The "WOW! Tinkerbell is REALLY big!" Trip Report - September 20 -24 - UPDATED 10/16
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The "WOW! Tinkerbell is REALLY big!" Trip Report - September 20 -24 - UPDATED 10/16
I truly had such great aspirations to write an amusing and informative pre-trip report...Than the transmission in our car decided to abandon us and retire to WDW and live in the back of Mater...I got distracted..So, here goes...
Reluctant Pirate (aka Junebug - Me - Jane - Scalawags NEVER reveal their age)
It should be added at this point that Baloo (DH - Shan - has a true Disney heart) was EXTREMELY saddened that this was going to be an Estrogen-Only trip. Alas, he works in a nuclear facility, and the Department of Defense likes to pop in for tea and surprise visits, and there were rumors of one impending. I suggested he blame it all on_______________(whomever he was most tired of in government). That helped very little. But Tink and I are such troopers, we managed to pull ourselves together and agree to represent the family in style...(While he was at work, we would be gaily flinging clothes right and left into our suitcases, counting our leftover Disney Dollars, and poring over the MNSSHP brochure...We did all this with dignity)
The morning we were leaving, I had comprimised with Tink, getting a late morning flight out of the local "airport", so she could have a half day of school. Tink is VERY dedicated to her schoolwork, and actually considered TAKING HOMEWORK WITH HER TO WDW!! I immediately had her sit and watch our most recent video of us at WDW, and thankfully, she was able to shake off that momentary insanity! She was only going to miss 1 full day, and her standing is quite secure (#1), so I really was not doing a terrible mother thing.
Baloo and I went out for breakfast (I was uncertain if he would overcome his depression and actually do dishes while we were gone, so I wanted to at least start him with a clear sink), and he kind of moped a bit. I promised we would not have a completely fabulous time without him, and I would call him from all the shows so he could "be there with us". He did not noticably perk up
We picked up Tink from her school ( Sidenote # 1: does anyone else have a school that simply has the kids sit outside alone if they are leaving early? I do realize it makes it faster than having to go in and sign things, but there they all sit, some sick, some with appointments, some just leaving on fabulous trips to WDW...But it seems a bit odd to me...back to regular programming)
Baloo stopped at the curb, and before he could actually even get all the way out of the car, Tink and I had flung ourselves onto the sidewalk and were ready to get our bags from the trunk. Baloo slowly helped us with our things, and shook his head. "This is just so wrong.", he muttered. Tink hugged him and headed inside, with a firm look at me to follow. I hugged him, told him I would call as soon as we got there, and that we would bring him home a surprise. I also reminded him we were going for a week in December, and that DID seem to help. He waved, got in and drove away.
Sidenote # 2 - When I say "airport", I want to explain that The Earl of Sandwich is a larger building than this airport. On a REALLY busy day, you might wait 5 minutes in Security. The clerks that work the front desk (3 college students that rotate the duties) actually stay in their break room watching TV until they hear the "ding" of the door opening. Depending upon how gripping the show is that they were watching, your check in can take anywhere from 2-11 minutes. Security is 2 older men who talk about fashion and technology while shaking their heads and clicking their teeth. The "Main Terminal Building" is the room with plastic chairs where you sit to wait before you walk outside and cross the "tarmack" - 20 feet, and climb onto the commuter jets. The really odd thing about this is that recently, they built 2 jetway airstrips, making it possible for REALLY BIG planes to land here (the ones that carry more than 25 people), BUT they are arguing over whether they should enlarge and update the terminal...I find the image of 125 people landing here and all crowding around the lone vending machine for a bad cup of coffee amusing...
TV must have been dull this morning, as we got checked in in about 3 minutes. I believe the extra minute was when she asked about our DME tags, and I launched into a long explanation, until Tink got that look on her face (you know...the one where you need to stop discussing how special WDW is with complete strangers), so off we headed to "Security".
Sure enough, we got comments on our flipflops. "In my day, people wore actual shoes that covered their toes and things", at which point Tink asked him what things as I shoved her through the metal detector. He looked at my laptop, sighed really loudly, and said, "Why do you need this heavy contraption for on an airplane anyway? They have reading material.". Taking the high road, I offered the explanation that I was sending pictures and notes back to my DH, who could not travel with us on this trip. He just shook his head, and said , "Completely unnecessary". I grabbed my stuff from the other guard, who just stared at me, and hustled down the escalator into the "Main Terminal Building".
