin' to Disneyworld. I don't recall much of it, as the perspective of a small child offers a view not of Cinderella's Castle and brightly colored buildings, but of eye-level adult asses and even smaller children being carted around in noisy strollers.
And then came Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
Grandma, always the adventurous one in the clan, offered to take me around Fantasy Land (if any of you are familiar with the park, you'll recognize that this is the part you don't want to be anywhere near, due to the sheer biomass of small children it contains at any given time) while mom and dad got some much-needed Away From The Clingy Child time.
So grandma, being the industrious lady that she is, looked for the shortest line possible...and here, my friends, is where our tale really begins. We spent half an hour winding through the waiting area, taking in idyllic Olde-English diorama scenery with cute little pictures of foxes and badgers and weasels with tommy guns. Finally, we got to the front. A period-costumed woman (a "cast member") loaded us into another Olde English roadster, and set us off on our little adventure.
As background reference, I frightened easily as a child. Like, neurotically. I feared strangers, balloons, clowns, loud noises, bumpy roads, sensory overload, and most animals. A combination of these things was enough to send me near-catatonic/hysterical. I'm sure you can see where our story is heading...
Back in Toad Hall, the nexus point of the ride, our little car was barrelling through walls, nearly getting chopped in half by insane audioanimatronic knights, careening around gangster-weasel hideouts, and just generally scaring the shit out of six-year-old me. Grandma, oblivious to my plight, was laughing. I began to think perhaps Grandma was an undercover weasel.
I managed to keep myself together fairly well until the climax of the ride, where your little DeathCar goes flying down a set of faux train tracks INTO AN ONCOMING TRAIN (Ok, it's a large overhead light and a very realistic soundtrack of an oncoming train, but that's irrelevant). I was six. I was neurotic. Grandma was in for a real treat.
I think I began sobbing and screaming simultaneously, as we neared what I viewed as impending doom. In my fear-induced near-paralysis, I resigned myself to a painful death by locomotive.
I got what I expected. Veering suddenly off the train tracks, our car crashed violently through the final wall, leading us straight into...well...hell. This is not a metaphor. There we were, touring the inferno in perfect technicolor terror, with demons and Satans and flames lapping at our defenseless roadster. I was categorically Not Amused. In fact, I can't immediately recall a time when I was less amused. As our car neared the large, menacing Satan-character, I let out one last good lung-clearing scream. Satan was entirely unimpressed.
We finally emerged through the exit, Grandma still half-laughing and me clinging to her arm like a frightened chimpanzee. As we disembarked our vehicle, my parents snapped a Polaroid to commemorate the experience. To this day, the photo graces the Lennon Family Album...my tear-streaked, terror-stricken face a lasting testimony to the complete and total mindfuck that IS Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
As a post-script to our tale, this ride was shut down last year to make way for the new and much more family-friendly Winnie The Pooh's Adventures. My one regret is that should I ever procreate, I won't be able to terrorize my own children with this delightful little attraction. Such is life, I suppose.
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