Since this was a late morning flight, it was an odd group of us there, staring out the window at our plane (this becomes important soon). There were several business-type folks, with matching laptop bags, blackberries, and bluetooth headpieces growing out of their ears. They were pacing and glaring at their watches, even though we still had 40 minutes until departure. In another corner, there was a rowdy group of seniors traveling with their church group to Jerusalem. If you need details on this trip, I can give them out, as they were REALLY loudly discussing every aspect, from laxatives to ward off "foreign constipation" to support hose for those afternoon strolls in the vineyards. They actually seemed like a fun group, and as this progressed, I ALMOST wanted to hop on over there and join them. (I really am curious about foreign constipation.)
The one clerk, waiting to take our boarding passes, was standing by her little podium, every now and then glancing through the door to the plane, which, in all honesty, did not appear to be a hive of pre-flight activity. Right at 15 minutes to departure, she grinned at all of us, stepped outside and walked over to the folks checking the engines, propellers, wheels, you know, the kind of important parts of the plane. She turned around, still smiling, and came in, SHUTTING THE DOOR BEHIND HER. Not a good sign. To leave, the door had to be open. She picked up her little microphone (Why? We were all gathered around her and this place is not large enough to have any echo) and said, "Well, it looks like we have some 'Minor Mechanical Dealys', but we expect to be in the air within 20 minutes."
The international travelers wandered back to their corner to continue to discuss body functions. The business folks were all immediately talking on their phones and busily typing into their blackberries. Tink was still reading the magazine she brought for the trip (in retrospect, she should have saved it), and I was kind of standing there, looking at this perky young woman, who kept glancing out the windows at a gathering group of people who were converging on this little plane.
Next: "Well you COULD, but you might miss the plane"
An answer to your question about kids being left outside at school for early pick up. Absolutely not! The child waits in the attendance office and the parent has to sign in to enter the building, get a visitor badge,show ID before getting the child( if attendance officer does not know you), and sign the child out. It seems like a lot, but it is safe.
After another 30 minutes, the perkiness was beginning to fade from the US Air clerk. She went outside again (causing everyone but Tink to immediately assume some miracle had happened and we would be taking off imminently), spoke with the group that was now huddled UNDER the left jet engine , turned around and came back in. This time, she went over to the very small desk that holds one computer, 2 pencils and a phone, and made this announcement. "Folks, we will NOT be taking off in the foreseeable future. If you have connections that you will miss, please line up in a quiet, orderly fashion and I will help you fix your flight schedules as quickly as I can."
At this point, picture the opening at Epcot, and the "race for the Soarin", OR the mass movement towards EE or the KS at AK, OR the herd of humanity towards ToT & RRC, and you can get a picture of how orderly everyone was. I happened to be standing about 4 people back, so I decided to remain there, and just switch our flight from Charlotte to Orlando. There was a fairly empty flight leaving in 2 hours that would give Tink and I time to grab a snack before we arrived at AKL.
The international group was quite concerned, as they had a pretty tight schedule to begin with. A poor mechanic made the mistake of walking in on this, and the internationals surrounded him, all speaking at once. He looked frantic, and RAN to the escalator, calling out as he went up that he would send the front desk "help" down to assist them. They were not convinced, and several of them followed him up.
The business group actually huddled for about 5 minutes, and then decided that they would miss their meeting at this point, and they headed off to have lunch at Olive Garden (We have a tiny airport, but enough restaurants to feed a small country...go figure) I looked over at Tink, who was engrossed with her magazine, and then turned to wait to speak to the "not perky at all and verging on slightly frantic" young woman behind the desk.
After literally 30 minutes, and STILL the 4th in line, I called Tink to hold my place (which she did, sighing about losing her seat....I looked around...most of us were either in line or going out for Italian) so I just gave her MY look and headed to the escalator to see if we would be faster going upstairs to the college clerks.
As I got to the top, one of my friends from Security (the quiet but glaring one) stopped me from going any further. "You can't leave this area. You have already gone through the SECURITY CLEARANCE! (He definitely said that in Capital letters) I explained that I thought the young woman downstairs at THE DESK might be a little overwhelmed, and I just needed to switch my connecting flight. "Madam! (Now I felt old) We are TRAINED to handle Mechanical delays! They could fix this in an instant, and then you would miss your flight because you would be up here!" I tried to explain that I was pretty certain this would only take a moment, but he was VERY PERSISTANT. "Madam!" ( NOW I was getting just a little grumpy) "Sir!", I interupted. "I am going to zip to the front desk, and switch my flight. Then I am going to the CAFE ( 1 vending machine and a retired flight attendant who sells muffins and brownies) to get lunch for my CHILD (Tink would have killed me here) THEN I will see you in Security."
He moved to the side, and I walked quickly to the front desk, where they were actually very efficiently making arrangements to transfer the entire international group by bus to a larger airport (they have an actual cash register, and 2 tables) to catch a new flight. I only had to wait a minute, and then they took care of my flight nicely. I asked if they had any extra help up there, as the poor clerk downstairs was possibly in danger from irritated passengers , but they smiled and said, "Oh, we're upstairs clerks! We don't work in the Main Terminal!" I decided NOT to respond.
As I headed towards Security, I DID grab Tink and I a muffin. I had the feeling that 6 crackers and a small beverage onboard would not sustain us for long. The Security guys radiated my muffins, and glared at my flip flops, but did not say anything.
As I came down the escalator, I motioned Tink out of line. (2 more people began a tustle to see who got that spot )I noticed that only 2 people had made it through the line...not so good. But, I had my change, we were good, and we headed over to the plastic waiting area.
Fast forward 45 more minutes, when my cell phone rang. "Hey! Are you on the runway leaving Charlotte?' Baloo's cheery voice rang out. "Nope. Still sitting here. Eating a muffin. Tink is now perturbed because she could have stayed at school and I MADE her leave to WASTE time SITTING in the airport WITHOUT a plane to get on." There was a silence, and then Baloo offered, "Well, there are lots of flights out of Charlotte. You guys should get there EVENTUALLY." I still wonder if secretly this delay made Baloo feel better about not being able to come. Hmmmm...
I glanced out the window, and there was the pilot, talking to the crowd under the jet engine, and tapping his wristwatch rather hard. "Gosh, Mom! Do you think he just realized that he is 2 hours behind in his flight?!" Tink has an occasional snide side that tends to come out when she is tired, hungry, or frustrated. I think all three were in place at this point. As we watched, the pilot non too gently "moved" the mechanic on the ladder who had his head in the engine (who knew they could do that?) and stuck a rag in there. Now I am not mechanically inclined at all, but even I know that when you have to stick a rag in the engine, something is probably leaking, and fuel is definitely something you want enough of when you are in an airplane. He did something up in there, came down, tossed the rag on the ground, bruched his hands off, looked at us through the window, gave us a thumbs up, and headed into the cockpit.
The rest of the folks gathered there began to shrug their shoulders, and dispersed. Not far, there isn't far to go. One of them came to the door, opened it, LEAVING IT OPEN, and took his place at the podium. "Ladies and Gentleman, the problem has been corrected! We are ready for immediate boarding of..." I kind of tuned him out, because I was KIND OF WORRIED that we were taking off with either a leak, or no fuel in that left engine....Tink grabbed her carryon and headed to the door without a care. I followed a LOT more slowly, and when I gave him my boarding paass, I asked, "Um. Are they certain everything is OK? The pilot just seemed to be looking and using a rag?" The guy gave me a very NON-REASSURING smile and said, "It's only a 50 minute flight to Charlotte. They have more resources there. This flight will make it that far safely. HAVE A NICE FLIGHT AND FLY WITH US AGAIN REALLY SOON!"
I walked the tarmac, certain we were heading into doom. As I entered the plane, Tink motioned me to her side, where she was sitting right next to the LEFT ENGINE! At this point, I began to envision a new thrill ride somewhere in WDW, titled, "Take the risk and fly!". Tink settled in to read the catalog in the seatback, and I stared at the jet engine the entire 50 minute flight. I am re-thinking how convienent is is to fly from close by, and embracing the idea of a relaxing 2 hour drive to Raleigh/Durham for all future flights.....
We had an hour at Charlotte, and made a quick stop at the "Smoothie Station" to buy Tink a $5, 6 oz smoothie. Airports can rival theme parks for food prices.
The next leg of the flight was completely uneventful, arrived 5 minutes early, a monorail was waiting at MCO, and we were down the 2 escalators and through the DME Welcome Center within 10 minutes. 10 minutes after that, we were on the road! FINALLY! As Tink and I discussed what park we would dash to for a couple of hours, it began to pour. Really pour. A lot. I looked at Tink, and she looked at me, and we both said, " You know. I'm hungry. Let's just eat at Mara, and get to bed early for tomorrow!"
All in all, in the end, we were in a wonderful villa at AKL, the rain just sounds more exotic there, Zebra Domes still taste wonderful, and tomorrow was MNSSHP! Life was good
Next Up: The "poop patrol" and no crowds! AND PICTURES! (I was too distressed to take photos of our experience, but actually Tink thought the mechanic was cute and took several of him. )